Toc H Vietnam Partnership - a life changing initiative for Toc H Australia!
In 2006, Toc H National Youth Development Officer Dr. Owen Nichols and then Vice-President Tony Reade launched an exciting new project designed to help the needy in Vietnam. Why Vietnam? Owen explained ‘there are a lot of good reasons why we chose this country. It is relatively close to Australia, and because it has suffered through many years of war, it remains one of the poorest countries in our region. The Vietnamese people are real battlers, and now that the country has opened up, there is an excellent opportunity to give them a helping hand and be confident that the difference we make will be sustainable. Given our country’s involvement in Vietnam during the 1960’s and early 70’s, we now have a great opportunity to implement the values of Toc H through practical service projects that emphasise reconciliation and multiculturalism’. Tony Reade explained ‘the mountainous regions north-west of Hanoi are incredibly beautiful and support a rich diversity of different hill-tribe groups. Tourism is developing rapidly, but below the surface, many struggle in very poor rural communities, or in towns like Sa Pa where young people without education and support are at real risk of exploitation. Achieving sustainable development whilst still retaining the people’s traditional values and family links is critical, but won’t be easy. It will need the co-operation of all organisations involved in the region’s development.’ So how does the Toc H project work? In short, the intention is NOT to create a new aid organisation, but instead to work through existing, trusted organisations that already have a good track record in the country, good contacts, and the capability to implement the projects we decide to support. By working through carefully chosen partnerships, Toc H is ‘value adding’ to the work these organisations carry out.
We need your help! The Toc H Vietnam Partnership will only be successful if enough people work together ‘in partnership’. Please click on the links below to see details of how you can help.
- Operation Christmas Child. In Vietnam, children in many poor and disadvantaged families have a very difficult life. Operation Christmas Child aims to brighten up their lives by providing them with a shoebox filled with fun and useful gifts. But the project often does much more than that – it opens doors into communities so that Samaritan’s Purse and local Churches can help the communities in other ways such as undertaking water and hygiene projects, and identifying and addressing a range of other needs in the poorer communities. Help Samaritan’s Purse bring happiness to needy children and engage with communities by filling a shoebox with useful and fun items! You could also volunteer to help them pack the shoeboxes at their warehouse. For more details click on http://operationchristmaschild.org.au/?page_id=85/
- Child Study Assistance enables children to continue their education, thereby giving them an opportunity to attain a better quality of life, and escape the ‘poverty trap’. Families in the poorest rural communes will make great sacrifices so that their children can complete their education. However, when there isn’t enough for food on the table there is no other choice than to withdraw their children from school as they can’t afford textbooks or school fees. The objective of this Youth With Mission Vietnam project is to prevent this from happening. With help from Toc H members and others, YWAM Vietnam provide text books, exercise books, stationery and supplies, a school bag and in some instances adequate clothing, thereby enabling them to continue with their education. One recipient is a very bright girl named Huong. She stopped going to school because of her deformed arm, but when YWAM spoke to the headmaster and gave her all school requirements, she was encouraged to return and is now one of the top pupils in the province. Her mum proudly showed us some of Huong’s certificates on her wall. Huong greatly appreciates the support and wrote a message in the Toc H Peace Book. All it takes is $25 to keep a child such as Huong in school for a WHOLE YEAR! If you would like to give a child a chance to escape poverty, please consider supporting this Toc H project. Contact us if you would like more information.
