Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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Hera (pictured left), aged 15, lives in Gabagaba, a small coastal village an hour and a half south of Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea. For young women like Hera living in rural parts of the country, there are many obstacles to achieving a higher education including gender expectations and financial restrictions.

“I left school during year 10 due to COVID-19 so I came back home to live in the village. I couldn’t go back to school because of financial difficulties and as a big sister I wanted my younger siblings to carry on learning,” said Hera.

In her village, Hera is teaching her peers about life skills development as part of ChildFund’s Youth Peace and Protection Champion program. Through her participation in the project, she was able to find a new purpose when she couldn’t return to school.

“During my stay in the village, my little brother had joined this group and he was the one who introduced me and told me a lot about the group. I wasn’t aware of them before.”

Although she was initially hesitant about taking part, her younger brother convinced her to attend a meeting. Most of their meetings are outside, down by the water or under a tree.

“I went, first when I sat with them, they started introducing the group and so on like I have a lot of experiences.

When I first went and sat with them, I learned that we had a lot of similar experiences. I I decided to join the group and bring them into the church so we could talk to more of our peers.”

Hera and the group leading a peer education session.

Like many other young people in her village, Hera has found it difficult to find purpose and meaning in her day-to-day life. This group is a safe place for her to share her experiences, challenges, and her hopes for the future with her peers that can relate.

“I have learn a lot from the other members. You know, as a young person I go through situations which I feel like there’s no need for me cause I’m in the village I can’t do much. Living in the village you have to provide and also do things to make your family happy and contribute.”

ChildFund Papua New Guinea, in partnership with Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) is providing young people across the country with necessary tools and skills to promote peace, resolve conflict and prevent violence and become Youth Peace and Protection Champions (YPPC).

As a YPPC, Hera has gone through extensive training on awareness of rights, respectful relationships, non-violent conflict resolution and peace building. Working alongside five other YPPC’s from her village, they have each claimed a role in the group and together they are creating an action plan to reach more young people in the community.

The group ran a peer education session with about 40 year 8 students. They drew on their training, running different energisers and brainstorming activities to encourage their peers to think about the issues they face and how to best overcome these challenges.

Now Hera, is confident in her leadership skills and abilities. She feels more excited and optimistic about her future. “I have ups and downs but through the advice and experience from this group, they help me a lot.”

Learn more about our work in Papua New Guinea.

At ChildFund Australia, we’re celebrating the right to a quality education for all children this International Education Day. Around the world, 72 million children of primary education age are not in school, and 759 million adults are illiterate.

In Vietnam, ChildFund is making it easier for children and young people like 13-year-old Binh* to go to school.

Binh’s family home is about 7km away from the primary school. But steep slopes and a bumpy road make it difficult for him to get to school and back every day – and when it rains, it is almost impossible. So, he has to live in a cramped, bamboo shack near the school since the age of seven.

Binh is a bright boy with a thirst for learning and like many children living in remote parts of the country, he never wants to give up his education. During the school week, it is very common for students to stay in temporary homes near the school. These are often poorly built and do not protect the children from the elements. It also means that they must care for themselves from a very young age.

“I used to share a bed with two others, and it was very small and narrow. Every day after school I would come back, cook for myself and do all the washing,” said Binh.

In 2021 ChildFund Vietnam supported a project to build a two-story semi-boarding house equipped with a kitchen, living area, and bunk beds. They also organised training for the students to build the necessary skills of the students so that they could live independently and lead a healthy life.

Binh helping his roommate with his studies.

At the age of 12, Binh moved into the new semi-boarding house and was selected to be the lead tenant of his boarding room

“The lead tenant’s responsibility is to help and remind other roommates to clean the living place, make their beds and keep personal hygiene,” said Binh. “I’ve been through various trainings like injury prevention, first-aid, and personal hygiene habits. They were all very useful and fun.”

Binh faces many challenges in this role as a lead tenant and sometimes his roommates do not listen to him.

“Being the lead tenant is not always easy. Sometimes the roommates don’t follow what I say. I always try to set a good example for them,” said Binh. When challenged, he puts what he learned at the training into action.

“At the training, many of us were shy at the beginning but after some warm-up activities and exciting games, we felt much more engaged and energised. I applied what I learned to guide my roommates effectively. For example, when one can wash his hands right, I give him compliments,” said Binh.

Now that they have a safe, and healthy environment to live in, Binh and his peers thoroughly enjoy school life. “I love living in the semi-boarding house. It is nice with lots of trees and flowers. Each room has sanitation stations and bright light bulbs that help us study better. I have also made a lot of friends that I can play with.”

Looking to the future, ChildFund will continue to support children, schools, and communities to improve independent living skills and facilities so that students like Binh can have a safe space to learn and grow.

Learn more about ChildFund Vietnam.

*Names have been changed.