No Limits for Preschoolers’ Futures

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 2.41.06 PM    Jeremy Soulliere

    Media & Communications Manager

    Save the Children US

                                    September 11, 2015

In a remote village in northern Vietnam, a young mother named Hang tells me her hopes for her 5-year-old daughter Mai’s future inside her family’s home. Above our heads, hundreds of corn cobs hang to dry – the product of the family’s daily hard work in the terraced agricultural fields surrounding their mountainous hometown in Lao Cai Province.

Ms. Kim and Mai 2

Preschool teacher Sung Thi Kim reads to one of her students, Mai, at Mai’s home in a remote farming village in northern Vietnam. Photo by Jeremy Soulliere / Save the Children.

For Mai, her mother wants a future where her daughter has the ability to decide her own path without a ceiling. A path where she may choose to stay in her home village and farm, or where she may go to college in the city and pursue a professional career.

The key for Mai to one day make such a decision is for her to get an early start on learning. And with the help of her preschool teacher, Sung Thi Kim, Mai is getting that chance in a community where nearly 50 percent of the villagers live under the poverty line, nearly 20 percent are illiterate, and many – including Hang – did not get the chance to be educated beyond primary school.

 Ms. Kim, who works at a Save the Children-supported preschool, is the community change maker we are highlighting this month as part of Save the Children’s #UpgradeYourWorld initiative with Microsoft and Windows 10.  You can watch a short video about her here, and read more about Upgrade Your World here.

Save the Children is collaborating with Ms. Kim and her colleagues to develop lesson plans, create learning materials, sharpen their teaching skills and increase support for early learning among parents and the community.

Ms. Kim, 29, told me she is inspired daily watching the children smile, play and learn, and thrives off teaching the kids fundamental skills that will help them succeed in school and in life.

Vietnam has 54 different minority languages, 27 of which do not have a written form, and as an ethnic minority, Ms. Kim understands the language barrier that some of her children have coming into her classroom.

She said she uses her native tongue, Nung, to help children learn Vietnamese, and asks children familiar with Vietnamese and other ethnic languages of the area to help translate for children who do not yet know Vietnamese.

She told me she hopes her students grow up to have rewarding professions and come back and contribute to their home village in some way.

Mai and Mother 2

Mai, a student at a Save the Children-supported preschool in northern Vietnam, sits with her mother Hang and removes kernels from corn her family has harvested. Photo by Jeremy Soulliere / Save the Children.

For Mai — whose native language, like her teacher, is Nung – her family has seen her transform since she’s gone to preschool. Once a shy girl who did not play with her siblings, she now actively interacts with them and is more independent at home, something the family credits to Ms. Kim and the preschool environment.

Mai is a long way from deciding what path in life she wants to take, but with the help of Ms. Kim, she has that early start on learning that will help ensure that decision will have no limit.

 

Nung Traditions and Colors

Nhan

Nhan Thi Nguyen

Field Intern

Nam Lu Commune, Vietnam

July 14, 2015

 

After the 2 hour journey by motorbike, I finally reached Nam Lu Commune following an invitation from Hai, the Vice Chairman of the commune. Here the sunshine is brilliant and birds are singing. Today is the traditional festival which is celebrated on the first days of Lunar July. 

Traditional

Nung Di women in their traditional clothes

I heard the voices of young girls, mothers, and elderly ladies. They are all in traditional clothes, on their way to the People’s Committee where the festival is celebrated and chatting about the day. As they walk they tease each other and laugh out loud happily. This must be a very special festival to them.

In the festival itself there are a lot of activities, such as art performances, traditional games, and fashion shows. Songs and plays in the Nung language are performed by both young and old people in the commune. Although I don’t understand their language, seeing the villagers of different ages singing along with the performers and swaying while following the rhymes, I know the songs are beautiful and they love them. One of the most interesting parts of the festival was the fashion show, with the performance of young Nung ladies in their traditional clothing. They are not gaudy or colorful but Nung women are still very charming in them.

Casual

Nung Di people in their casual clothes.

Traditional foods are sold in small camps so that people can enjoy the performances and local specialties at the same time. I was so impressed by the seven-color steam sticky rice. Can you believe that Nung people can make all seven colors– from black, yellow, purple to blue, gray, red and orange– from only one ingredient, a kind of local herb? It is called the magenta plant, or chẩm thủ by Nung people. They also make pink chopsticks by dying them in the liquid made from this plants leaves. It’s so incredible. The local people here tell me that in traditional festivals like this one, every family in the commune makes seven-color steam sticky rice and pink chopsticks, with the hope that good luck and happiness will find them in the future.