- Students with special needs. The educational support project has an added bonus for some children. While visiting families unable to afford to buy their children school supplies and uniforms or pay the fees (which are discounted for low income earning families), the YWAM workers often identify children with special needs. This can include eyesight problems (YWAM refers such children to an optometrist to get glasses) or disabilities. Xuan (Swan) was one such person. She became a paraplegic after falling while playing with her brother. YWAM has supplied her with 2 wheelchairs, one for home and one for school (her father takes her to school by motorbike) and a special mattress. She is very talented at art and YWAM has recently supplied her with art materials so that she can create a portfolio and hopefully further develop her skills
- Children Living in Difficult Circumstances. In Ba Vi district near Hanoi, many children live in difficult circumstances. Some are orphans while others have a parent that cannot properly care for them because of sickness or other circumstances. YWAM Vietnam run three homes that provide a safe, caring environment for children in the most difficult circumstances. They are provided with food, shelter and clothing in a caring environment that gives them a feeling of belonging, and hope for the future. This enables them to continue their education and become productive members of their communities. There is an ongoing need for assistance to keep the homes running. If you would like to sponsor one of these children, contact Toc H for more information and details of children that need sponsoring. The cost of $55 per month covers all their accommodation, education and living expenses. You can send them a letter several times a year, and you will receive an annual report. Several Toc H members have met their sponsored children and can give you detailed information on this project. Please consider this opportunity to change someone’s life! The following article describes some interesting research that shows how effective sponsorship programs such as this can be: usfca.edu/Newsroom/Global_Perspective/Research_Shows_Dramatic_Benefits_to_International_Child_Sponsorship/
- Providing young people at risk with job training. Ethnic minority youth from the highlands of north-western Vietnam frequently suffer from high levels of poverty, lack of education beyond primary school, and isolation from any employment opportunities other than farming. This places them at a great disadvantage if they remain in the highlands without assistance. Children with disabilities are also at a significant disadvantage when seeking to obtain employment and education. Many ethnic minority and disabled youth end up as “Street children” in Hanoi hoping to find employment of some kind, or just enough food for each day. Life is very difficult, with many suffering abuse and exploitation. Samaritan’s Purse Vietnam has worked with Hoa Sua Vocational Training Centre in Hanoi for 12 years, training nearly 400 ethnic minority youth from the highland provinces, and subsequently securing jobs which allow them to live independently. Due to the positive influence of SPV staff many young people have experienced life transformation through this project. If this successful project is to continue to grow and change young peoples’ lives, SPV need help to increase the number of beneficiaries from these poor provinces in northern Vietnam, and Hanoi’s street children taking part in the project. Tourism and the hospitality industry are growing strongly in Vietnam, and the Hoa Sua training program aims to provide young people with training that will enable them to undertake employment in this field. Students can receive training in one of the following areas: cooking, table service, bakery, housekeeping, and sewing and embroidery. It is planned to also provide the students with English and life-skills training to enhance their employment prospects and quality of life. After training, the students undertake work experience at Hoa Sua’s restaurants and the Baguette and Chocolat hotel in Sapa. Scholarships are needed for students to cover their tuition and living costs for the 12 months training they undertake at Hoa Sua. Please contact Toc H if you would like more information, or contact Samaritan’s Purse Australia at http://www.samaritanspurse.com.au/ . And if you would like to read an inspiring story about a young person whose life was changed by this project, see http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/tears-of-hope-in-vietnam/
- Other YWAM Projects. YWAM conducts many other projects designed to improve the living standards of people in some of the poorest rural communities around Hanoi. These include:
- Assisting families to establish a biogas system that utilizes animal waste and sewage to produce methane. This provides free cooking and lighting, whilst significantly improving waste management and reducing the collection of firewood in villages.
- Establishing child friendly libraries in local schools. These are very popular with children; they provide a valuable source of information and encourage children to read.
- The Kindergartens YWAM has established give young children an excellent start in life, nutritious meals, and enable their parents to work while the children are being cared for, and learning.
- Training in the development of Small Medium Enterprises has become very popular and enables struggling small businesses to develop more efficient business models and better outcomes.
- Director Roslyn Jackson and her committed team at YWAM Vietnam implement many other excellent projects in the areas they work. Those of us who have visited these projects have been very impressed with how well these projects are managed, and the differences they are making to the lives of the poorest people. If you would like more information on YWAM Vietnam’s work, check out their excellent web site http://www.ywamvietnam.org/en/ and if you would like a copy of their most recent Annual Report (which describes all projects), please ask us and we can email you one.
