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Twin sisters Lan and Hoa were born in November 2019 in Vietnam. Since their birth, they were malnourished and underweight. Their mother, Thuy, was worried she wouldn’t know how to care for them properly.

“Luckily, Lan and Hoa were born right when ChildFund Vietnam’s health project was launched in our commune. Other mothers and I were invited to participate in many activities such as weighing the children, measuring their height, receiving micronutrients for the children if they are malnourished. Parents are welcomed to participate in communication activities and are given ‘Maternal and Child Health Monitoring’ book to learn how to take care of their children, “said Thuy.

Thuy regularly attends training sessions to learn how to breastfeed newborns, when to start giving babies solid food, how to take care when the baby is sick and how the mother’s diet should be to ensure there is enough milk for breastfeeding.

ChildFund Vietnam nutrition handbook
ChildFund Vietnam nutrition handbook

Thuy never had the opportunity to take part in these types of sessions when she had her first child. She only received advice from her mother-in-law. Thuy began feeding the baby porridge at three months old and now she knows this is too young.

Every morning Thuy makes breakfast for her daughters. Their porridge is made with meat, egg, and sometimes shrimp orcrab caught by her husband in the field near their home. Thuy said that through the ChildFund training, she learned that meat like shrimp and crab provide protein to help their children grow.

Thuy plans the meals she cooks for Lan and Hoa, always making sure that the meal is full of vitamins and nutrients that will help them grow. She said: “I often add a little bit of oil or fat to my child’s porridge to help him gain weight and absorb vitamins better. Mothers with malnourished children in my neighborhood often talk with each other, and now they all feed their children oil or fat, unlike before when they were afraid to feed the children fat.”

When Lan and Hoa were sick, Thuy took her children to the local health station for a consultation and treatment. On top of this, the information in a book given to her by the training has helped her care for her children if they are unwell. As the twins turned three years old, Lan and Hoa were no longer malnourished. Thuy said: “My family is very fortunate to have been consulted and guided by the medical staff to take care of the two children properly and to have been supported by the project for nutrition for the children.”

She said proudly: “I was so happy when the nurses at the health station said my children were no longer malnourished. Now that they have grown up well and are no longer malnourished, I am even happier.”

Thanh is just like any other child from the Hoa Binh Province, Vietnam. He spends his days playing, going to school, and begrudgingly helps with chores around the family home.

His mother, Pin works as a labourer far away from the family home to earn enough money to provide for her family. While she is away, Thanh and his brother live with their grandparents.

Thanh was born with a physical disability and although he lives close to school, he doesn’t like to go because it is difficult for him to keep up with his peers. “When Thanh was born, his right hand did not have any fingers. He does not do well at school because he has a difficult time keeping up. I also heard that getting a disability certificate for a child is very time consuming,” said Pin.

This all changed two years ago when Pin attended a ChildFund Vietnam training session for parents with children living with a physical or intellectual disability. This session was organised as part of the ‘Ready for Primary School’ program.

Although initially hesitant to attend, she was encouraged by Thanh’s teacher to take part. At the training she learned more about how she could best support her son to fully participate in school and care for him and support him in achieving an education.

At the end of the session, she was elected by her peers to be a leader of the community group for parents of children living with a disability. “I feel like I’ve grown a lot. Before I became the group leader, I rarely talked to others in the commune. If someone asked me about my family, I usually just kept quiet. Now I can communicate more openly.”

As leader of the group, Pin regularly visits and encourages parents of children with a disability to join the group. Together they help families across Hoa Binh apply for disability certificates on behalf of their children, meaning they are eligible for additional financial support from the government.

Pin feels more equipped with the skills to care for Thanh and is confident that she can empower him with the education he needs to live a full life.

Until now, only two children in the commune have been granted disability certificates, including Thanh. With the success of her group, Pin has been invited to share her experience with other communes in the district.

Despite being busy with work and the community group, Pin always makes time to walk her children to school and help them with their homework when she can.

“Thanh has been working hard at school. He is very happy when I take him to class. We have also been receiving monthly financial support thanks to the government’s policy, which has lessened the financial burden on our family.”

For families like Pin’s, having a support system where parents share their challenges and successes is incredibly important. Learn more about ChildFund Vietnam’s work to support children with disability to access an education.