Category Archives: Vietnam

Foreign volunteers devote time, care to children in Vietnam

Philip MacLaurin teaches English for children at the Binh Trieu warm shelter run by the Friends for Street Children association, which serves children in poverty or in need. (Mary Nguyen Thi Phuong Lan)
Philip MacLaurin teaches English for children at the Binh Trieu warm shelter run by the Friends for Street Children association, which serves children in poverty or in need. (Mary Nguyen Thi Phuong Lan)

The happiest human beings share love or all they have with others, especially with the poor, or homeless, or disadvantaged children.

The Friends for Street Children association, or FFSC, was founded in 1984 by Thomas Tran Van Soi.  Presently, the association has four centers (Binh An, Binh Trieu, Binh Tho and Luu Minh Xuan) and one “warm shelter” in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Yearly, these centers have welcomed a large number of displaced children who have migrated to Ho Chi Minh City from rural provinces. Most of them are from poor families, or difficult situations.

Happily, Friends for Street Children has also welcomed many volunteers from inside and outside Vietnam, who come to FFSC centers to share love with children through gifts, to play with them, or (most importantly) to provide them with the chance to gain knowledge, and develop their potential and life skills so they can have a better life in the future.

One of the volunteers that we most admire is Philip MacLaurin, 60, from London, England, and his wife Frances MacLaurin, 54, from Scotland. They are Catholic, and have a great affection for the poor children in Vietnam.

They live in Ho Chi Minh City and have been doing volunteer work with Friends for Street Children for about 12 years. They truly love the poor children, as well as students in Vietnam, and generously finance scholarships or support other needs to help these children have better lives and brighter futures. Although they must work hard to earn a living in Vietnam, what they do have they use to do charitable works for the poor children in Vietnam.

Philip came here to work as a director of Premier Oil’s Vietnam branch in 2006, and just retired in June 2020. Since he is not working for the company anymore, he told Sister Mary (who is in charge of caring for the orphans at the Binh Trieu warm shelter) that he would have more time to do charitable works. “I really thirst to help the poor young students, show them how to get a good job, or how to achieve success in their life in the future.”

When he was working from Monday to Friday, he spent two days on the weekend to do volunteer works in some of the Friends for Street Children centers. For example, every Saturday he taught English to younger children from 3 to 10 years old, at the warm shelter in the Binh Trieu center. These kids love to study with him because he is very friendly and creates a pleasant learning environment, not forcing them. They especially love his teaching hour when he uses video clips, nice pictures, and English songs like “Baby Shark” and the “Finger Family Song” … things that help kids remember their lessons and relax after a week of study. In fact, the aim of his teaching hour is to bring joy to children, and it also relaxed him after a hard work week.

Even more wonderful is his wife Frances, who came with her husband to Vietnam; she is a full-time volunteer, doing only charitable works. On weekdays, she teaches free English for adult children (grades six to 12) at Binh Trieu’s warm shelter and at Stephan (another warm shelter in Ho Chi Minh City that is not an FFSC center). She is a psychology teacher, and knows how to encourage children to study. She usually has prizes for children who achieve in her classes. Or she might reward them by taking them to the supermarket to choose any gifts they like, or by taking them to get fast food like pizza, spaghetti, or fried chicken at a restaurant. The children have never eaten such dishes, and are very glad to study with her.

Realizing the affection that the MacLaurins have for them, the children are very joyful and happy to see them. When they come to any Friends for Street Children center to teach or attend events, the children say “hello” loudly, then run up and hold them with welcoming hugs. The children truly love them, and consider them like their parents.

In addition, every year the MacLaurins provide scholarships for poor students with good grades in the university. They also help with gifts like money, rice or oil for children whose families are in difficult financial circumstances for the Vietnamese Tet holiday at the end of the year. They particularly like to give their share of contributions in the form of educational programs for the poor children in Friends for Street Children.

We sisters, teachers and volunteers of the Friends for Street Children program really are grateful to Phillip and Frances not only for loving the Vietnamese children and giving significant contributions for our program, but also for giving Vietnamese children a good impression of foreigners.

We are proud to have zealous foreign volunteers like them, and consider them wonderful role models for us to imitate in serving and loving the poor children. We particularly learned about their generosity and love for children in Vietnam when we did an interview with them:

Nguyen: What motivates you to love the poor children in Vietnam?
MacLaurins: We are very privileged in our lives; we had a high-quality education and good jobs. Now we feel we have a lot to offer in terms of our life experience, knowledge and skills. We want to encourage disadvantaged children to achieve their potential and motivate them to have a better future.

How do you feel when helping poor children in Vietnam?
It is always a pleasure because the children are so appreciative, warm and joyful, but it is also heart-wrenching to see the very difficult situations that some children live in. Too many have substandard homes and need to work to support their families. However, if we can do even a little bit to make their situation easier or encourage them in their lives, that is very rewarding for us, and hopefully for them as well.

What do you want them to do when you support them?
We obviously want them to succeed. For us, success does not mean being top in the class, it means achieving their potential, and being decent, hardworking young people, who have good values and care for themselves and others.

We thank God for sending the MacLaurins to the Friends for Street Children program; all of us — staff and children — pray for them every day. May God bless their charitable works, so that they can continue to bring love and happiness to others. May God bless them with pleasure in sharing their love with the disadvantaged children in Vietnam.

As St. Paul said, “Happiness lies more in giving then in receiving” (Acts 20:35).

