Friday, June 20, 2014

Dire poverty and suicide

Today on my way back from the beach there were hundreds of people blocking the road all pointing upwards. There was a man blackened and charred hanging from the electric wires. He had committed suicide on the site that had just told him he no longer had work today.

In every area we help children there are single mothers, some never had a husband, but many did, but no longer do, as he committed suicide. One died from rat poison and most from crashes, including one father of three who drove straight into a large oncoming truck.

One girl and her two siblings struggle to live with the fact that both their parents committed suicide. One family is still in shock and morning for their daughter who hung herself last year.

Poverty has many faces; the most frightening face is living with knowing there is no money to pay for anything; no funds for the advanced classes your teacher highly recommends, no funds to pay the house bills, or pay off the huge debt accrued from gambling, or the medical bills for your ill child, and no money for the next meal.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

'World Against Child Labor', 12 June

Today, is 'World Day Against Child Labor'. Thankfully many organizations are working around the world to eradicate child labor in their communities and countries. Progress has been made as 47,000,000 less children were recorded being in forced labor between 2008 and 2012. Much more work is needed, but it is progress for sure.

All efforts that individuals and organizations make, does make a difference. Each child helped is a child whose life is possibly saved, due to the high ratio of work related deaths and disabilities. They will have the opportunity to have a better future and very importantly be able to live and develop as a child and not as an adult well before their time.

In 2012, approximately 169 million children are estimated to be working around the world. Asia has the largest concentration of children working. Just in Asia and the Pacific region, 78 million children are in forced labor, approximately half of the children laboring in the world.

In Vietnam there are many in child labor; mainly working in factories, with the majority producing clothes, but also making other items for export. Organizations here are working to find them, rescue them, and help them re-adjust back to having a child's life. This is very important work.

It is so normal and acceptable here for poor families to get their children working part time, whether at home or in the local community, but they still allow their children to go to school as long as they help with the work. Poverty here and in many countries means that children have to 'work' at home and often take huge responsibilities at home, more than a child should have to take, allowing parents to work. One girl in our sponsorship program has been taking responsibility a lot of the time for her two younger sisters, doing the cleaning, cooking and dishes since she was about 8 years old. Without that help her parents can't feed their children. Some mothers who collect garbage expect their children to help on weekends and in the school holidays. Farmers expect the children to help during harvest time whether it is picking the peanut plants out of the ground and taking the pods off the plants or raking the drying rice. In isolated and mountainous areas work opportunities are few and far between. When I was in the north of Vietnam I saw mountain roads being repaired and broadened; the work teams were predominantly made up of teenagers. Some brick factories I have visited have many teenage workers. None of this is uncommon worldwide.

Not all children and teenagers in factories have been trafficked. Teenagers from poor families who are under pressure from their parents to work, have told me that to get work they lie about their age, falsifying paperwork when required.

Poverty is what makes families get their children working whether on their own farm, working on the roads. or sending them off at 14 or 15 to work in a factory illegally. It is understandable but not right.

Desperate parents give into the lies about well paid work in the big cities for their children with the promise of  funds being sent home monthly. Lies are what traffickers have perfected. They sell them off to work in factories or to bordering countries for prostitution, or to be wives in China.

Aung San Suu Kyi, chairperson of the National League of Democracy in Burma, said in a statement, "The best way to get rid of child labor is to make it unnecessary for the security of families." "If you want to secure the future of the globe, we have to secure the future of our children and let us start by doing that to putting an end to child labor."

Pope Francis said recently, "We all need to to renew our commitment, especially to families, to protect the dignity of every boy and girl and to offer them the opportunity to grow in a healthy environment." " A peaceful childhood allows children to look at life and the future with confidence"

As long as there is poverty there will be children in labor. In the meantime everything that individuals, organizations and governments can do to help reduce poverty and provide support for families facing crushing poverty is crucial. Families, communities and governments committed to and ensuring that children receive an education, is crucial in breaking the poverty cycle.

CEF concentrates on helping children, especially girls from poor families to receive a full education. While they are in full time schooling the amount of labor they are available to carry out in limited to the home or farm . This simple factor is part of the solution to reducing the numbers of children in labor worldwide.

