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Positive changes afoot in Vietnam

Flying into a chilly Hanoi last month, I was full of nerves and anticipation. I had lived there for six years — now a long time ago — but I hadn’t set foot in the country since 2005.

Hopping into a cab, the first thing I noticed was that everyone was wearing shoes. In the past, even on the nippiest of winter days, rubber sandals with socks was the standard footwear for young and old. Clothes had changed too – people were better dressed. In fact, as I peered through the cab window it struck me that the people themselves had changed. Young people were bigger: taller and more sturdily built.

As it turned out my initial stay in Hanoi was brief – one night in fact. But it was enough to establish that, despite huge changes, the charm of the city (the lakes, the cafes, the buzzing street life) was still very much intact.

The next morning I was picked up by Ngoc and Trang from ChildFund Vietnam and we drove north for about four hours to Bac Kan. Bac Kan is an attractive province of wooded hills and valleys with terraced paddy fields. Life is still largely a matter of subsistence – growing enough rice to feed your family.

 width=But here too change is afoot – wooden stilt houses have been largely replaced by concrete ones and many people travel beyond the province for work in the burgeoning cities.

ChildFund has been active in Bac Thong district since 1999 and it shows: everywhere you look children proudly sport ChildFund jackets and school bags. Locals talk with genuine appreciation about the difference that concrete latrines, irrigation channels and livestock support has made to their lives.

But as a father of two young children I was most impressed to see the preschools that ChildFund supports. Bright, colourful and well-equipped, I would quite happily have sent my own children there. Most importantly, I gained a real sense of how training can transform teachers’ attitude towards their work – and therefore the outcomes for the children that they teach.

The energy and drive of the Vietnamese is as palpable as ever. Add committed, well-targeted support from ChildFund and you have a powerful combination.

I have come back feeling very inspired and lucky to have seen ChildFund’s work firsthand – particularly the schools and preschools. Wonderful facilities, happy children and proud, motivated teachers!

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