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Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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Rugby fan and father-of-two Chris never thought a raffle ticket he bought at a ChildFund fundraising lunch three years ago would lead to an eye-opening and rewarding journey through Vietnam for him and his family.

Chris, his wife Natalie, and their two sons, Harry and Jamie, travelled to Vietnam in October 2022 to see ChildFund Rugby’s sport for development Pass It Back program in action. The Sydney family met and heard from children and rugby coaches, mostly girls and young women, from disadvantaged backgrounds about how the programs had helped to change their lives.

“The program presents a tremendous opportunity for both coaches and players alike,” Chris says. “It was incredibly powerful to see the huge positive impact that ChildFund is having on these disadvantaged communities in Vietnam. Many of the coaches and players come from families who are living on less than 1,000 US dollars a year and the program provides them with life-changing opportunities as paid rugby coaches on the Pass It Back program, and leadership and life skills for the young players.

“What is even more remarkable is that coaches and players, supported by ChildFund, are given the rarest of opportunities to travel overseas and play in international tournaments. It is hard to imagine how incredible that experience must be; coming from small, rural villages and then suddenly being able to travel to other parts of the world to play rugby under the ChildFund program.”

“It was superb to see the program in action and its values and life skills being brought to life during a training session that we were lucky enough to participate in.  What made it even more special was seeing first-hand the passion and joy of all the players and coaches during the session.”

Chris and his partner Natalie, and sons Harry, age 7, and Jamie, age 4, visiting a ChildFund-supported primary school in rural Vietnam.

Chris and his family also visited a primary school where ChildFund and community members had worked together to build toilets and a clean water system for local students. Harry, age 7, and Jamie, age 4, introduced themselves to a class and joined in with games during the lunch break. “The children didn’t speak one another’s languages, but they shared a common language of play and laughter and quickly headed off to the makeshift cubbyhouse in the playground,” Chris says.

Four-year-old Jamie joins in the fun and games with ChildFund Rugby’s sport for development program in Vietnam. “I can’t think of anything more rewarding than giving my kids the experiences they got from the trip,” his father, Chris, says.

It was Harry and Jamie’s first time in Vietnam and visiting developing communities. Adapting to a new cuisine was sometimes challenging but the boys welcomed most of their experiences in Vietnam with a sense of curiosity and enthusiasm. 

“I can’t think of anything more rewarding than giving my kids the experiences they got from the trip,” Chris says. “We wanted to give Harry and Jamie a perspective that was different to their privileged and comparatively sheltered life on the beaches of Sydney and to help them develop an appreciation of what they have and a greater perspective on life.”

“Now that we’re back in Australia, we reflect on these things almost daily.”

The trip has inspired Chris and his family to continue giving back and supporting children in need. “We have been asking ourselves how we can do more work with charities that are really making a positive impact like ChildFund,” Chris says.

They are already planning their next trip with a focus on how they can visit another ChildFund community again, roll up their sleeves and make a positive contribution.

“I’m so grateful that it was my family that was given the opportunity to spend time with so many of the inspirational ChildFund team members and the amazing children who benefit from the program every day,” Chris says. “For the whole family it was an eye-opening experience, especially for the kids, and has only inspired us all to do more and continue to pass it back.”

Chris and his sons experiencing ChildFund Rugby’s Pass It Back program first-hand with a game of tag rugby. “The program presents a tremendous opportunity for both coaches and players alike,” Chris says.

Today is World Children’s Day. At ChildFund, we want every child to be able to say: “I am safe. I contribute. I am educated. I am healthy.” This year, the theme is ‘Inclusion, for every child’ and we’re celebrating Hien a tenth-grade student, living in Vietnam.

Hien is claiming his right to safely take part in the online world through ChildFunds SwipeSafe program. With more and more children learning and socialising online than ever before, it is imperative that children and young people know how to keep themselves safe online and where to go for help should they need it.

SwipeSafe is aimed at preventing online abuse and exploitation of children. It mobilises parents, youth, schools and the private sector to play an active role in children’s online safety.

ChildFund launched a campaign to advocate for children’s safety online and developed a Children’s Advisory Council. This is an opportunity for children and young people, like Hien, to share their concerns about being online and work together to create a safer online environment for themselves and their peers.

Hien is part of this Council and took part in the ASEAN-ICT Forum about child protection online in November 2022. This was an opportunity for him to advocate for safer online practices. He took part in a session to understand online abuse and the exploitation of children in Southeast Asia where Hien and other participants were able to share their experiences in online safety.

Hien taking part in the online forum.

 “In terms of knowledge, I am confident in what I know, but I am quite worried about not being able to express everything I want to say in English,” said Hien. After taking part in the forums, he felt empowered with the knowledge he learned at the online safety training sessions.

To begin with, Hien was nervous to share his experiences and to know what to share with his peers. “I often care about issues that few people care about, so I don’t know if I should share them, and whether sharing about it is appropriate.” After listening to and being support by his peers, he felt more confident in sharing his opinions and felt respected.

“Some of the young panelists mentioned things I care about but did not have the courage to say. If there is another sharing session, I will talk about filtering harmful information on social networks,” said Hien.

With the skills he learned through the SwipeSafe online safety training, Hien is confident that he can protect himself and his peers be safe online and protect their various accounts. However, Hien said that he has come across malicious content when using social media and he understands that he needs to keep his accounts private and be careful about what he shares online.

“Since the internet is permanent, harmful content will always exist and it impacts young people who accidentally encounter it, so it is necessary to have the participation of moderators to remove this type of content,” said Hien.

Children and young people like Hien are the experts in sharing their online experiences. With support, they can become responsible digital citizens and can safely use the internet to socialise, learn and connect.

Learn more about the SwipeSafe program.