Tuesday, March 19, 2019

About a recent home visit day ~ Guest blog by CEF VN USA manager, Stephen Jackel

As CEF-Vietnam’s U.S. manager, and a big fan and supporter of CEF’s founder Linda Burn, I do my best to visit Vietnam and Hoi An annually.  This year, on my 14th trip to the country (hard for me to even grasp that!), I headed out early one Sunday with CEF staffer Thuy to visit nine children sponsored by CEF’s generous contributors and update our information on how they are faring in their studies and their goals for the future.

On these visits I was struck by the contrasts between the young ladies who were working hard and succeeding in school and those who, though smart, were underachieving and potentially throwing away their opportunity for further education and a chance for a better life.  Like teenagers everywhere, they are tempted to hang out with friends, play sports instead of studying, and most insidiously, to fritter away homework time on Facebook.

MH, a polite 10th grader whose mother is caring but not in good health, used to get very good grades and dreamed of becoming an architect, which is an uncommon and ambitious goal for a poor Vietnamese child living in the countryside. But she failed two classes last term and basically isn’t working hard enough this term to improve her grades unless she makes significant changes to her routine.  Because our resources are limited, CEF demands a lot from the children we support and Thuy had to warn MH and her mother that if she fails any classes this term we’ll have to suspend our support for the coming year.  A somber MH admitted that she’s been spending time Facebooking with her friends instead of putting in the hours she needs to regain her standing as a top student.  We hope she can stick to her promise to spend more time on the books.

In contrast, U, an athletic 9th grader who just earned her brown belt in karate, is maintaining excellent grades and on course to achieve her goal of attending a science and technology university in Danang.  She also will be making time for extra classes at a local school teaching English.

The home visits made me think about my own childhood and how I often neglected homework to play with friends, watch TV or read the books I loved.  I can’t imagine how I would’ve coped with the temptations now confronting children via the internet and social media.  I was fortunate to live in the privileged West and had time to mature and accomplish my goals. The children CEF helps don’t have that luxury. At a young age they must recognize that their opportunities are fleeting and if they don’t apply themselves now, they’ll miss out on their chance to escape poverty. We wish them well and are ready to help as much as we can.