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Margaret Moloney was brilliant at many things, most notably tennis, Irish dancing and teaching. She was also a loyal footy fan, attending countless games to cheer on her beloved Tigers, had a great sense of fashion and a unique ability to see the potential beauty in things that had been discarded.

But if there are a few things that stand out more than anything else about Margaret, it is her kindness and willingness to help those less fortunate than herself.

Margaret, or “Margie” as she was affectionately remembered by her family and friends, was always conscious of the needs of others.

She carried this quality throughout her life, right until her last years when she left a gift in her Will to ChildFund Australia to help children in need around the world.

Lessons of love

The youngest of four girls, Margaret stood out from her sisters Patricia, Maureen and Bernadette; she was creative, followed her passions, and had enormous empathy for people.

Margaret, with her mother Merna, would regularly visit her uncle Jack when he had lost his wife and moved into a nursing home. After Jack passed away, Margaret insisted she and her mother continue visiting the home, taking afternoon tea for the residents to enjoy. “It was so typical of her thoughtfulness and kindness,” Patricia says.

She was a single mother and dedicated her life to making sure her daughter, Katherine (pictured above with Margaret), who had a disability, had the tools and support she needed to reach her full potential.

“Margie was completely selfless about Katherine,” Bernadette says. “She catered for Katherine’s needs and created opportunities for her to achieve. Katherine drove a car and lived independently, thanks to her beautiful mother.”

“She taught us many things and we hope that in her passing that we are vigilant and responsive to others less fortunate.”

Bernadette, Margaret’s sister

Twenty-five years ago, ChildFund began its work in Vietnam; implementing child-focused development programs in the remote district of Ky Son, located in the country’s mountainous northern region.

Working in partnership with just four communes, home to around 200 children and families struggling with high levels of deprivation, ChildFund Vietnam focused its efforts on improving access to basic – and essential – needs.

Our earliest initiatives in these rural villages sought to reduce widespread child malnutrition; increase access to healthcare, safe water and sanitation; generate new livelihood opportunities for the low-income families; and improve the startling low school attendance rates.

Access to quality education has always been a pillar of ChildFund Vietnam’s programming. In a region of significant ethnic diversity, and where few children speak Vietnamese at home, it is vital that children and young people be given the opportunity to learn, and to overcome potential language barriers which can prevent them from accessing opportunities in the future.

Creating child-friendly, supportive, and engaging learning environments was key. Our team successfully worked in partnership with education staff, local authorities, parents, and young people to achieve this.

Today, teacher training programs, classroom and playground construction, new educational resources, and the creation of School Boards of Management mean that in Ky Son district 100 per cent of children now complete their primary education. This is a remarkable achievement.

Since those early days, ChildFund Vietnam has expanded its reach in the north of the country, and today works in 36 communes, in 12 districts, across three rural provinces – Hoa Binh, Cao Bang, Bac Kan – as well as the urban Hanoi Municipality.

In the last year alone, our projects reached almost 90,000 individuals, around half of whom were children and young people.

As the world for children has changed, so have ChildFund’s initiatives. We are now responding to the new threats to children’s wellbeing, with a focus on keep children safe from harm. This supports global efforts to progress target 16.2 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: to end all forms of violence against children.

Increasing, and affordable, internet availability is increasing children’s exposure to online abuse and exploitation. ChildFund’s Swipe Safe program is supporting young people to take advantage of digital technologies, while also ensuring they can take active steps to keep safe online.

Building safer environments is also a feature of our new partnership with the Vietnam Government’s Department of Child Affairs and Microsoft. Together, we have launched a new child protection application, which can be used by young people to report incidents of abuse and seek support.

ChildFund Pass It Back, a unique sport for development program, is giving young people in rural areas the opportunity to learn valuable life skills through organised community sport. With a focus on inclusion, over half of all players and coaches are girls and young women.

In the early 2000s, I spent several years working and living in Vietnam with my own daughter. It holds a special place in both of our hearts, and I am incredibly proud of our staff who show such dedication and commitment to changing the lives of vulnerable children.

Our achievements in Vietnam are also due to the strong collaboration with the Vietnamese government, civil society groups, individual and institutional donors, and the communities and the young people at the centre of our mission.

Together we are stronger. And together, we will continue to ensure more children in Vietnam can say: “I am safe. I am educated. I contribute. I have a future.”