Dear members, supporters, partners and friends,
Coming into 2023, the Vietnam Foundation (VNF) is now in its 28th year of serving the disadvantaged and impoverished communities in rural Vietnam. Each year has seen the growth of new projects, such as the “Build a Future Program”, which focuses on funding an education for undocumented children in rural Vietnam.
In this newsletter, we’d like to update you on the VNF’s progress, helping you to understand the value of your support.
Please remember to include VNF as you consider your annual charity donations. Remember that all donations over $2 are tax deductible. While we are all feeling the pinch of higher inflation rates, please also consider this impact on those less fortunate in the rural areas of Vietnam. Donations can be made via cheque, bank transfer or online at https://vietnamfoundation.org.au/donation-bequest If you would like to become a sponsor for a child’s education, please email email@example.com to register your interest.
Rainwater Vats Project
In September 2022, VNF donated rainwater vats to another 300 families in Bình Sơn village costing around $19,000. Bình Sơn is close to Giòng Kè, a poor seaside village in Hòn Đất District, Rạch Giá, with no access to clean water.
These rainwater vats will allow people in this area to collect the rainwater for drinking and daily use. The project started in September 2022 and has progressed very well. All 300 vats were fabricated and delivered in November 2022, well ahead of target.
A Personal Story
Lan lives with her family in a seaside village called Tân Điền. It is sandwiched between Highway 80 and Rạch Giá Bay where many people live in harsh conditions.
We visited Lan and her family in June this year with Bảo, our partner in Vietnam and some local Red Cross people.
Lan’s house was typical of the area. They are built of mud, wood, metal scraps, or corrugated iron sheets. When we arrived, Lan’s parents came out and showed us around the house. There was nothing, just some makeshift beds and some pots in the corner. Sitting securely at the entrance of the house is the concrete water vat that we gave her family 2 years ago.
The vat collects rainwater, and this clean water is reserved for drinking and cooking. Lan’s job, entrusted by her parents, is to keep an eye on the water level in the vat. She is also in charge of looking after the vat itself, as it is a very valuable and sought-after asset, which may be stolen by strangers in the village.
Lan’s village is near the sea with many canals, creeks and ponds, yet there is a severe shortage of clean water as there is no piped town water. Lan’s backyard is by the canal, and the water here is salty and aluminous, and not clean enough for drinking, cooking and washing. This situation is typical of the Hòn Đất District, where more than 10,000 families live.
We visited many houses in Tân Điền village and then went to a nearby village very close to Rạch Giá Bay. People here live along Ca Me canal and take seawater from the canal for whatever use they can. An old lady came across and asked us a water vat for her family, who had missed out 2 years ago. Our heart ached as we did not have enough vats for every family in the village.
The next day we visited another seaside village called Giòng Kè, that more than 1000 families call home. It is further away from the township of Rạch Giá. People here are so poor as they cannot make a living on their land. No one has a water vat here. They collect rainwater in large plastic bags or buy water from people who live near the highway.
We then went to nearby hilly Thổ Sơn village. Some families here received the vats from us 3 years ago. We visited Tuấn who lives on the side of the hill in a thatched hut. He proudly showed us the vat which is still in an excellent condition. But he was a lot prouder to share his ingenuity of stationing the vat on a high platform. During heavy rains, he can share the excess water collected with his neighbours on lower grounds.
The vat acts as “above ground” water reservoir (often seen in the big towns).
As we talked, Tuấn saw a small boy climbing up the hill to get some water from his vat. He said he could not keep all of this gift from heaven for himself.
Rainwater vats are so valuable here. In most households, it is their only asset, and long-lasting as they are made from concrete and not easily stolen, as plastic vats previously received from the government are. VNF hopes to provide more rainwater vats for these families and plans to continue our partnership with these communities. We will be launching our appeal for another 300 vats in May-June 2023.
VNF Bridge Project
VNF began its ambitious program of building concrete bridges (for pedestrians and motorcycles) in the remote areas of Ca Mau province. Here local people, including school children, have to cross numerous small rivers on “Monkey bridges” or precarious homemade crafts for their everyday activities. VNF’s dream is to replace as many as possible these dangerous Monkey bridges with concrete bridges.
