Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

28-year-old Nhu grew up in a remote village in Hoa Binh, a rural province in northern Vietnam. Her parents were both farmers who worked hard to provide for Nhu and her two siblings.

“I was born into a poor family. Like many other people living in the same village, we relied on agricultural activities for our living. Life was difficult and the local economy was weak,” says Nhu. “I still remember the image of my parents working and sweating in the paddy fields on hot summer days.”

When Nhu was 13 she was sponsored through ChildFund by an Australian sponsor, Brendan, and his family from Victoria, who decided to help a child in need. For Nhu, it made her feel like she had another person watching over her. “I was very motivated by my sponsor through our letter exchange. From my perspective, the most important benefit of being an enrolled child was the huge encouragement I received that encouraged me to strive for my future.”

As a child, Nhu dreamed of treating sick children and people. Today she is turning that dream into a reality. After graduating from medical training college in 2008, she now works as a local health worker specialising in family planning in the community where she grew up.

“I feel proud of what I can do as a health officer. I love to directly give treatment to children and take care of them,” says Nhu. “Children are the most vulnerable and need proper care. This is my passion in my career.”

With more people helping children in need over the last 20 years, Nhu has watched her community in Hoa Binh transform. “Sponsorship has made community development programs possible. There have been big positive changes in our communities. Schools have been rebuilt with sufficient facilities so children have better access to basic education. Today 100% of the children in my commune are able to go to school and receive a good education.

“With ChildFund`s support, many roads were reconstructed using concrete. This has made travelling more convenient. Canal systems have been improved and built to enhance agricultural production. Additionally, clean water supply systems and sanitation facilities have also been constructed, helping to create a new face for our rural areas compared to before.”

As if her job as a health worker didn`t keep her busy enough, Nhu, a former ChildFund Vietnam sponsor child has been sponsor relations volunteer in her village for the past five years. It is her role to deliver letters from sponsors to the children in her area and help them write letters back, as well as encourage all of the children to get involved in activities implemented by ChildFund in their community.

“To me, volunteering for ChildFund is very meaningful since I can make a significant contribution to child development. I see this volunteer job as a way that I can help other children to enjoy the same opportunities I had when I was small,” she says.

While she is no longer sponsored, Nhu continues to feel motivated by her friends in Australia to help children in need. “I want to express my deepest appreciation to my sponsor. Thanks to them, I received a good education and had the will to strive for success in my study and my work. They made me what I am today.”

ChildFund Australia would like to thank all of our supporters for sponsoring a child in Vietnam over the past 20 years! By helping children in need you are having intergenerational life-changing effects on the children and communities we work with in northern Vietnam.

The Africa Food Crisis has been described by the United Nations as the worst humanitarian emergency since World War II, with 80m people at risk of death due to starvation.

ChildFund Australia has been providing vital aid to children affected by the crisis since early 2016, focusing mainly on getting food, water and healthcare to children in need.

Right now, 2.5m children are at urgent risk of death due to extreme malnutrition. An estimated 7.5m children will suffer severe acute malnutrition in 2017. Undernutrition contributes to nearly half of all child deaths and children who survive are likely to be stunted, which severely hampers physical and mental development.

ChildFund`s national offices in Kenya and Ethiopia have been coordinating the delivery of desperately-needed aid to areas where malnutrition is rising. These country offices work closely with local governments to target hard-to-reach places, which are among the hardest hit by the Africa Food Crisis.

Our aid program includes:

Supplementary food

We provide supplementary foods, which are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, to families who do not have access to food. Unimix is a specially-designed, enriched maize and bean flour that parents can give children who are not getting enough nutrients. Packing 400 calories and many essential vitamins and minerals into 100g of flour, it is commonly used to fight malnutrition.

ChildFund also works closely with local producers to fortify maize and sorghum flour with vitamins and minerals. Once fortified, flour is sold to early childhood centres, ensuring children under five get an ongoing supply of nutritious food.

Families in drought-affected areas can also receive fortified vegetable oil and iodised salt, which provide a vitamin boost when food is in short supply.

Health Monitoring Centres

ChildFund`s health monitoring centres are a critical part of preventing deaths from malnutrition and diagnosing children early enough to limit long-term health problems. Centrally-located in hard-to-reach areas, these clinics allow staff to mass screen children for signs of poor health. The health clinics, which are usually located at early childhood centres or other well-known community buildings, are staffed with health workers equipped with MUAC (mid-upper arm circumference) bands, which detects malnutrition.

The MUAC band is a measurement tape split into three easily-distinguishable sections; red (severely malnourished), yellow (moderately malnourished) and green (healthy). Health workers use the band to measure the mid-upper arm of each child and refer malnourished children to hospitals for further management.

Early detection and ongoing monitoring is saving lives and helping children receive the help they need to avoid the life-long effects of malnutrition.