Tuesday, October 11, 2016

From One School District to Another Far Away

Our friend Lydia Dean (founder of GoPhilanthropic, a successful philanthropic travel organization and charitable foundation) told us some years ago "It is all a matter of connecting the dots." I think she says the same thing in her memoir, Jumping the Picket Fence, when discussing getting things done in developing countries by supporting local, grassroots organizations. If one invests the time for deep listening to ascertain core values, operational integrity and current and longer-term needs, one discovers the most appropriate and engaging ways to encourage local groups. Soon the right people are in the right place, at the right time, with the right funds! Concern for education, the rights of women and girls and most recently anti-child trafficking efforts have kept us in close touch with Lydia and our networks which are growing in size and strength.

My story this week is about how one of those miraculous networks, with paths of connecting dots, helped to build another school in the Highlands of Central Vietnam.

Here was the challenge. This, believe it or not, is the former functioning school in a remote mountain village.

DOT #1 A few years ago I noticed, in the town of Hoi An, often on a Sunday, a gang of young people dressed in t-shirts which read "Same Same But Different." I was intrigued by their energy and laughter as they assembled on a street corner. I remember asking one young woman what they were all about. Of course, I asked in English and got a shrug in response. Once again I wished that I could get my tongue around the Vietnamese language. 

DOT #2 It took months of patching information together, but with the help of Quyen and our Vietnamese family we got it sorted. "SAME SAME BUT DIFFERENT" is the slogan of a local group of volunteers with an organization called ONG VANG. www.ongvangcharity.org. 

I liked the idea of local, young Vietnamese working on a volunteer basis to help their less advantaged countrymen. Unbeknownst to me, Quyen and Binh and their staff at Reaching Out, www.reachingoutvieetnam.com, were supporting Ong Van!

DOT #3 Then we met Thanh Huynh. 

Thanh Huynh spearheads many Ong Vang charitable events in Hoi An, but what interested me most was what I was beginning to learn about the living conditions of the mountain people in Central Vietnam, the appalling conditions of their schools and the herculean tasks that Thanh and his crews were faced with in building new schools. Just look at the muck, the live electrical cords in the muck, the sandaled feet. And, all of the materials are hauled up the mountain by hand.

DOT #4 My sister and her husband are retired teachers in Ontario. Of course, they too were riveted by the pictures and stories that I have been posting about what these young people are doing to provide weatherproof shelter in which mountain children could learn. 

DOT #5 District 26 Kenora RTO/ ERO. The local Kenora chapter of the Retired Teachers organization of Ontario has recently, once again, responded to our plea for funds to build another school. This vital and active organization helps retired educators to remain engaged in the world and our projects in Vietnam fit the bill!!! Lured by a delicious basket of goodies as a raffle prize, put together by my sister, the group raised significant funds to sponsor school #9 in the highlands.

And so, despite foul weather the SAME SAME gang set off up the mountain to once again, against all odds, build a school and playground. Thank you!  District 26 Kenora RTO/ERO

 The children were fed. Looks like someone donated jackets this time as well.

You, your organization, your family, your class, your network could be DOT # 6, 7, 8, 9, 10!!! Let's help ONG VANG build more schools.