06 Sep Newsletter
OUR REPORT CARD
With the end of the 2016-17 school year, we are very happy to update you on the educational progress of children in India, Vietnam and Nepal supported by your interest in Chances for Children International (CCI). For the many of you who have supported the education of children – especially young girls — through sponsorships, we are delighted to provide you with details of their progress.
To refresh your memory, we’d like to reiterate: 1) 100% of your support for these children goes directly to the programs that educate them, 2) only $240 supports a child in school for an entire year, 3) we fund only successful start-ups, typically with ex-pats on site, to help them expand and to be sure all support is used as desired.
This past winter we spent another month in Vietnam with many visits to the two CCI programs there, the Children’s Education Foundation and Hearing and Beyond. We met with the directors, spoke with all of the teachers, attended many meetings, and also conducted a number of visits in children’s homes. We are confident of the strong quality of these programs, the honesty and dedication of their directors (by happenstance, both are older Australian women living in Vietnam), and the obvious impact they are having on the lives of children.
The Children’s Education Foundation continues to take in more girls each year (K-University) and has now expanded to provide high school-level scholarships to girls showing academic promise who live near the Laos border. Mostly serving girls from tribal areas, CEF’s new initiative is designed to keep them in school to prevent them from being trafficked into local sex trades.
Meanwhile, Hearing and Beyond is expanding the services it provides to approximately twenty children in order to teach them sign language and speaking skills, and to provide hearing aids for all to facilitate their learning in math, science and other subjects.
Read on for more about children who are able to attend school because of support from many of you and through direct funding from CCI itself, and learn about the educational programs CCI supports in India and the one that builds libraries in the villages of Nepal. Above all, we want you to realize how far small contributions can go in giving disenfranchised children the opportunity to attend school and the chance for a meaningful future.
With your support, we can give more chances to children.
With our thanks and warmest regards,
Judi Garfinkel Ariel Garfinkel J. Larry Brown
PROFILES IN COURAGE
Thien, 1st year in Chemistry at Danang University of Pedagogy (age 19)
Thien is extremely smart and determined but so culturally shy that we strained to hear her speak. Her determination to become a food scientist is palpable however, and Thien covered her mouth to suppress a huge grin when we mentioned that one day she may become head of Vietnam’s science programs.
Attending university far from her home, she rents a tiny room with another student in which they prepare their own meals. She finds part-time work as a tutor to support part of her living expenses, but returns home often to help with chores. During recent severe floods, some of the corn and sweet potatoes her parents grew for sale were ruined, requiring more help from Thien. Her father proudly keeps a photo nearby of himself and Thien.
Thu, grade 2 (age 9)
Born into an extremely impoverished family, both Thu and her baby brother are deaf. Thu’s parents are quite aware of the importance of girls’ education and especially the need to educate Thu due to her deafness. With an education, her father says, she will be able to find employment and be self-sufficient.
Now in Grade 2, Thu is a very conscientious child who applies herself well to her studies. She is popular with her classmates and, at times, admonishes her fellow students who sometimes misbehave when their teacher is out of the room.
Diem, grade 10 (age 15)
Diem intends to complete high school so she can go on to university. She likes literature but struggles somewhat in math and English, for which she receives regular tutoring. Diem’s father died of cancer 2 years ago, and her mother tries to support the family on her meager income from child care in the home. However, the mother has goiter again which will have to be treated, and she also owes 30 million dong ($1,330) for her deceased husband’s cancer treatment which still must be paid off. CCI support sends Diem to school.
Nhu, grade 10 (age 16)
Nhu is from Dai Loc, a mountain village in a coal mining area near the Laos border that faces increasing problems with crime, prostitution and gambling. She lives with a very old grandfather and mentally ill aunt. Her father died when she was 1 year old, and to attend school Nhu must live far from her mother. She wants to be a math teacher and is taking “extra tuition” classes twice a week (paid afterschool classes). Nhu also has learned some IT skills in school (Word, Excel, typing), even though students usually have very limited access to computers.
Truc, grade 8 (age 14)
Truc is from Dai Loc, a mountain village in a coal mining area near the Laos border. She is a serious student and wants to be a doctor. For some time, Truc lived in a pagoda, where poor parents sometimes send children when it is too difficult to feed them at home, but her grades dropped because there was no “extra tuition” (paid afterschool classes) possible. Truc made the difficult decision to leave the pagoda to return home so her education would not suffer, and where — in addition to attending school — she now helps her vegetable gardening family in order to grow enough food for all to eat.
