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.”