Saturday, July 4, 2020

The latest conversation with CEF university student Chi ~ Guest post by CEF's Thuy Tran

Every month, our university students communicate with us about their life and their studies, so that we can know how they are and give help if they need it. Here is a story of a third-year university student majoring in law, who shared with us about how she is this month.

‘Since the end of June, my study schedule is less busy than before because I completed my lessons in some subjects. Others will be finished in the third week of this month, but my term 2 examinations will be in the middle of July. At the end of last month, my friend introduced to me a good part-time job in a keychain workshop. I said that it is a good part-time job because I feel happy to work there and it is flexible work. I can come in my free time. And of course, my income is depending on how many key-chains I can make. My job is to make  key-chains. There, I have a chance to learn how to design key-chains and how to use the laser cutting machine. It is not a hard job and the staff can eat free ice-cream and drink free coffee  in the break-time.

Covid-19 has affected not only my term two studies but also my coming internship. Normally, students can do it in the summer holiday of the third year, but now it will be delayed to term 2 of the final year. My university board also encourages students to go back to their hometown to do their internship. So, I plan to do the internship at the District Court or at the People’s Procuracy of the district. Next year, I have to choose a specific aspect of law to learn. After asking my older sisters and students who are older, I decided to choose ‘administrative law’.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Time with some of our CEF university students from the north

Back in 2005 CEF started helping students from a poor rural community in Thai Binh province. Now most of the girls we started helping then have completed school and university, and are working women supporting themselves. A later group of  students we started helping there in 2007 have mainly finished their education with a few still in school and some in university. 
It's always special having time with them as we have known them such a long time, 13 years! We knew them when they were little angels and now they have grown to be delightful, educated, intelligent women.
Recently we caught up to do updates and to run a small workshop for them. 

Small workshop for the students - September 2019

With our university students and their trainer
Cham is studying nursing

Chang with a book of poetry her sponsor has written
Change is studying IT 

Yen is studying Electrical Engineering

Van Anh is studying Nutrition 

Tham is studying IT

 Hue is studying to be an International Tour Guide

Linh is studying Human Resource Management

Hang is studying Food Processing Technology

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

CEF students' summer holiday and Water Safety Day

Our students are thrilled when summer arrives and they can have some time to relax after very full days of studies at school, of both their daily classes and compulsory extra tuition sessions. On top of that they have private extra tuition after school hours. 

The summer break most have is very short before they start taking summer classes. If they don't take these they will be behind the other students when the school year starts, so the system demands that they take these sessions.

It must be hard for them to have so little relaxation time. I recall endless summers at the beach, playing with friends, having many outings and doing outdoor activities, and taking part in swimming and tennis competitions. They are all the blessing of not having a challenging life of poverty, like our students.

For many of our students the highlight of their summer is our Water Safety Day that we run soon after school breaks up. 

Having a water safety theory session

On this day we gather the older (grade 5 and over) CEF children from all over Quang Nam province to take part in this important life-saving day. We start with Water Safety Theory, then they play games in the water and on the beach.  

 Games on the beach and in the water

Games on the beach and in the water

Some of the students and volunteers playing tug of war 

Then they learn floating and swimming. If they have learned to float for a good period of time at a prior Water Safety Day, then they move onto swimming lessons.

 Swimming lessons

Swimming lessons

Learning to float

At the end of the day we take them to the cinema to have the treat of a movie, usually both an educational and humorous one. 

This is a very special day, especially for the new students who have never been to the beach, or some of older ones whose parents have not permitted them to come along so far. And from our perspective a very important one as it has the potential to save lives.

This important day would not  have been possible without the support of many, our staff, volunteers, life savers and swimming teachers, and Le Belhamys' generous reductions making the day possible, and use of their beautiful space and beach. Funding of this day was from Go Philanthropic and we are most grateful for this very important support.   

Monday, July 15, 2019

Interviews and updates of ethnic students in the mountains of Phuoc Son

In June each year we do a research trip in Phuoc Son District to interview new ethnic students at their homes, if possible, but some live in much more isolated mountainous communities that we can't easily visit, in which case we interview them at their high school. 
As all the students are poor, we never know if their situations are worse than they make out. They all are so accepting of their poverty and their humble abodes. We often discover that their situations are much worse than we have been told, and that we discover when we visit their homes. 
We help students from this area to keep them in school, so they are educated and can earn a decent living. But also being in school reduce their risks of being trafficked and abused and will delay their marriage. In many of these communities marriage takes place before the legal age in Vietnam and as this is what they parents and grandparents did, it is not questioned.  
It's always a very humbling trip.

Home of one of our new students

Home of another new student

Home of another new student this year

Friday, July 5, 2019

CEF's Guest Blogger and Friend ~ Bev Short

Bev Short is a UK-born New Zealand citizen who has been working and travelling in Cambodia and Vietnam since February 2019. 