Tuyen, 1st year at Hue Medical and Health University (age 18)
A highly promising student, Tuyen is from Kham Duc, a mountain village of 15 families near the Laos border. Her mother died of breast cancer, and her father both works and cares for her 2 year old brother, born just months before their mother died. While life is difficult, her father remains very committed to his daughters’ education. Tuyen and her sister rent a very tiny room near the university, so small that they must cook meals in the hall. Tuyen works part-time selling milk tea in a local shop, as she studies to be a traditional medical doctor, a 5 year program. She has access to the internet at the university, and reads about education and politics.
Son (age 13)
A delightful and engaging boy, Son was Hearing and Beyond’s first student back in 2009. His parents are quite poor, so the family lives with an unmarried aunt who also is quite impoverished. Son’s parents earn a marginal living selling lottery tickets (father) and noodles (mother) while his aunt sells simple medications from a stall in front of their home. Son has a younger sister (Grade 6) with normal hearing.
Son is very keen on drawing and gardening. He prefers to communicate via sign language rather than speaking, and his teachers continue to work with him so his speaking skills become more proficient. We discovered recently that he is a math whiz, and has developed a love of books.
My (age 5)
My’s family lives about 45 minutes from Hearing and Beyond, her Hoi An school, which, by Vietnamese standards is considered very far away. Born with a congenital heart condition, her family has been told she requires heart surgery, but the doctor plans to wait until she is 7 years old. My has 1 older brother. Her father is an electrician and her mother works in a guesthouse near their home. During the first week at school My was often tired and would sleep most of the afternoon. She has now adjusted to the school schedule and, for the most part, manages to stay alert during her lessons. When not tired, she is very much a live wire!
Chances for Children International supports the following start-up, grassroots education programs in Vietnam, India and Nepal:
Children’s Education Foundation, Vietnam
Through the Children’s Education Foundation (CEF), girls can attend school despite poverty and other challenging family circumstances. We are so proud of CEF’s successes! With your support, over 225 girls – from primary level through university – are now attending school. Earlier this year, we spent several days meeting with Founding Director and In-Country Manager Linda Hutchinson-Burn, CEF’s wonderful Vietnamese staff (Thuy, Kim Chi, Ngoc and Vy) and US Manager Stephen Jackel. Each of the four inspiring young women who staff CEF is responsible for about 60 girls, including mentoring each girl and working with their families to ensure that the girls can continue their education. Dire family circumstances often present serious challenges to continued enrollment, ranging from the ill health or death of a parent, to flooding that destroys the family’s livelihood when crops fail, to sending a child to live at a pagoda (like an orphanage) because there is not enough money to feed and care for her at home.
Another day we accompanied CEF personnel on home visits, a twice-yearly opportunity to assess the home life and any changed family circumstances of the girls you and others sponsor. We were greatly impressed by the girls’ high motivation to achieve in school. Through an interpreter we talked with a 7th grade girl who recently lost both parents in a boating accident and lives with her bedridden grandmother and very frail grandfather. She does most of the cooking and household chores before leaving for school each morning at 5:30. Despite the high level of responsibility for one so young, she feels privileged to have an opportunity for an education, and studies hard to do quite well in school.
Hearing and Beyond, Vietnam
A small but mighty program, Hearing and Beyond provides schooling for deaf and hearing-impaired children for whom an education would otherwise be impossible. It is the only program of its kind in this part of central Vietnam. Children learn sign language to communicate with their families and they are fitted with hearing aids, which often can make learning to speak possible.
During our January visits, we saw much progress since the previous winter at Hearing and Beyond. Mai McCann, the Australian nurse who is the Founder and Director, hired Huynh Sang, a wonderful Vietnamese manager. As we saw for ourselves, Sang brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the job, and she works extremely well with teachers and children alike. In addition, Hearing & Beyond has begun an ongoing partnership with the University of Newcastle, Australia. Speech pathology students in their senior year have onsite internships at Hearing and Beyond, along with a Clinical Educator. The interns, known as “Speechies,” provide training for teachers, assess students’ signing and speaking abilities, and work with Mai and teachers on curriculum development. This collaboration was piloted last year and was a huge success – a real win/win situation!