Vietnam Foundation, with the generous donations from Mr. Vu Phuong Diem (NZ) and others responded to the challenge. Between 2021 and June 2022, we completed 10 bridges (Viet Uc 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10) in remote districts of Ca Mau namely Ngoc Hien, Phu Tan districts. This is a life changing achievement for the poor people living in these remote areas.
In 2021, VNF pledged to supply 250 recycled bicycles to disadvantaged school children in the five Central Highlands provinces. This project was able to be completed in early 2022.
In 2022, Hành Trình Yêu Thương ceased to operate as conduit of recycled bicycles to the children, Hence, Rebike 4 Kids (R4K), based in Hương Sơn, Hà Tĩnh province, has since been the sole provider of quality recycled bicycles funded by VNF.
In June 2022, VNF approved funding for 400 recycled bicycles to poor school children in Bình Định and Phú Yên provinces. As the project has grown, we have expanded the project area into the whole of Central Vietnam and select provinces in Northern Vietnam. These changes also necessitated a wider cooperation between R4K and local religious and other charity organisations in the distribution network for the recycled bicycles. The project was successfully completed in November 2022.
Lóp Hoc Tình Thúóng Compassion Classroom Project
Many years ago, poor families had long resided in houseboats along the Saigon River in Thủ Thiêm District, Ho Chi Minh City. When this area was transformed into the upmarket District 2, the houseboats were banned. The families became homeless and did not have Hộ Khẩu, a prerequisite for access to social security such as free education and health.
The children of these families are essentially undocumented, and cannot access government schooling. They are in danger of falling to the wayside. Occasionally, their disadvantage may lead them into a life of crime, such as thieving and trafficking.
Rotary Club of Saigon (RCS) addressed this inequality by setting up a Lớp Học Tình Thương (LHTT) and pays for teachers to care for the children. In 2022, the Vietnam Foundation (VNF) started the “Build a Future Program” to provide scholarships to disadvantaged students in Vietnam. VNF has partnered with RCS to provide a number of scholarships to LHTT.
On 6 Sept 2022, RCS’s Chairperson Kiều Vương and VNF’s representatives Rhys Williams & Hồ Lê Khoa visited LHTT to hand out the scholarships. The students gave a stunning Autumn Moon Festival themed performance of songs, dances and even a fashion parade. It was great show of creativity from the students, and spoke to the enthusiasm and drive of the teachers, who have nurtured these children from such difficult circumstances.
Rhys Williams represented VNF in handing out scholarship certificates to the students, who will receive 5 million VND each (approximately $300 AUD). The money is held in trust by the teachers for the students’ education. Rhys also heads the VNF’s English Practice Program, which VNF hopes to extend into the LHTT from next year, if our resources allow.
A Lucky Recipient
One young girl had just finished year 9 and wanted to continue her education, but her poor parents were going to pull her out of school. Circumstances had turned her into a timid person, barely able to raise her voice enough to be heard. Fortunately, RCS, Rhys and Khoa have together pledged to support her until she finishes year 12.
While it was fantastic to see the smiles on each student’s face, we must not forget that the long journey ahead of them is still full of obstacles. VNF is hoping to continue long term sponsorship of this program, together with your help.
You can also pledge to sponsor a child until their graduation from high school. We will pair you with the child for regular communication. Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in becoming a long-term sponsor.
Build a Future Project
In 2021, VNF launched the Build a Future Program to develop disadvantaged youths to their full potential. In cases where the student is at risk of dropping out of school due to inability to pay school fees, VNF provides a small scholarship to keep them in school.
In 2022, VNF provided conversational English training to 18 students. This has been very well received. The tutors comprise of native English speakers and dual English/Vietnamese speakers.
VNF also provides a small scholarship of 5 million VND (~300 AUD) to approximately 100 students to keep them in school. The recipients are mostly in year 10-12 in secondary schooling, as well as eight students in primary school.
In 2023, VNF continues with conversational English training. Later in the year, we hope to launch a career counselling subprogram. This year we are aiming to raise $20,000 AUD for the 2023 scholarships. Over the next few years, we will be working hard to raise $1M that can be invested to generate an annual income in the order of $50k. This will provide a minimum of 100 scholarships per annum into the far future.