Bev is an award winning art photographer who has exhibited nationally and internationally, culminating in her solo exhibition "All Woman - A Modern Portrait of New Zealand Women" which exhibited at the NZ Portrait Gallery in 2012 for 3 months and went on to tour the country for the next 2 years. 

Bev's life has always been a mission to improve the lives of women so, when she left photography behind, she turned to the world of health and coached many midlife women back to well-being and happiness. 
Divorced with 2 adult daughters, she will return to NZ in July 2019.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Interview of CEF's Ms. Ngoc Huynh ~ Guest Blog by Beverly Short

With her cropped hair and unique style, Ngoc Huynh isn’t your average young Vietnamese woman.  24 years old and originally from Saigon, Ngoc has been a volunteer with CEF Vietnam in Hoi An for over 7 months.  She is an English Language graduate and has always aspired to a career combining education with social work. At some point down the track she intends to continue her studies with Education Management. 

Although she comes from a comfortable background, since an early age she has recognised the connection between education and breaking the poverty cycle, which has spurred her to seek voluntary work within an NGO.  Whilst most Vietnamese leave Hoi An to seek work in Saigon, Ngoc has done the opposite – drawn by the tranquillity of the town and the fact that she can cycle everywhere.

Like others who are drawn to NGO work, Ngoc has experienced much personal satisfaction and happiness from the volunteer work she has done in the past, and continues to do, knowing that she is making a difference in other people’s lives. In particular, she takes pleasure in teaching the girls basic hygiene, and skills in how to protect themselves, through her mentoring and the CEF workshops.

She explained to me that to break the vicious poverty cycle it was necessary for children to complete their education. Parents will ask their children to begin work straight from High School, or to not even finish High School, in order to bring money into the family.  That the parents only think short term: bring in money, and not long term: education, which ultimately leads to improved prospects and a better income.

Ngoc supports 40 girls through CEF.  Her strong family background has shown her the importance of love and support through the family but she realises that not all people have been as lucky as she has.  She visits the sponsored girls twice per year to see firsthand how things are for her students in remote areas where the standard of work is lower than in the city due not to a lack of hard work, but to a shortage of technological resources, finances, and local government or family support.  Many students in the city are able to afford extra curricular tuition to raise their grades which, unfortunately, in remote areas is an inaccessible luxury.

Ngoc offers her own support every week by phone and email but also encourages the girls to group together and support each other with study groups, to ask their older siblings for assistance, and to make a request to CEF for the supplies they may need to raise their grades.

In Ngoc’s own words: “I want to continue in this work because I want women to be able to live independently.  In remote areas they always depend on their husbands. They don’t have enough education so they only do housework or manual work with a very low income. Because they depend on their husbands they don’t have a voice in the family.  I want to change this little by little.  Women have such a great responsibility.  They take care of their children, they do housework, they work, they do almost everything but they cannot decide anything.  They have no voice.”

Friday, June 28, 2019

Interview of CEF's Ms. Thuy Dinh ~ Guest Blog by Beverly Short

Thuy Dinh lives 11km from Hoi An but travels to and from each day to her job with CEF. She has been with the organisation for a little over a year, working in a variety of districts including working with other staff on the scholarship program for girls from mountainous ethnic communities, and recently with 17 students in closer communities that she can so easily identify with.

25 years old and an English Language graduate, Thuy comes from a poor farming background.  Being the only girl amongst 3 other siblings, it was only her brothers who were encouraged by their parents to stay at school and continue their education, even though they had limited ability – a common practice in the village she comes from.

Thuy describes herself as being a ‘fair’ student whilst at school but she had no money for extra tuition so decided to study alone.  At the age of 15, she realised that English was the subject she was least good at, so decided to undertake her own extra study again to improve her knowledge and skill.
In her village, Thuy is of the first generation of Vietnamese to graduate from High School.  Her parents, and their generation, mostly left school at the age of 9 or 10 to begin their lives, like their parents before them, as farmers.

Thuy’s determination and hard work paid off and she was accepted into university.  She hadn’t told her parents before she applied so was delighted when they told her they would assist in any way they could to finance her studies.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to see her through so Thuy worked for a shoe company for 6 months to save money prior to starting and, like many of her fellow students, worked during her 4 years at university by English tutoring, waitressing and nannying.

She discovered that having a degree didn’t necessarily mean that she could walk into a job.  Thuy explained to me that many students pass their degree but don’t necessarily have top marks, or they lack work experience - possibly volunteering.  They might also lack in communication and computer skills, as well as confidence, and all of this impacts their work opportunities.  The ongoing mentoring and skills workshops that CEF run regularly for the students in their programs ensures that the girls who graduate are more equipped for the outside world and are infinitely more employable.

In Thuy’s own words: “My students take me as a model.  I tell them don’t blame your difficulties on your circumstances. It’s up to you.  You have to find a way to overcome it. For example, when I was at university I didn’t have much money so I had to borrow a student loan, find a part time job and I had to share a very small room with 3 other girls where we also cooked together to save money. This inspires and motivates my students and they begin to make their own life.”