A new Early Intervention Program began in March, offering very young children with severe hearing impairment hearing aids and a classroom experience to jump start their communication skills. According to founder Mai, deaf children who wear hearing aids at an early age are more likely to learn to speak correctly, so she turned an extra room into an Early Intervention classroom and began accepting these children. Since most are quite young (toddlers), they attend either morning or afternoon classes. In just a few months’ time there is progress. A toddler in the program named Quan is thriving in the classroom environment and already beginning to speak, surrounded by a vast array of bright, colorful and educational toys and books — things typically not seen in impoverished Vietnamese homes. The future for Quan and the other toddlers is brighter because education has begun at such a young age. Over time, they will learn to communicate through writing, speaking, sign language and lip reading.
A Literacy Initiative Group (ALIG), India
Lack of education is one of the most difficult challenges keeping girls from future careers. ALIG works to break this cycle by offering a new Digital Literacy program, supported by CCI. In 2016-17, more than 160 girls and young women learned computer skills, participated in English language and life skills training, and benefitted from career counseling. Most of these girls are from traditional Muslim families, and oftentimes relegated to staying at home rather than going out to work or socialize. ALIG has developed a relationship of trust with the community, and many families now value digital literacy for employment for their daughters, and permit their enrollment in the program.
During the school year, ALIG programs include:
English language classes in government schools, taught by highly-qualified teachers, because English proficiency will enable students to land better jobs when they enter the work force; and
Health and Hygiene workshops to middle- and high-school students, to enable them to make appropriate decisions about sanitation and hygiene, safety and reproductive/sexual health.
Education Capacity Building (EduCaB), Nepal
Congratulations to EduCaB for winning the Aspen Institute Social Action Prize in December 2016! This prize recognizes initiatives that address balancing disparities in vulnerable communities and in critical areas of social development. In two short years’ time, EduCaB Nepal constructed a new library in the mountainous village of Dandagaon, which opened in 2016. The devastating 2015 earthquake destroyed many buildings in the village, including the local school. Before completing construction of the library, the EduCaB community first rebuilt the school.
Plans now are underway to construct a second library – this one in Kolputar, also in Dhading district, west of Kathmandu. A total of nine libraries are planned for the district. Each library will house community meeting space for the exchange of ideas, as well as books in English and Nepali. Plans are underway to provide computers and internet access to all libraries.
WHO RUNS PROGRAMS CCI SUPPORTS?
In each newsletter we profile the leadership of one of our programs. Today we focus on Linda Hutchinson-Burn and her dedicated staff at Children’s Education Foundation (CEF), located in Vietnam.
Linda Hutchinson-Burn, Founding Director and In-Country Manager, Vietnam, Children’s Education Foundation
Linda’s trip to Vietnam some 13 years ago to set up a culinary tour had a long-lasting result: the beginning of Children’s Education Foundation. With this trip came her promise to help educate 3 children who had been abandoned by their parents. On a subsequent visit, she met Vietnamese families in poor health, and raised funds to build a medical center providing free care and medicine for the entire village. Linda thought that improving children’s health would also improve school attendance in the village. Her efforts snowballed into the Children’s Education Foundation. CEF works to break the poverty cycle by helping girls from impoverished or marginalized communities complete school or receive further education, helping not just these young women, but also subsequent generations and their communities to have the possibility of a better life with more choices.
CEF focuses on girls’ education because cultural influences in Vietnam typically favor the education of boys, and girls are left without. Since families are run by the mother, who is often the main breadwinner, it is important to ensure that girls receive an education. An educated girl will make a difference to her family, her community and society as a whole and will give her a future with many more choices.
A better life for young women can mean many things. A girl who completes her schooling grows into a woman who is better able to look after her health and that of her children. By completing school herself, she will care more that her children finish theirs and be better able to support them while they are in school. As a result of the skills and competencies she has gained during her schooling, she will be better equipped to earn a living and so have greater independence and dignity.
Poverty sometimes leads to parents taking desperate measures. Daughters are sold off into arranged marriages where they are abused. An educated young woman is at considerably less risk of becoming a victim of the sex trade or ending up an enslaved worker in a sweat shop.
The sense of self-esteem and confidence that completing school gives can contribute significantly to the positive development not only of individual girls, but also to that of their families, their community and society as a whole.
In addition to Linda, the Children’s Education Foundation is staffed by Stephen Jackel, U.S. In-Country Manager, Graeme Burn, Australia In-Country Manager, and four Vietnamese women: Thuy, Kim Chi, Ngoc and Vy. These four dedicated women work are passionate about helping children from poor families have an opportunity to be educated.