It is a very important factor that a child in school with either a supportive family, community or supportive organization behind them is not a child at risk of being trafficked or forced into any labor. It hugely reduced the financial stress of poor families which CEF has found reduces the emphasis on the child having to work . It is one of the many important reasons that we believe in the importance of  children receiving a full education. Supporting children from poor communities to stay in school until the end and receive tertiary education changes their and their families future, breaking the poverty cycle.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Short Youtube video of our first graduate from college, Trang

Trang was CEF's very first college graduate. She is a wonderful young lady who had a challenging childhood. I consider Trang to be like another daughter. She is totally sweet, caring and delightful. She has been a determined young lady too and persevered with her education, graduated from school, then college, and then university. Now she is in employment, giving back, and supporting her sister.
This clip is a series of short interview questions put together. Stephen, our US manager interviewed her and one of my daughters, Shanti put them together. Thank you Trang, Stephen and Shanti!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

New tertiary education support

We have been blessed today with a most generous pledge from a couple who believe strongly in supporting CEF to assist girls here in Vietnam to receive tertiary education.

Each year we have school graduates and each year not all sponsors are able to afford tertiary education costs for the child they have helped through high school, as the expense is much greater than in high school.

This new support is a huge blessing and we are thrilled!  This help along with our new 'Alton Memorial Scholarship Fund' means that now our school graduates who have been conscientious students through high school can all be offered tertiary education this year!

 Our first CEF graduate

The 'Alton Memorial Scholarship Fund' allowing CEF students to pursue tertiary education

CEF has been most fortunate to receive memorial funds allowing us to start the 'Alton Memorial Scholarship Fund'. This fund is for helping impoverished students receive tertiary education here in Vietnam. It's an exciting step and only possible due to the support of 'Go Philanthropic Foundation'.

We look forward to being able to grant funds for the first young adult this coming term! We are most grateful for these funds and I am sure Mr Alton Mattioli would be happy with this new fund, as he had a fondness for Vietnam, children and education.

For more about Mr Alton Mattioli please read the following from Go Philanthropic's website (which is under 'more'). 

Donations to Vietnam in remembrance...

In lieu of flowers, remembrances in Alton’s name can be made to, an organization which supports educational programs in Vietnam, a country he gladly visited twice with Sharon to experience the reconciliation of peace.
Click here to make a donation in remembrance  of Alton.
Alton devoted his life to helping children, wherever they lived.

Husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle veteran, educator and friend...

Born on January 5, 1944, Alton P. Mattioli, Jr. was a son of “America’s Home Town” Plymouth, Massachusetts.  Both his father and mother were also Plymouth natives, his dad the son of Italian immigrants from Familia Emilia in northern Italy and his mother of Scottish immigrants.  Alton spent much of his childhood playing mischievous pranks on his older sister, Linda, whom he loved and grew very close to in his older years.  He grew up to be a Plymouth High School Blue Eagle, where his name and picture is in the Blue Eagle Hall of Fame.  Both an athlete and a scholar, he was beloved by his classmates and liked nothing more than golfing or dancing the night way at his Class of ‘62 reunions.

From Plymouth, Alton spent four years at the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcestor, Mass, where he studied history occasionally and was remembered for causing his elderly ecclesiastical advisor to faint when he opened Alton’s dormitory door to find girls in the living room and alcohol in the bathtub.  Graduating from Holy Cross in 1966, Alton was almost immediately drafted by the US Army and went to Officer Candidate School, emerging as a second lieutenant.  He loved the time he spent at Fort Ord, on the Monterey Peninsula, where he made lifelong friends and always expected the Vietnam War would be over before he had to go.  Unfortunately, this was not the case and he spent nine months leading a platoon in the Ashua Valley in Vietnam.  He was awarded both a Silver Star and a Purple Heart for his service and sacrifice during that time.  Although he demonstrated the bravery that was the hallmark of his life, he came back opposed to the foreign policy he fought for and ever after was suspicious of war as a political tool.