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Interview of CEF's Ms. Vy Nguyen ~ Guest Blog by Beverly Short

Like the 60 students she supports in the CEF sponsorship program, Vy Nguyen knows exactly what it’s like to be poor and want a good education.  Now married with a 10 month old daughter, 28 – year old Vy has been working with CEF for 3 years assisting the students under her mentorship through all levels of education up to, and including, university.

Vy graduated from university with a degree in English, specialising in Business English.  She counts herself as being lucky as her parents encouraged her to finish school and continue with her studies.  She had no mentorship from either her parents or her teachers, though, and was unaware of the variety of subjects she could have studied when she left school. Her family were also unable to provide her with a computer to do her own research, so she applied to do English as this was her strongest subject in school.

Vy considers mentoring to be one of the most important aspects of her position at CEF and prides herself in knowing each of her 60 students personally – 8 of whom are at university.  She talks to them once every month and visits them twice per year. In between those times, if the girls have any troubles with their studies, their friends or their family, Vy’s door is always open to listen and help in any way she can.  The women working at CEF describe themselves as ‘big sisters’ to the girls that they mentor, and Vy is no exception.

Vy had no mentor during her education so was unaware of not only what subjects she could study at university, but what careers were available after graduating.  She ensures that all the students under her care are armed with the best possible knowledge so they can make considered choices as to their future.  She told me that if she had known more, she would most likely to have studied Japanese or Korean, as well as English, and pursued a career as a translator.

Lacking knowledge of careers, on graduating Vy began to apply to hotels for a job in tourism.  She described not being accepted into anything as ‘failing’, but I reminded her that she wouldn’t have been doing what she’s doing now if she’d gone down that path; that it didn’t work out for her because, frankly, her talents were needed elsewhere.  She went on to become a translator and Personal Assistant for an NGO that helped children with disabilities before starting work with CEF.  Her duties with CEF are varied and include giving talks on child abuse and human trafficking as well as being ‘big sister’ to her students.

In Vy’s own words: “I feel very proud of my students and myself, knowing that I am encouraging them to get good grades. When they tell me that they are satisfied with their choice of subject at university it makes me feel good and motivates me to continue my work with CEF. I know that in the future their parents and their sponsor will also be proud of them.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Interview of CEF's Ms. Thuy Tran ~ Guest Blog by Beverly Short

Thuy Tran’s bright smile and cheerful demeanour are contagious. The 32 year old has been bringing her enthusiasm and upbeat personality to CEF for the last 4 years where she manages ethnic children from the Phuoc Son District – a mountainous area near the border between Vietnam and Laos. 
After studying Hospitality Management at University, Thuy applied for a volunteer position within a local NGO and was very quickly hired as a fulltime member of the staff. For the next 6 years she experienced firsthand the eagerness of the poor children to go to school and learn, but how they were hindered by the economic instability of their families. 

After 6 years Thuy resigned from her position as the NGO’s funds we
re running low and she believed they should be spending their money on projects and not on her salary. During that time of unemployment she started her own charity with some of her friends which assisted underprivileged primary and kindergarten age children with school supplies and taught workshops on personal hygiene.  It wasn’t long, though, before Thuy was snapped up by Linda Burn of CEF Vietnam and the rest, as they say, is history.

Not only does Thuy support children in the ethnic community from the Phuoc Son District under the CEF programs, she also trains older girls, who have already gone through university and want to give back to their community, to give workshops on personal hygiene and nutrition. She told me how she proudly watched one particular ethnic student grow from a shy, unconfident young girl into a mature and strong young woman who felt able to give community workshops to nearly 150 children at a time, and go on to be a teacher herself.

It is an ongoing battle for the women who work for CEF to stress the importance of education to the parents in these ethnic communities where children are encouraged to leave school to work on farms or in paddy fields to bring money into the family home.  There are exceptions, though, and Thuy told me of one woman who had 7 children and was without a husband.  At 70 years old, she still does manual work daily in the scorching heat to help support her children through their education.  Unfortunately, she is in the minority.

It’s not a given that graduates from University in Vietnam will get a job so Thuy coaches the students in her care to get the highest possible grades, to network with other teachers and schools, and continually improve their communication skills to increase their chances of employment.

Since working with CEF, Thuy has noticed that the dropout rate of students from the programs has decreased.  She believes that this is, in part, due to the life skills workshops that CEF offer.  They teach the girls about sex education, healthcare, nutrition and sanitation which leads to less teenage pregnancies and improved health. The girls also begin to understand more about the ‘outside world’ and that University isn’t the only option for them after High School as there are many careers available such as cook, waitress or hairdresser.  There is a gradual realisation that there is more to life than having children at a young age and working on a farm.

In Thuy’s own words: “The sexual education workshops we teach are not only for the girls to understand how to protect themselves and to use contraception.  We teach them how to deny their boyfriends sex, if that is what they want, but to also still have a good relationship.”