Wednesday, August 5, 2020

CEF graduate Chuyen's story ~ Written by Chuyen and translated by CEF's Kim Chi

I came from a poor farming family and I am the youngest child in a family with four children. My parents worked really hard to bring us up and tried to keep us all in school. My father used to work on building sites and my mother worked on farms to make ends meets. The physically demanding work made my parents’ health deteriorate. My father has spinal degeneration and my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Due to poverty and the difficult financial position of my family, when I was 15 years old, one of my sisters had to stop her schooling prematurely. She married after one year of working. When I saw how she struggled to afford the costs of raising children, I told myself that I had to go to university to have a better life for myself and to be in a position to bring up my children in way that wasn’t deprived. 

When I was 15 years old, my mother was recovering from her breast cancer surgery. I love her so much, so I thought that if I went to university, I would have a better life and earn plenty of money then I could help my mother to have a better life too. Her health has suffered a lot since the surgery, so I felt she should have a comfortable life when I complete university, as when I am working I would be able to support her.

In 2014, I passed the university entrance exam but my parents didn’t want me to go to university. At that time, my mother was sick and my brother was in university so they couldn’t afford to help me at all.

I still have never forgotten the day in September 2014, when my father took me to the bus station to go to Ha Noi although he said he wanted me to stop my eduction. We kept silence during the whole journey to the bus station. When we got there, I told my father “Take me back home, I won’t go to university”. He threw my luggage into the bus and say ‘Go and complete your university course’. We burst into tears and I cried during the long trip to Ha Noi. His action was such a positive motivation for me to go to university and complete my course. 

I took a university course for four and a half years, majoring in IT. During my university course, I worked part time to earn enough to cover my university expenses besides receiving sponsorship from CEF. At that time, my brother was studying at university as well and my mother was sick. My father was the only person working and providing finance for the family. 

With sponsorship from CEF, there was less financial worry for me when I went to university because it cost a lot for my university expenses. 

I got my university graduation certificate last year 2019, qualified in IT and now am working in my favourite job as a software tester. Every day at work I never get bored. With my university certificate, I now have a good, well-paid job so that I’m now able to give financial support to my parents monthly besides affording to support myself independently. For me, being at university for four and a half years was very important and also a key factor to my good future. My parents are well and they don’t need to work much now because no one in my family is being educated. We can work and support them monthly, so they only farm a little to provide enough for their daily needs. 

Thursday, July 30, 2020

World Day Against Trafficking in Persons reminded me of a past trafficking situation

Human Trafficking is such a huge money making business, that the techniques to get the needed girls for the business of prostitution and to be wives in China is constanctly changing as each of their ruthless games is found out. This is a story from 15 years ago about how they nearly successfully obtained some ethnic girls for their use and abuse.

They were angry with me as they believed I had removed the possibility of their daughters earning a good salary and supporting them. I was surprised and sad when I was told this when I returned to the village a few weeks later. I had saved their daughters lives and yet they couldn’t see that at all and consequently were angry with me due to no imagined forthcoming wealth.
When I was there the prior time I had found out that some of the young teenage girls from the village were planning on going off together to excellent well paid jobs in Ho Chi Minh City. I knew immediately that the tricksters had been to the village. Well-dressed women adorned with gold jewelry went to ethnic villages and promised work to the young women who were unemployed and a financial burden to their families. The wealth the women displayed of course gave weight to their request.
The girls were due to leave the following day, so there was excitement in the village when I arrived. My friend was thrilled to tell me of the good fortune of these families. When I strongly made my stance and insisted my friend went and visited each of the families to let them know about the tricksters and what their goals could be, and to beg them not to let their daughters go to HCM City, she felt bad as she knew no one would want to hear this bad news.
She was successful in persuading them, but they now all felt anger, which was aimed at me. Although upset that they couldn’t see that their daughters were more precious and important than the money, I felt relieved that my friend had been successful in persuading the families to not send their daughters away to an unknown and potential frighteningly and degrading future that could end in death.

Covid-19 and the effect on Human Trafficking

It’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons. As is the way, I sometimes do posts related to these important international days that have some connection to the work that CEF does. But what can I write about related to Human Trafficking as it all has been said, about how serious it is, how there are many organizations working hard to combat it and now also some governments around the world are fully behind prevention, rescuing and carrying out appropriate punishments. But I can write a little about Covid-19 and how it is affecting Human Trafficking.

Covid is already and further will change the world dramatically. It has been a huge blow to progress in reducing trafficking and poverty according to Matt Friedman of the Mekong Club, who talked at the Asia Region Anti-Trafficking Conference recently.  He said that we have lost ground in reducing modern slavery and that the 15 year advancement we had made, has gone! There are now 42 million people in slavery and 62% of them are in Asia!

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, a Hanoi based NGO concentrates on prevention and rescues. According to them due to Covid-19 some trafficking rescues in Vietnam were delayed over the last six months, some were still possible thankfully, but the victims had to go into quarantine for two weeks. Not ideal at all considering the victims already are traumatized and need emotional and psychological help.

Matt shared a sad fact that families who are really poor are surrendering their children, including very young girls, more than ever before and are selling them off to brothels and traffickers, as they can’t afford to feed them. A positive is that some brothels are sending girls home as they don’t have enough customers and have growing debt.

Matt said that all communities will be affected, prices of most things will go up along with spending going down. There is a lot of uncertainly for factories, factory owners and employees.  Manufacturing is no longer a smooth process as some parts aren’t being made and delivery of parts are delayed. Orders are slow in coming in, some have none and orders are often cancelled even when the manufacturing is in process. Some factories found the only way to survive and for people not to get ill was to ask the staff to live at the factory , but they had to make a rule that if they left they could not return and often demanded that they carry out unpaid overtime. It’s another new form of slavery. 

Many factories are shutting down or have, most have a reduced work force, with some on reduced salaries and others not paid.  As people are desperate for work, they consider working in worse conditions now. Many won’t have enough to keep a roof over their heads and feed their family. With 60-70% of the world’s factory workers being in Asia, this is a serious situation.  Very sadly it is forecast that half a billion are slipping into poverty, 2.5 million people will suffer from starvation with around a million will die from Covid.  This Covid-19 period in our history is a sad time for all on this planet as it is bringing about more poverty and consequently an increase in trafficking.

(The infographic from Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation shows how Covid-19 is impacting Human

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.”