Our impact in Vietnam
Vietnamese children grow up in the shadow of one of the most vicious wars of recent times. Conditions may be improving, but Vietnam is still one of the world’s poorest countries. Though employment is out there, jobs are low paid and wages insufficient to keep people financially afloat.
A polarised society
A major problem is huge wealth inequalities between rich and poor. Wealth is divided along regional as well as social lines, the most prominent disparities being between town and country. Different ethnic groups also experience differing levels of wealth. This chequered financial strata prevents individuals from different backgrounds competing for wealth.
Migration by parents in search of work has left many children with grandparents or other family members acting as surrogates. These are the lucky ones. Others live alone on the street, intensely vulnerable to trafficking for work or sex. Huge numbers must work to earn a living, either for their families or for themselves.
Breaking the cycle of poverty through education
On the surface, things are getting better for Vietnamese children. Most are now in school and many have access to healthcare. Fewer infants and under-fives die than in past decades. Nevertheless, these basic improvements hide a deeply disturbing story of malnutrition and poverty. Ethnic minorities and children from rural parts are less likely to attend school, but without the education they need to escape their circumstances, the cycle of poverty is perpetuated from generation to generation.
Despite appearances, there is still hope for these children. Almost all of our Villages in Vietnam offer primary and secondary education to thousands of children from within our Villages and the wider community as well. Without our help, many of these children would grow up without any education, unprepared for the job market and forced to take on gruelling work for the rest of their lives.
Providing the best upbringing
We also work hard to ensure that fractured families stay together. We believe the best way for children to succeed is to grow up with a mother and father in a stable environment.
By collaborating with local people attuned to the quirks of their communities and the pressures they face, we give parents a sense of direction and the skills they need to raise their children successfully. We help them through the struggle to find work, offering vocational support and training, and provide daycare so that when they do find work, they can go out and earn a living, happy that their children are safe in our care.
Good parenting and a decent education are the two strategies which we believe will help children in Vietnam escape the cycle of poverty that has endured for generations.
A bright future
Mai is a bright-eyed teenager from Viet Tri. She is shy, but likes to smile, and she is full of hope for the future. She loves school, and has always been a gifted student. Her family have always known she is special and hoped her fierce intelligence would allow her to escape a life of poverty.
But when Mai left school, circumstances dictated she would have to become the breadwinner of the family. Her dreams of going on to higher education, an aspiration she had clung to all her life, finally seemed to be over.
But Mai didn’t give up. She knew about the scholarship programme run by SOS Children’s Villages and applied for that. After only a few days, she was told she had been awarded a scholarship to study Electrical Engineering at our Village in Viet Tri.
When she shared the news with her mother, they shed tears of joy. “My daughter can get a decent job,” her mother cried. “She will have a bright future.”
Today, Mai divides her time between her studies and looking after her family. She follows a tight daily routine, waking early in the morning and studying after chores in the evening. But she wouldn’t change it for the world. “Evenings are best as I get to spend time with Mama and my younger brother,” she says. “We all sit together and share our reflections on the day.
“I am really grateful for this opportunity. Without SOS Children’s Villages help, there would have been no way I could continue my education,” says Mai with a big smile.