- Other Samaritan’s Purse Vietnam projects. Director Steve Copple and his team at Samaritan’s Purse Vietnam undertake a range of projects, some are in Hanoi, but the majority are in the remote north-western provinces of Lao Cai and Lai Chau, where ethnic minority people such as the Hmong and Dzao peoples live, and poverty levels are very high. Here are a few examples:
- Medical Centres. In remote mountain areas, access to adequate health care can mean a long trip on a motorbike to the nearest district or regional centre. This is not always possible, so standards of health care, awareness, vaccination levels etc. tend to be lower. Samaritan’s Purse has established a number of health clinics that provide basic nursing and accident care, a childbirth facility, assessment by a visiting doctor, and other services such as vaccination and health education. Toc H members assisted with funding to establish the Hong Thu medical clinic, which was dedicated to the memory of Ron Stoner, a long-term member of Toc H – see the story here. During several of our visits from Australia, one of our team has provided training to nurses and village health workers in areas such as the diagnosis of eye problems, paediatric accident care, and neonatal CPR. Further training is planned.
- Water and sanitation projects. Providing clean water and preventing disease spread can significantly improve the health of communities. Statistics at one medical clinic showed that one third of all patient visits were due to gastro-intestinal problems such as diarrhea. These are relatively easy to prevent if communities have access to clean water, suitable toilets and basic hygiene education (e.g. on hand washing and food preparation). At a small village near the Lan Ni Than medical clinic, Samaritan’s Purse has provided a reliable water source and well-designed toilets (known as Ventilated Improvement Pits). Initiatives such as this improve the health of the whole community, particularly young children, who are often the most vulnerable to these problems.
- Lai Chau Orphanage. This is a large Government run orphanage in the highlands of Vietnam. It accommodates approximately 100 children, about 50% of whom have some sort of disability, such as cerebral palsy, hearing problems or intellectual disabilities. The government has provided suitable dormitory accommodation and some staff to care for the children, who attend local Government schools. However caring for such a large cohort of children who have a range of physical, intellectual and emotional problems is a very challenging task, particularly when ongoing funding is limited. Samaritan’s Purse has developed and implemented a number of programs to improve the lives of these children. They have supplied new playground equipment, and provided resources to develop a large vegetable garden. As well as providing vegetables to improve nutrition, children learn agricultural skills. SP has also enabled development of a mushroom growing and a chicken raising project (the latter is currently discontinued due to bird flu fears). SP has also provided training to the staff with the aim of improving care, nutrition and hygiene at the orphanage and is seeking funds for a project to provide a library and English classes for the students. Last November our team provided every child at the home with a new hand-knitted beanie and we have also supplied jumpers and windcheaters to children at each of our visits. The highlands can be very cold in winter
- School for the Blind. Samaritan’s Purse assists with the provision of facilities for blind students from all over Vietnam who attend a large Government Secondary school in Hanoi. Of the approximately 600 students, nearly a third of them have a visual impairment. Whilst many youngsters are day students from the local area, the rural students are provided with very good dormitories and special programs. For much of the day, the vision impaired students join their sighted classmates for regular lessons, but they also learn Braille, have their lessons prepared in Braille, have a special computer room with a teacher (a visually impaired graduate of the school) where they learn to use software designed for blind users; they have a wonderful music program which produces very talented musicians and singers, an orchestra and choirs; and they have a massage room where blind students learn this skill.