Severely wounded during the Battle of Hamburger Hill, Alton fought his way back to health and attended Boston College, where he received the first of two Master’s degrees, an MA in Education.  After teaching in Massachusetts, he was asked by a dear Plymouth friend to come to Valencia, Venezuela to teach history and psychology.  It was there he met a first grade teacher, Sharon Predmore, from Carmel Valley, California, who was to become his wife of 40 years.  After two years in Venezuela, they returned to the United States.  Failing to find teaching jobs in Massachusetts, Sharon found work in Pasco, Washington and brought Alton to the “Evergreen State”.  Alton taught at Hanford High School in the “Stay Room”, an early program to prevent drop-outs.  Two children, Tina and Steve, were born in Richland.  Although they made lifelong friends there, Alton and Sharon missed the green trees and oceans of their childhood, and a trip to the San Juan Islands convinced them that western Washington was the place for them.  Alton enrolled in the Master’s in Counseling program at the University of Washington, where he became a lifelong devoted Husky.  He had not quite completed his program when he and Sharon returned to Valencia with their young family.  
Alton finally summitted Hamburger Hill at a much happier time in both his life and the lives of the Vietnamese people, whom he found to be charming and generous
For the next three years Alton was the high school principal there, and in the summers, completed his Counseling MA and started an Administrative Credential program.  In 1980, the family returned to Washington and Alton was hired as a counselor at Cascade Junior High in the Auburn School District.  After three years there, he moved to the Kent School District and a high school counselor’s position, first at Kent-Meridian and then at Kentridge, where in addition to counseling he was the golf coach and advised the Natural Helpers and LGBT Club.

After 30 years in education, in 2005 he retired to Port Townsend, a town the family had loved through annual Labor Day camping trips at Fort Flagler and a decade of Thanksgivings at Fort Worden. In Port Townsend, Alton indulged all his hobbies of boating, golfing, gardening, card playing and cooking.  He had to give up his wine-making and the Annual Auburn Garlic Festival held in the backyard in Auburn, where friends were invited to bring potluck dishes made with garlic and to take home garlic from Alton’s garden.

Alton and Sharon never lost their interest in the people of the world and loved traveling.  They went to several South American, European and Southeast Asian countries.  Alton’s favorite foreign spot was the Italy of his grandparents and he had reconnected with family there while visiting several times.  The last trip he and Sharon took together was to Sicily in September to celebrate their 40th anniversary.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

CEF's 'Bikes for School' gave a good bike to one of our children today

Today one of our students received a good second hand bike from our support program 'Bikes for School', allowing him to now get to his high school which he starts at in two months.

Donations can be made to 'Bikes for School' allowing us to purchase good bikes for our students to get to school.

Donations can be made on our US website:

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Loss of her granny

For D, granny has been her dearest and closest family member for most of her childhood. She was left with her granny and a mentally ill uncle when she was very young as her parents separated and were unable to look after her.

Granny has been senile and destructive for many years now. School books have had to be hidden to avoid granny tearing them up. But still her granddaughter has caringly and patiently cared for her. She has kept house for granny and her uncle; cooked, cleaned, done the washing and shopping, as well as managing to continue her schooling. When we met her she was 11 years old and looked so serious and older than her years due to the responsibilities and long hours each day that she kept.

Granny had been bed ridden for a month when we last visited and D was spoon feeding her water and medicines. Sadly granny passed away a few days ago. Granny was very dear to her heart; she will miss her constant companion and friend greatly.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

One more girl sponsored; a very deserving girl

Today we received wonderful news; a sponsor has been found for one more girl who really deserves a sponsor, as she is a child who has taken on a lot of responsibility and is hardworking in more than one way.

She works hard at school and considering her other commitments is doing extremely well. She also has been carrying the responsibility for keeping house and doing all the domestic chores for her granny and uncle who she lives with. Besides that over the last few years she has been caring for her senile and elderly granny, who she loves greatly.

She was taken to live with granny when she was very young as her parents separated and then couldn't care for her. She is so fond of granny; she holds her hand, strokes it, and strokes her hair. The love  for her granny is so obvious.

Fortunately she has many relatives in the area, but unfortunately all too poor to help her, granny and uncle financially. They can provide a little practical help and the occasional financial help for granny and her medical costs. Although her uncle who lives with her and granny is mentally ill, he is able to collect garbage and earns a little each day which helps with some of their daily costs.

With the growing costs of her education, increasing living costs, and medical costs for granny, her extended family was not able to provide enough educational support and there was the risk of her being removed from school to have her just keep house and care for granny. So we are thrilled that she has a sponsor now; this support will make it possible for her to complete her education.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

International Children's Day

These are some of Children's Education Foundation's children in our education sponsorship program.

These children are amongst the fortunate children; they are in school because of  kind and generous sponsors. But today I don't think of these fortunate children; I think of all those missing out on an education, due to their poverty, war or famine in their homeland, or just the lack of a school to go to.