Thursday, May 17, 2012

Children's Education Foundation wants to encourage literacy

                                  Literacy is important for each person as well as their nation.

To be literate gives a person many more employment opportunities. They are able to learn new skills and subjects any time as well. A literate person has high self-esteem, is more Independence, knows their rights, and is unlikely to be exploited. They are an asset to their country.

A CEF goal is to have a mobile library. We hope this year we can bring this into reality; it won't take much to do this. We need a hardy motorbike, a good helmet and waterproof for the librarian with solid waterproof panniers, and many books! I mention the word waterproof a lot as we have a long wet season with heavy tropical rains.

All the impoverished children we have given books to so far didn't own a book and there were none in the home as all their parents are poor to have books, but also most are illiterate. The children all know how to read as they have learnt at school. When each child has received a book they immediately have started reading and didn't put their bookt down for quite some time. Most of the children we help with education live in isolated communities; school isn't very near for most, let alone a library. A mobile library makes sense versus a library for each of the 11 communities we work with in Quan Nam.  
Some interesting and important points other organizations have made about literacy:

"Did you know that 796 million people in the world today cannot read or write? That’s one out of every five adults, and most of them live in developing countries." Room to Read

 UNESCO says about literacy
..." the ability to identify, understand, interpret, communicate, compute and use printed and written materials associated with varying context. Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society."

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Children's Education Foundation believes and knows that an education makes a difference to a girls future but is it enough?

Children's Education Foundation wants girls to have a future with choices. What does that demand?

An education is needed to have choices
If you are uneducated your choices are severely limited here. The future of an uneducated female looks like what I see almost every day; an early marriage to a so so man, the first child within the first year of marriage, some verbal and physical abuse, struggle to make ends meet and then the cycle continues with them not being able to afford to educate their children. Or it might be the other common option we see; no marriage, no permanent man and one, two or three children, and they struggle to make ends meet and find it almost impossible to send any of the children to school. At present we are helping quite a few single mothers with the education costs for their children.

But the cycle is inclined to continue and continue.... deep female and cultural conditioning is strong, and even stronger in such traditional societies as in Vietnam. With a decent income at least it removes most of the daily back-breaking struggle. but that is not enough to make conscious wise choices that are different to what one sees around one.

What else does it take to have a future with choices
A girl I know is getting married this week and her situation has triggered me to complete working on an additional program we can do here besides giving academic education to many girls. She is an intelligent, English-speaking, university-educated 26 year old woman and is choosing to marry a lazy uneducated man, who is also a heavy drinker. His family are traditional vegetable farmers and she will now have to get up at 3am to pick the vegetables before the sun rises. At 6am when she finishes she will get ready for work, eat her breakfast and then go to her daytime job. Her parents are intelligent and have not done everything totally traditionally. Her mother for example married late, is hard working and is now a student Buddhist nun and her husband readily accepts this. He is an intelligent hard-working man. Her choice will mean a hard life.

The program I am working on including creative writing, art and photography, I hope will start the process of the girls we work with at least having the possibility of being more reflective, and conscious of the choices they make.

Monday, May 7, 2012

3 of the points that are important to Children's Education Foundation

Talking with one of the mothers of two girls we sponsor

She is very caring and looks after several of the girls in our sponsorship program who are all child nuns

With one of the little nuns we sponsor

One of our part-time staff members hanging out with some of the children we sponsor

One of our part-time staff members went shopping and bargaining for all these household items for one of the single mothers who has just built a small home with help from the local government for her and her daughter

I would like to share three aspects I consider integral to Children's Education Foundation. They all overlap to some degree.
1. Loving kindness
2. Treating all equally and respectfully
3. Quality versus quantity

Loving kindness
It sounds rather esoteric, but there is no better way to put it than 'loving kindess'; care or caring doesn't quite express it
It is in the nature of caring staff to manifest loving kindness; they manifest it in meetings and when we get together with the children or children and any family
It naturally manifests when responding appropriately to the situation of any child, parent or carer  
One of the main reasons I still visit all children is because I want them to know I personally care about them
The needs of each child are not quite the same and to know that requires time with each child
To express that to a potential sponsor, or sponsor, requires that I know and understand the child and their needs; in doing that we hope our sponsor will care too
One other way we express this is by doing whatever we can to keep children who have lost one or both parents with the remaining relative or with a family member and being as supportive as possible of that person so that they can continue to care for the child

Treating all equally and respectfully
Some of the parents and carers are uneducated, or only went to school for a few years, some are badly mannered as no one ever taught them manners and some unfortunately are very sick and have a very unpleasant odor; no matter what they all deserve some help and the same care 
Some children are angry or hurt and haven't got the best of attitudes, but we just ignore their attitude and do the best to treat them the same as the sweet and lovable children, as they deserve to be treated the same
Giving a number or code to a child feels disrespectful; I don't believe in giving the children we help either numbers or codes
I admit it gets challenging when there are 6 girls called Hang; but then we add their adjacent name when we refer to them
We even have three girls called Thuy Hang, so they become Thuy Hang in Binh Phuc, Thuy Hang in college 

Quality versus quantity
We need to be able to continue to have enough time with the children, to know them and any family living with them, as well as their and their family's needs; that is not possible if we have too many children
It's not a matter of employing more staff, as it is I who also needs to have enough time with the children
With all the administration work needed I can't spend quality time with the children if we help large numbers of children

The next six weeks will be filled with time with our Children's Education Foundation - Vietnam angels and dynamos

Over the next six weeks we will have a great deal of time with our Children's Education Foundation - Vietnam angels and dynamos. It's a time of year I particularly look forward to and so do the children.

School holidays start shortly and although most children still attend some classes they have more leisure time at this time of year than any other.

We have already made our term 2 visits to the Nui Thanh, Tam Ky, Nong Son and Que Son children. As usual it was wonderful to see them. As the children I birthed became adults quite some years ago I keep forgetting how quickly children change. It constantly surprises me how their faces change, how they grow taller so quickly, how they mature, and especially how our relationship with them blossoms.

Some families bring me to tears with their warmth, gratitude and generosity when they themselves have almost nothing. Some of the children are quite feisty, or spirited, which actually I think is necessary to progress in life here. Some are very artistic and love sharing their artwork, and some are very quiet, serious and withdrawn even after many years of knowing them. So far we don't know why, but still hope that one day they will come out of their shells.

We have children to visit in Phuc Le in Thai Binh province, and five communities still to visit in Quang Nam and children from two communities in Danang.

We also have a summer treat for all the children; the Quang Nam children will have a water safety talk, floating and swimming lessons, games on the beach, lunch and a tour of the UNESCO protected historic town of Hoi An. The Danang children are an older age group and it's a long way for them to come to us, so we are going to them and have a more mature morning planned of movie snacks, a movie at the cinema, and pizza for lunch; things they can't afford to do or eat. The Thai Binh children will be coming together for an afternoon tea, a quiz and variety of rope, ball and group games. There will be prizes awarded for the best 24 drawings the children have done in the fortnight prior to the competition; 2 will be awarded to children in each of the 12 years of school. Gifts are given to take home and photos of the events are given to each of the children too.