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry/column/foreign-volunteers-devote-time-care-children-vietnam

Child workers in Vietnam stay safer knowing labor rights, self-defense tactics

Vietnam photoNguyen Thi Tien, 15, left, sells fruit on a road near An Lo market in Thua Thien Hue Province. At a recent workshop run by the Filles de Marie Immaculée sisters in Hue City, Vietnam, Tien was trained in how to deal with abusive adult customers. (Joachim Pham)

by Joachim Pham

On a cool evening in early February, Ho Thi Mai Lan smilingly invited three beer drinkers to buy salted peanuts and baked rice paper at an open-air bar along An Cuu River in Hue City.

One of the men pretended to show interest in the 14-year-old girl’s wares, asking the price while he was fixing her with an unblinking gaze and touching her hand.

Lan, a food street vendor who makes 50,000 dong ($2.15) per day, signaled to her friends, who were also selling food nearby. They rushed to surround the men, drawing attention by loudly exhorting them to buy food.

Flustered, one of the men immediately bought a packet of salted peanuts for 65 cents and chased the kids off.

Lan said that in the past, not knowing how to avoid such incidents, she had to suffer maltreatment and abuse from those who bought her food.

But, after help from the Filles de Marie Immaculée (Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception), she is better equipped to handle risky situations.

The sisters organized a special workshop in January in Hue City to arm child workers, orphans and other children at risk to fend off harm and understand their rights.

Nguyen Thi Tien, 15, confidently sells fruit by herself on the street to make more income after she finishes her work at a produce shop at An Lo Market in Phong Dien district of Thua Thien Hue Province.

Tien, an orphan, earns 1.1 million dong ($47) per month to support her ailing grandmother, who is 81. Tien says she once was physically attacked by a drunken man and, after that, did not dare to travel alone.

“I have phone numbers of some Catholic volunteers, social workers and fellows to call them in case I am bullied, abused or unfairly treated, so I no longer fear strangers,” says Tien.

The young woman, whose parents died with HIV/AIDS, dropped out of school when she was in second grade. Every day she pedals five kilometers from her home to the market and passes through a cemetery, putting her at risk of physical attacks.

Lan and Tien joined 50 others like them for help from the Filles de Marie sisters at the training session in Hue.

Sr. Maria Nguyen Thi Phu, an organizer, says the workshop teaches skills and practical knowledge about children’s rights to child laborers and orphans vulnerable to physical and sexual attacks.

Phu says, through pictures, video clips and group discussion, the children learn their rights to protection from discrimination, abuse, exploitation and abandonment. They learn about their rights to express their thoughts about youth issues, enjoy basic living standards and receive health care.

The nun says the workshop offers participants training on how to work in groups, listen to other people, observe situations and present their views. Then they turn to roleplaying exercises to practice what they have learned.

Participants played a game called “fish catcher.” A boy was blindfolded and directed by some girls to collect “fish,” represented by pieces of paper strewn on the ground, while other players shouted loudly. The boy, who was pretending to be an attacker, was confused by too much information and noise. The game taught the children how to fluster a potential predator.

Phu says children are also taught how to deal with potentially violent incidents and being exploited in the workplace. Many children do heavy work at construction sites, harvest rice, look after animals or wash dishes at restaurants but are paid half or two-thirds of what adults make for doing the same work, she says.

According to Thua Thien Hue Province data, 4,600 children have to work to support their families, live in slums or are affected by HIV/AIDS. An average of 33 cases of child abuse are reported every year in the province, higher than in much larger provinces, 2017 records show.

In 2018, the Ministry of Public Security estimates that 1,579 children in Vietnam were victims of sexual abuse, rape, murder, violence or trafficking. Many cases went unreported because they happened in remote areas or were hidden, experts say. In 2017, Vietnam had 23.9 million children under 15.

Nguyen Tan Tai, 17, a workshop participant, said the session taught him his rights and offered useful tips that had been completely unfamiliar to him.

Tai shared his family stories with others at the workshop. He says he saw his stepfather, who was addicted to alcohol and drugs, regularly beat his mother and abused his younger sister while shouting at him. The stepfather died of AIDS in 2017.

Tai also said in 2015 he worked four months at a construction site in Da Nang City, and a builder denied him his wages. “But I did not know how to make him pay me,” he said.

The youth, who now works for a computer shop, said that last year his younger sister and he joined a church-run club for at-risk children. They were taught vocational skills, and their mother was given seed money to buy clothes to sell at the market for a living.

Phu, who is in charge of underprivileged children in Hue, said 30 members from the club established in 2017 gather to play games, draw pictures, share problem-solving skills, and go camping. All these activities aim to unite the young members so they can help each other to overcome challenges and protect themselves from abuses.

The nun said it is difficult to approach children who are from various locales and work at places far from their homes. Many refuse to reveal their backgrounds for fear of discrimination, ill treatment or bullying by others.

“We must be patient and need more time to work with those marginalized children and offer them chances to live a life of dignity,” Phu says.

She says nuns also provide basic education and vocational skills at eight parishes to some 100 children who left school early. They are sent to work in safer places or with employers that have ties to the sisters.

Phu says the nuns plan to hold more workshops and educate local communities about children’s rights in the future so as to prevent cases of child abuse.

 

 

 
https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry-equality/child-workers-vietnam-stay-safer-knowing-labor-rights-self-defense-tactics?utm_source=MARCH_21_GSR+DIGEST&utm_campaign=cc&utm_medium=email