Established in 1992 in the UK, and currently operating in Vietnam, Saigon Children raised $12.5 million over the last 25 years with the mission of giving disadvantaged adults and children a chance to complete their education and pursue their dreams.
Their efforts are focused mostly on rural and remote areas across provinces in Vietnam, as children in these regions typically lack resources to achieve their educational goals. The first Saigon Children school was built in Can Gio, Vietnam, in 1993.
With the emphasis on the idea that “learning is the answer to poverty”, Saigon Children operates on four main guiding principles:
- Scholarships for Child Development
- Building Schools
- Teaching Vocational and Career Skills
- Providing Special Education Needs
“Poverty of Opportunity, Not Poverty of Spirit”
Saigon Children was the brainchild of founder Paul Cleves, who was deeply impressed by the Vietnamese spirit during his travels in the country.
Inspired by the Vietnamese passion for education and realizing the need to resolve the cycle of poverty and lack of educational opportunity, Paul decided to take the initiative as a school teacher himself and to try to introduce some welcome changes.
As his students in the UK were quite interested in hearing about his tales in Vietnam, Paul researched and targeted a few educational projects based in Vietnam that his students could personally help fund. After realizing how much a single pound could contribute to the efforts in Vietnam, the students reciprocated with an overwhelming response of support.
It was then that Paul decided to register the Saigon Children’s Charity and spearhead the campaign in Vietnam himself alongside a Board of Trustees.
Saigon Children: Removing Barriers to Education
By focusing on issues like geographic location, poverty, disabilities, and lack of resources, Saigon Children slowly breaks through these obstacles and gives these underprivileged children a chance to live the happy and rewarding life that they deserve.
For struggling families, many children contribute to their family’s earnings by helping with crops or livestock. As a result, they are forced to neglect their studies and this can lead to illiteracy. Saigon Children is dedicated to reconnecting children with education in order to improve their situation and provide a bright future.
Through their incredible efforts, Saigon Children has managed to build 186 schools with 480 classrooms, providing education to over 14,000 students and awarding over 35,000 scholarships. By providing new and improved learning facilities and the funds for materials as well as basic needs, Saigon Children equips children with all the tools needed to succeed.
Over 6000 children have benefitted from career counseling with advice and assistance that will serve as their guiding beacon on their endeavors. Saigon Children provides mentors that are available to support the students at all times to ensure they are on the right track.
They have also funded 55 projects for professional skill building in order to further assist teachers and parents of over 10,000 disabled children. These education seminars provide a variety of innovative teaching methodologies to cater to the special education needs of disabled children in the classroom and home.
This in turn prepares the teachers and parents for how to deal with a variety of challenging cases.
Vocational skills learned at the Thang Long English and Vocational School’s Get Ready for Work Programme such as English, art, and photography give children an opportunity to find and interest and develop career skills that can be used to provide for their future and simultaneously benefit the community and Vietnam in turn.
Saigon Children meticulously monitors numbers to track the progress these children make, from primary education enrollment numbers, university enrollment, as well as the number of graduates who successfully find a job after university. Many of their success stories are documented to inspire and encourage others who face a similar struggle.
A Guiding Hand
Saigon Children also serves as a platform and extensive network for budding students looking for an opportunity to enter the workforce, helping graduates find internship and job opportunities.
Saigon Children was proud to host a graduation ceremony for the 20 graduates who recently completed their hospitality course for disadvantaged youth.
The hospitality program has been running for 11 years now and is one of several enrichment courses designed to help students find their passions and develop a career. Students learn communication and computer skills that they can incorporate in their future careers. It is aimed at young adults aged 18-25 who have yet to complete higher education requirements.
Out of the 463 students who completed the hospitality course for disadvantaged youth, it was reported that 86% of graduates went on to secure a job with higher salaries than the national average. Saigon Children provides students with an excellent chance to earn work experience and utilize hospitality skills gained from courses by taking on internships at organizations such as renowned hotels like Caravelle and Intercontinental Asiana.
Students in the hospitality program participated in a life skills training program presented by Caravelle Hotel’s Chief Human Resources Manager Mrs. Vo Thi Tuyet Phuong.
Mr. Huynh Van Hieu, Human Resource Manager of Sanofi Pharmaceutical Company, led another training session designed to equip jobseekers with the knowledge needed to succeed in their own job searches. Participants were guided on essential knowledge of compiling resumes, interview skills, as well as career goal assessment.
During the first half of March, Saigon Children held 2nd semester meetings with roughly 170 college students receiving aid from Saigon Children attending. This meeting represented a chance to give back, as the floor was given to students to discuss their own fundraising campaigns for 2018. Among these campaigns were food and handmade products, and any funds that are raised from these efforts will be directed to younger children participating in the scholarship programs.
It’s all about giving back to the community; one of the most valuable lessons these students will take away from during their educational as well as life journeys.