- Cow Bank. Samaritan’s Purse Vietnam and YWAM Vietnam both run successful cow bank projects in some of the poor rural communities in which they operate. SPV’s project is located in the remote areas of Lao Cai province amongst ethnic Hmong people where the poverty rate can be higher than 60%. In Lu Than Commune, forty of the neediest families received a 2 year old cow, which they are required to feed and care for. When the cow produces its first born calf, the calf is given to another needy family when mature, thereby enabling the project to continue. As well as receiving a cow, each beneficiary family is required to attend all training sessions provided by Samaritan’s Purse Vietnam. These cover topics such as: animal husbandry, animal breeding, crop cultivation, crop planting, basic business skills and stable building etc. Participants are required to build their own cow shelter. They also have the opportunity to access veterinary services and agricultural advice from experts and project management for the duration of the project. The goal of the project is to improve food and income security for the families, and increase knowledge and expertise in the whole commune, resulting in a 30% decrease in the rate of poverty.
- Kindergartens. Samaritan’s Purse has also built a number of Kindergartens in remote areas of Lai Chau province, where children would otherwise not have a chance to undertake this critical stage of their education. Check out this amazing video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zngm2Gsyspo which shows how funds were raised to construct two of these kindergartens.
- Samaritan’s Purse Vietnam also implement a number of other projects in the highlands, including several nutrition projects, which are designed to teach students and communities the importance of good nutrition, and also demonstrate how to successfully grow a range of vegetables. See http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/nutrition-and-hygiene-in-vietnam/
So, would you like to help?
As you can see, help is needed for a variety of projects, and we plan to update this page with details of both needs and success stories as they become available. The type and amount of help required varies from small to large – whatever the case, it’s all worthwhile. Your help could include contributing Christmas Shoeboxes and volunteering to help Samaritan’s Purse pack them, fundraising for YWAM Vietnam to ensure that needy children remain in school, sponsoring a child living in difficult circumstances, helping Samaritans Purse Vietnam to provide a young person at risk with job training, as well as prayer support. Or you might want to help raise funds for one of the larger projects. Those we have described above are only some of the many that these wonderful organizations are conducting. If you would like more information, please ask!
Why not visit Vietnam and see for yourself?
Depending on the project and area you are interested in, it may be possible to see first hand some of the wonderful work YWAM and Samaritan’s Purse are doing in Vietnam. Please let us know if you would like more information. Those of us who have been to Vietnam have seen first hand how these projects are really making a difference to people’s lives by teaching them new skills and improving their living standards. You will be providing a helping hand, not a handout. The Vietnamese are very resourceful people. All they need is an opportunity and they will make the most of it. In almost all projects, people are required to contribute some of their own labour or funds, or pay back loans. This confirms that they are only participating in projects they feel will be of real benefit to them and their community. And as we have seen, together in partnership, we can make a difference!
For more information: For more detailed information on the organisations Toc H members are currently helping to support, please check out the following web pages. Note that YWAM Vietnam and Samaritan’s Purse Australia both also have facebook pages. Youth With A Mission Vietnam http://www.ywamvietnam.org/en/ Samaritan’s Purse Australia’s web site provides information on Operation Christmas Child (inc. how you can help with collecting and packing shoeboxes) and the organization’s work in south-east Asia, and you can also contact them for details of the SPV projects mentioned in this web site. http://www.samaritanspurse.com.au/ Samaritan’s Purse International Relief has general information on the organization’s aid programs in developing countries http://www.samaritanspurse.org/.
Other interesting links: Hagar International Vietnam work to help women and children who are victims of trafficking and domestic violence. See http://hagarinternational.org/international/our-work/where-we-work/vietnam/ Vets With A Mission is an organisation based in the US that does a lot of good work building health clinics, helping renovate Churches, etc.. They also run ‘hands on’ tours where volunteers can help with their projects. Their excellent website includes some fascinating information on the history of Vietnam. See http://www.vwam.com/index.html
Thank you: We would like to thank those organizations and supporters who have helped support these projects, particularly:
- Toc H Victor Harbor SA Branch
- RSL Victor Harbor SA Branch
- From Seed To Trees
- Rotary Club of Windsor, Qld.
- Toc H Cairns Branch
- Toc H South Australia
- Toc H Victor Harbor SA Branch
- RSL Victor Harbor SA Branch
- Individual Toc H members and many other supporters