Does your family have any traditional dishes that you serve at certain times of year and prepare in special ways? Share with us how you celebrate!

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Letter Delivery Brightens Everyone’s Day

Thuy - portrait

Thuy, Tran Thu

Vietnam

December 15, 2014

 

After traveling winding roads through the mountains of northwestern Vietnam, I finally arrive at the school. Being given the chance to deliver sponsor letters is always the most enjoyable task. Seeing me, children wave their hands and give big smiles, with visible curiosity in their eyes.

“It’s so great. This is the first time I got a letter from a person living in another country. It’s also amazing that my sponsor is Vietnamese. You see, he knows Vietnamese and he writes me in Vietnamese. I’m so happy.” says Duc, a third grader. Hoang Thi Huyen (11400281) shows the letter she writes for her sponsor

Ngan, 7 years old, jumps up and down when receiving a letter from his Italian sponsor. “Let’s see the photo and letter my friend gave me. That’s an adorable girl. She is 7 years old, just like me. She is really pretty, right?” Ngan asks me while reading the letter from her sponsor.

Like Duc and Ngan, the other sponsored children show bright smiles whenever I deliver their sponsor letters. “I’m really excited. I have never heard about America before and I know nothing about it. Now, through my sponsor’s letters and photos, I know what it looks like…. Well, there is a very beautiful sea there.” Tu, a first grade student, shares. “I will tell him about my friends and school. I like drawing very much. I will draw pictures for him.”

Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan (11400279) show the letter she gets from her sponsorAfter saying goodbye to the children, I leave the school with my bag full of letters and drawings and feel so happy. Connecting children from this mountainous area to their sponsors living on the other side of the earth is such meaningful work.

What do you write to your sponsored child about? Consider not how different their lives must be, but that they are just children who are very excited to receive something from a friend so far away. Tell them about how you spend your time, your pets, your family, or your hobbies. Ask them what they learned in school, about their teachers and friends. Pictures are a wonderful way to brighten a child’s day and to share a little piece of your life, and gives them something to treasure.

Those First Days

Author_Portrait

Pham Thu Trang

Communications Assistant

Lao Cai, Vietnam

November 26, 2014

 

Lao Cai is one of the poorest provinces where the ratio of gender imbalance at birth is increasing steadily. Having children in the workforce and imbalanced maternal nutrition has a huge impact on the development of the younger generation. By the end of 2013, a sponsorship team worked closely with local authorities to implement the Child Sponsorship Program. With the support of local partners, Kim Son commune has been chosen as the first site.  Support_Picture2

I still remember the day that I first came here for the enrollment event. It was a cold day, but bright one at the primary school. The wind hissed and the birds sang their songs as if welcoming us. The school is not big and well-facilitated, but very clean. Many families were so eager to have their children be sponsored; they brought their kids to the school early. When I looked into their eyes, I saw hope. In some people, it shines brightly, and in others it just flickers. However, we know that all those parents hope that a brighter future will come to their dear kids in result of Sponsorship Programs. The enrollment event seems like a big festival here. Many people wore traditional costumes. Men were dressed neatly in a short vests open at the front and trousers, while women wore long dresses decorated with various motifs. I adored the place at the first sight.

Support_Picture3Each member in the team took their own responsibility. Taking pictures of children was my role in the whole process. This job seems to be very simple, but is not easy at all. It’s a bit easier for me because I love children and I can get along with them very well. Some of the kids were very talkative and very excited to have their photos taken for the first time. Others were timid at first, just glancing at us with curious eyes from a distance, or shyly waving their hands to welcome us. Nevertheless, I gradually found the way to connect with all of the children and I was happy to get such wonderful pictures of them. 

We realized that the difficulties the children have been through have not prevented them from enjoying the beauty of life. They keep smiling and hoping for a better future. We have been inspired by the children to implement the program because of their great sense of hope.

Interested in joining our community of sponsors? Click here to learn more.

