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Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

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Dedicated teachers and parents can make all the difference to a child’s education. This World Education Day, we’re celebrating Mr. Chung, a dedicated parent who is making sure his and other children at a boarding school in Bac Kan Province, Vietnam have a safe, healthy space to learn.

Chung has been a been involved with the boarding school for four years and knows that accessing education in rural Vietnam can be challenging, but he is committed to making sure his children have a place to learn. “No matter how difficult problems are, I will never give up trying to give the children a good education,” he said.

In January 2022, ChildFund Vietnam collaborated with teachers and parents to improve the boarding school’s facilities through its Safe and Supportive Semi Boarding Schools project, by doing helping to build a kitchen school canteen, renovating boarding rooms and has provided blankets, mosquito nets and other necessities. This helped the school’s 30 students live more comfortably there.

Children at the school used to travel five to six kilometres from a nearby town, and had to cross steep slopes and rocky hillsides. Due to lack of housing, kitchens and cafeteria staff, parents like Chung must take turns staying at the school to care for the students.

The parents come together once a year to create a schedule for the year and decide when each parent will stay at the school. Together, the parents constructed a kitchen to help with daily food preparation. The kitchen is stocked with cooking utensils and every week parents deliver rice, vegetables, meat and eggs for the students to make their meals.

At the end of each day when the school bell goes, children fill the schoolyard playing and laughing. Then they go to the kitchen to prepare their own rice bowls.

Although Chung loves caring for the children, he acknowledges it is extremely challenging given his limited access to resources and infrastructure. “I can’t always care for all 30 students that board. I can only do so much, and I must look after my own children too. So sometimes the children must look after themselves. When they have an issue though, they let me know and I can usually help.”

The ‘Safe and Supportive Semi-Boarding Schools’ project brings together parents and educators to improve the quality of life and education that boarding students in Vietnam experience, so that they can learn in a safe, healthy space. There is also a specific focus on ensuring children from ethnic minorities have access to the same level of education.

“Since having a kitchen and the parent roster, the needs of the children at the boarding house have been completely taken care of,” said Chung when asked how the project had improved the boarding school.

ChildFund is committed to partnering with local communities to ensure that projects like this provide children with the best possible access to quality education – particularly for those living in hard-to-reach places.

Ngan grew up in the mountainous District of Quang Hoa, Cao Bang Province. Education wasn’t a priority for girls like Ngan. In the community where she lives, young women are expected to get married early, work as farmers or earn a living by working in factories far from home. This had been going on for generations, from her grandmother to her mother, but Ngan wanted to create change.

Children in Ngan’s community enjoy studying in a newly built school

Sponsorship changes the game

The support and letters from her French sponsor, Jerome changed Ngan’s outlook on life. “After being enrolled into ChildFund’s [sponsorship] program, I did change a lot. From a timid little girl, I have grown up into a confident young woman. My sponsor’s letters opened a whole new world to me. Through photos and simple sharing from my sponsor, a girl previously confined to a remote village like me was enabled to learn about the vast and beautiful world. I have nurtured my dream to explore other cultures and go to those picturesque places one day. It was also an enormous source of motivation for me to continue my study at a university instead of working in a factory after high school like some of my peers,” said Ngan.

The nine-year connection with her sponsor Jerome was vital to Ngan’s motivation and sense of belonging. “Like many other kids, I was so delighted to receive small gifts. Every time I received annual gifts from ChildFund like school supplies, crayons and water bottles. I felt so appreciative and grateful to my sponsor and program implementers for their utmost care for children like me.”

Sponsorship enabled Ngan to continue her studies and to bring about sustainable and meaningful change in the life of other children and families in Ngan’s community. “Being from a poor and disadvantaged community where people’s knowledge was limited, my hometown has totally transformed thanks to various project activities of ChildFund, specifically with training on communication, child protection, breeding animals and supporting the building of latrines.”

Ngan has a dream

Children washing their hands at the school to stay healthy.

Ten years have passed since Ngan had a sponsor. She is now a second-year student in Social Work Studies at a renowned university. The generosity and kindness from a stranger has shaped who she is today. Ngan embraces the dream to continue the journey of kindness that her sponsor embarked on. “I really hope that after graduation, I can use my knowledge, experience and passion to support my community. That’s one of the reasons I chose Social Work as my career.”

Child Sponsorship makes lasting changes in the life of children and is a powerful connection tool, giving children hope, aspirations and belief in kindness and good things in life.