Thursday, April 18, 2013

An education isn't enough to help change how one feels about life

Helping a child to stay in school and be educated isn’t enough to help them find a little contentment when they have had a sad situation for a long time.

One girl CEF has helped for five years has lost both parents, hardly sees her siblings, and when she does it's not quality time as they are busy trying to make ends meet, and on top of that she has only one friend.

She is overcome with sadness still. We can't change how she feels, but can only continue to help her finish her education, care for her, and let her know her sponsor also cares for her.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Trang one of the first CEF sponsored children (Guest blog by Stephen Jackel)

On my visit to Vietnam this April I stopped in Ho Chi Minh City to see Trang, who together with her sister Lan were the first two children sponsored by CEF back in 2003. (Wow - 10 years ago!) Trang is now working as an assistant teacher and continuing with post-college courses as she considers whether to continue a career in teaching, which she loves doing, or pursue work in business.

Linda asked me to speak to Trang about how CEF has affected her life, and the benefits of education for Vietnamese girls, and I was able to record some of her responses on my phone. She was very nervous about being filmed, especially speaking in English, but her sincerity and desire to provide information helped her get through the ordeal. I found her comments very moving and hope that others will too when we post the video to the blog.

Stephen Jackel

My Hanh met her sponsor (Guest blog by Stephen Jackel)

 On this year's visit to Vietnam I was joined for part of the trip by my good friends from New York, Paul and Kim. While on the way from Hoi An to Hue we stopped in Danang to see My Hanh and her family. She is part of CEF's Hoa Van Education Project and along with her family were recently relocated to a new housing development.


Paul has been sponsoring My Hanh's education for several years now and their first meeting at her new home, with her mother and other family members looking on, was quite an occasion. She was understandably nervous but I think both parties found the encounter very interesting.

And I think it is safe to say that My Hanh is now the only teenager in Danang with a T-shirt from the Brooklyn Nets basketball team. (As well as an impressive new Vietnamese-English dictionary.)

Speaking with Paul and Kim afterwards made me appreciate once again that the rewards of the CEF sponsorship program pass in both directions.

Stephen Jackel

CEF's wonderful staff

Staff heading off after a meeting on a wet day

For many years, about 8 years in fact, I just worked on CEF with some of my family and friends who were also volunteers for Children's Education Foundation. Then Duyen came into my life and was an amazing and versatile assistant.

Although I have always wished to keep CEF small so that we can know the children and families in our education sponsorship programs very well, and can meet each of their needs, CEF has grown and we have needed to take on more staff as time has gone on to continue to be able to do this.Our goal is not to grow large, but to grow as much as we can with the help funds and help we have, while still knowing our families and their needs well.

Due to a wonderful donor we have received funds to pay for staff. This financial help has made a huge difference. It hasn't just given part time employment to five people and helped reduce my work hours and work load, which was getting too large for myself, friends, and family to deal with, but has allowed us to help more children go to school. Without the funds for the staff we had to say no to many children as we couldn't stretch our time or energy any further. It is one of the realities of charity work, that as much as we would all love to run off love and volunteers time; although that is a part of the reality, it is not the total reality.

With increased funding we could employ more people, increase the hours of the staff we had and say yes to many more children who could not afford schooling. Funding is very precious. I feel very blessed to have had this financial support for the last two years and so are the staff.

Please meet my lovely team, who have huge hearts and who I feel very blessed to work with and without them we could not help the children with their schooling.

Quan who has a wonderful sense of humor, is bright and hard working, has been with CEF for 3 years and initially did everything that needed doing that I couldn't do.

As we grew, all that work was too much work for him so we needed more staff. He is still my wonderful assistant and helps manage, works with government officials and local partner organizations.

He is also responsible for the Education Sponsorships Programs in Thai Binh province, and Thang Binh, Duy Xuyen, Nui Thanh, Tam Ky, Nong Son, Que Son and Hiep Duc districts of Quang Nam province.

Hieu is a lovely petite young lady. She is a very important part of the team as she is our book keeper and has now worked for CEF for two years.

She is also responsible for our Hoi An Education Sponsorship Program which has grown in the last two years.

As Hoi An is a beautiful UNESCO listed and protected town that is also a popular tourist destination, many people think that everyone has been able to benefit from tourism here. But it is not the case as there are still many poor families living in town and around the town.

Ngoc joined our team last year. She is young and energetic and has a very youthful spirit. She still is a university student but is drawing to the end of her studies.

Ngoc is responsible for our 'Mobile Library for Literacy' program and for all the wonderful books we have had been donated or have bought with donated funds. We now have quite a collection of books and love taking them to the children!

She is also responsible for the Education Sponsorship Programs in Dien Ban and Dai Loc; both poor areas in Quang Nam. She is also responsible for the Danang Education Program.

Vy is has a young daughter and loves reading her stories. She joined our team last month and is passionate about literacy so is responsible for developing a program aimed at the younger children in our programs and increasing a love of reading and stories. 'Story Time' will run through the summer holidays.

Part of the literacy program we are developing is literacy and numeracy assessments of CEF children.She will be helping with these. Some of our children haven't had a complete education and struggle more and more each year. We want to see if we can figure out what they missed out on and see if we can fill the gaps. When we have funding for this we will start the assessments.

This is dear Lien, who now helps close to full time. She helps CEF with many many things;  she cares for the office and grounds, cooks for staff when we have meetings, helps with organizing CEF events and cooks for them, posts our mail, organizes repairs of equipment and helps in many other ways. She also cares for the office when I am away.

She also refers children to CEF who need help with their education, children she knows of through the pagoda she goes to or from her local community, which is a poor community. She is an invaluable help.

This wonderful CEF team has only been possible due to generous funding for staff salaries. I hope our wonderful donor fully realizes that his donation for salaries has allowed us to help many more children be educated. What a wonderful gift!