Ready and Able in Vietnam

Today’s entry is a guest blog from Le Thi Bich Hang and Nguyen Van Gia, my colleagues in Save the Children’s Vietnam Country Office. I met Hang and Gia during my last trip to Vietnam when, alongside Country Director Huy Sinh Pham and

A Visit to Vietnam Uncovers Progress, Challenges—and Joy!

Vietnam has made progress by leaps and bounds in the past decade, improving economic growth, boosting newborn and child survival rates and getting more kids in school. As I traveled throughout the country last week, I could see that this progress was rooted in the determination and industriousness of the Vietnamese people. They have worked so hard to make a better life for themselves and their children, and their hard work has paid off in an increased per capita income and an active economy.

Read Article

Not Your Average Teddy Bear

Dhheadshot Dave Hartman, Save the Children, Internet Marketing and Communications Specialist

Westport, CT

Monday, December 6, 2010

 

My favorite stuffed animal from my childhood was a light-blue bear that I dubbed, Bear. Not the most creative name but I was nine-months-old so cut me some slack.

Bear was my best friend for two reasons. One, he always took my side in an argument with my mother. And two, he was always open for a hug. 

The ever-innovative geniuses at IKEA are behind a new initiative to make stuffed animals not just cute, cuddly and good listeners, but advocates of universal education. 


 

In real life they don’t actually make signs, give speeches or march on Washington but the impact is just as powerful. (Disclaimer: No, they are not alive either.)

For every soft toy sold IKEA donates 1 euro to Save the Children and UNICEF to support our education programs. 

In October, four IKEA employees and two IKEA customers traveled to Vietnam and Bangladesh, respectively, to see first hand the problems facing children, their families and communities and the difference that the money raised by the IKEA soft toy campaign is making.

To say the least, they were all wowed: 


 

 


 

Here are some quotes from the video that capture the impact that education can make in children’s lives.

“Investing in education sounds fantastic, but it’s not until you’re here and you see on the ground the difference its making and the positive ripple effect that it has on communities that you understand the difference that’s being made.”

                                             -Keith McLeish, IKEA Edinburgh  

Our children are studying, so their prospects are so much better.They are mixing with good people and are confident and safer.”

                                             -Mother of Bangladeshi student 

“Even to get to school some kids have to travel 10-15 kilometers, and it’s not by car. They have to walk. So even getting to school is a challenge…If that challenge is met by the children then it should be met by us.

                                              -Nigel McGarry, IKEA Belfast

So in honor of my old chum Bear, who now resides in the attic, join the soft toy movement and help every child realize their right to education.

Vietnam: Making Sense of Cyclone Ketsana

Nick Finney, Save the Children Emergency Response Team Leader

Oct. 6, 2009.  Quang Tri, Vietnam

Nick finney_233 I’m with two colleagues on the way to Quang Tri, where the most serious reports are coming from in Vietnam.  Its 22.00 and our conversation has digressed – we’re all very tired and can’t take in much more tonight. Talk in the car is descending we’re speculating about what 'Ketsana' means. We’ve two theories – theory one, Ketsana means full moon in Filipino, theory two, Ketsana is a perfumed tree from Lao. Or maybe a perfumed cheese.

It’s good not to know and not to be able to find out and in any case I heard that Google is killing general knowledge. There’s a full moon festival this weekend – a big day for children in Vietnam. They get gifts, run around banging big drums and dress up as dragons – it looks like great fun.  Full moon festival seems to be on in the big cities like Dan and Hue, but there’s no sign of it in any of the places we visited today. Still too much to sort out and too much suffering.

Today started OK, then got quite frustrating, then confusing, then a meltdown. And then we got it together. 200 more packages distributed to families containing essential supplies – reaching approximately 1,000 people. 

Tomorrow will be crucial – I hope we got it right. We’re making a long journey and our aim will be to finalise a plan to get us into the thick of an emergency phase. By the end of the week, we hope to get aid to 5,000 more families – that’s about 15,000 children. 5,000 of them will be under five and highly vulnerable to diseases like diarrheoea and malaria.

Lots of reports today of acute respiratory infection, eye infection and skin disease following the flood. Children in affected communities in Vietnam, as ever in all emergencies, are suffering the most.

Learn more about Save the Children’s response in Vietnam.

