Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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Meet Russell Spencer and Ursula Groves– two generous individuals who have been supporting ChildFund Australia for nearly nine years.

Russell and Ursula have been long term supporters of Yen, aged 13, who lives in the Hoa Binh Province in Vietnam. They decided to donate computers to a primary and secondary school Yen attended so that more children could have a better education.

The students were thrilled to learn how to use the computers. One student at the secondary school, Chau aged 15, said: “When our school received the computers, I was very happy and excited. Before, when we didn’t have computers, we didn’t know how to look up the learning materials or find exercises. Now, we know how to look up learning resources and can learn more about the world around us.”

Changing education for communities of children

Russell and Ursula are passionate about providing learning opportunities to children. Initially they were interested in donating the computers because of Yen, but then they realised that they could help more children. Russell and Ursula both feel connected to Vietnam, its people and culture.

Happy with how well the computers were received by the students and teachers, Russell and Ursula decided to donate a second set to a separate school in the same province.

The school principal was so happy to receive the donation, sharing “I would like to say that we were so happy and pleased to receive your great gift, a computer room. The teachers and the students here dreamt of having them a long time ago, and now our dream has come true!”

Russell and Ursula know that other schools lacked these resources and believes in empowering every child with an education. Since setting up the computers, students have been learning typing and drawing skills. The children have been able to learn how to use the computers quickly and this has enhanced their education.

One teacher at the school shared that having access to these computers supported the students to become more adept at using technology. “The whole school and all of our students are very happy and honoured to receive these new computers. Before receiving them, most of the students lived in difficult circumstances and had limited access to information technology. They can now access the internet and learn about information technology easier,” she said.

In the future, Russell and Ursula hope to be able to support more education projects to help children like Yen and her peers to learn. After three donations, they have donated 32 computers to two schools in the Hoa Binh Province.

Ly Thi Ngoc Bich, a fourth-grade student in Cao Bang Province in Vietnam, was born with congenital nystagmus, meaning she has weak eyesight. Reading is difficult for her, even when she leans in close. But since participating in ChildFund Vietnam’s My Right to Education project, Bich has experienced many positive improvements in her daily life and her personal development.

Bich’s mother, Nguyen Thi Dien, discovered her eyesight was impaired when she was seven months old. Because Bich was so young and the family struggled financially, they didn’t receive a diagnosis until she was 18 months old. By the time she was four, the doctors said that her condition was incurable.

“When Bich first went to school, her classmates didn’t know she had a disability and bullied her. I felt sorry for her, but I still wanted her to go to school,” said Dien.

Improving the quality of inclusive education for children with disability is one of the main goals of the My Right to Education project.

While struggling to go through the application process to receive disability benefits, Dien was introduced to the project. Dien and her daughter took part in many activities including training on loans programs for families with a child with a disability, childcare training and training on the legal policies and rights of children with disability.

After taking part in the program, Bich was happier, more sociable, and more confident. Her classmates now understand her disability and no longer tease her. Now they happily play together.

Bich taking part in class activities.

“She would come home from school and tell me this friend doesn’t tease me anymore, this friend now hangs out with me. When I see her like that, I also feel happy and thankful for ChildFund’s project,” said Dien.

Before taking part in the project, Bich often had to rely on her mother for help. Sometimes her mother was busy and couldn’t support her right away. Now she is more independent and can brush her teeth, wash her face, change her own clothes, and wash her own hair.

“I want Bich to finish her education, then find a suitable job. Later, when us parents are old and can’t take care of her like this anymore, I want her to be able to take care of herself. I also want the project to be further implemented in other districts so other children with disability like my daughter will be supported,” said Dien.

Bich and her mother are excited to soon receive a laptop from the project. The project funds 60% of the costs and her family will pay the rest. Bich’s teachers will help her learn to type and when her eyesight gets weaker, she will use special software for people with visual impairments that will read out onscreen text aloud.

Nong Thi Bay, Bich’s homeroom teacher said: “Bich’s vision is very limited. She can barely see anything on the board. Every time she wants to write, she must lean closely at the notebook. Knowing this, I often come closer to read to her. I also arranged for high-performing classmates to sit next to her and help her. Before ChildFund’s project, as a teacher, my methods in teaching children with disability were limited.”

Nong Thi Bay hopes that the project will continue to support students in remote areas, especially students with disability, to give them the same opportunity to go to school as their peers.

“After participating in the project, we were trained and equipped with knowledge to build lesson plans suitable for students with disability. For Bich, I would assign appropriate exercises and choose the right notebooks for her. Bich has made many improvements. She became bolder and more confident in daily communication. She also absorbs knowledge better.”

Since its inception in September 2019, ChildFund’s ‘My Right to Education’ project has been implemented in the Bac Kan and Cao Bang Provinces.