Vietnam – Flying into Da Nang

Nick Finney, Save the Children Emergency Response Team Leader

Oct. 2, 2009 -  Da Nang, Vietnam

Flying into Da Nang it’s cloudy. But then, briefly, a break in the clouds and a glimpse of the situation on the ground. Water. Everywhere. All the fields completely flooded, broken by traces of roads.

I’ve been here before. A bustling port city which thrives on trade, agriculture and tourism. All on pause for the moment but it can be amazing how resilient people can be. Let’s see.

I’m with a rapid assessment and response team. We also have teams going to five other provinces nearby. We’ll get some initial relief supplies going to the worst affected areas and really try to understand the consequences of the storm for children and families.

We land and it’s raining heavily. Leaving the airport we see that this new rain is flooding the streets but clearly people are starting to try to get on with their lives. As usual in Vietnam, mopeds are everywhere. It’s quite tricky to get around with over a foot of water on the roads. There is debris on the streets. Lots of damage – advertising boards, uprooted trees, minor debris. However, we’re in the city. The water will drain away quicker in the wind.

We get some help from a friendly hotel owner who is letting us establish a temporary base in his building. I ask him what it was like when the storm came through two days ago. He said, “We’re used to it here – we get a typhoon every year. But we can’t remember the last time a typhoon brought so much rain. Most of the city is OK but they’re really struggling inland. People are poorer there and with crops and homes destroyed they will find it hard to recover.”

News comes in on supplies. We should have 400 household kits later today, with more to folllow. Kits have a water container, 2 blankets, a large mosquito net, a kettle, 2 cooking pots, a bucket and a few other utensils for some of the households that lost all their possession. We’ll prioritize pregnant mothers, those with young children and families that have lost their breadwinner.

We’ll need to supplement this with ways to help families whose houses are wrecked. With so much water lying around we’re also worried about sanitation and hygiene. It needs close watching – children are the first to suffer if drinking water is dirty, if they don’t get enough of the right food, or when diseases start to spread. It’s a vicious circle, especially for newborn children.

I meet one of our staff, Trung. He’s based in Hue, 100 km north of here.

“How are you? Family OK?” I ask.

“Yes we’re all OK – no one hurt but the house has taken some damage,” he replies.

I’m relieved, and happy to see him. He’s a doctor and I know we’ll need his skills and knowledge of the area.

A chat with Huy, a colleague back in Hanoi is not so upbeat. He says, “That second typhoon’s approaching Luzon in the Philippines – another strong one – fifty-fifty chance of it heading your way in a few days.”

Learn more about Save the Children’s response in Vietnam.

Vietnam – 36 Hours After the Storm

Nick Finney, Save the Children Emergency Response Team Leader

Oct. 1, 2009 -  Hanoi, Vietnam


NickSmall Arrived in Hanoi about 36 hours after a storm lashed the coast of central Vietnam. The typhoon brought very strong winds but also dumped an enormous amount of rain after landfall. Our team have already jumped into action, Typhoon Ketsana hit several provinces where we were already working to improve the situation of poorer children and families in Vietnam.

We’re relieved to hear that all our team are accounted for but the damage looks bad. We also have reports of heavy rains continuing to make the search and rescue very difficult. The government is taking a lead on trying to get to people trapped by the floods.

My colleague finally makes contact with his two nephews in Hoi-An, a well known tourist town. They managed to get word out that they are OK. Hoi-An is heavily flooded. They are stuck on the first floor but with adequate food stocks.

We spend the afternoon organizing further supplies, basic things to help a household get back on its feet. We need to get them out there quickly. We establish an operations room in our Hanoi office.

But we’re worried, the rain is still coming and there is limited news from many remote areas.

“How bad is it?” I ask Hang, our emergency manager – she’s worked for us for several years doing emergency response.

“This one is bad. Da Nang was hit in 2006 by Typhoon Xangsane. It caused a lot of damage, ripping off roofing. But it was a dry typhoon – no rain, only strong winds. We haven’t seen floods like this for a long, long time. People are suffering.”

News comes through of the damage caused by the earthquake in Indonesia and fears of another big storm approaching the Philippines. It really puts us under pressure but our job here is to focus 110 percent on getting relief to the affected children in Vietnam. We cannot get distracted.

At least the airport in Da Nang is now open. We can fly tomorrow. I’ll be up at 4 AM for the flight. It takes an hour – we should be on the ground by early morning, some basic supplies arriving later in the day.


Learn more about Save the Children’s response in Vietnam.