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Lighting up the future of schoolgirls in Vietnam

By Ngoc Diem   April 4, 2022 | 01:00 am PT
A support program by Room to Read has helped change the lives of girls from under-resourced communities in Vietnam by providing resources for quality education.

Dinh Thi Kim Thuy, a girl who used to study with an oil lamp, can now stand on the stage and give fluent presentations in English, thanks to the program.

Thuy has lived on an impoverished island in Tra On District of Vinh Long Province since she was a child. She had to study with an oil lamp and draw a computer keyboard to practice computer science at home due to no electricity. Thanks to participating in the educational support program for schoolgirls, Thuy had the opportunity to pursue her aspirations.

Thuy was chosen as a delegate to share her experience in front of hundreds of people at the Hong Kong schoolgirl support gala in 2019.

She also shared her story with several organizations in Hong Kong as part of the program, including HSBC, MetLife, Hong Kong Broadband Network, Rosewood, etc.

Kim Thuy tells her story in front of hundreds of guests at Room to Read Hongkong Gala 2019. Photo by Room to Read

Kim Thuy tells her story in front of hundreds of guests at Room to Read Hongkong Gala 2019. Photo by Room to Read

Vo Thi Thuy Dung (Long An Province), like Kim Thuy, used to be a shy, self-conscious girl.

Dung's family had moved 11 times since she was in third grade because of difficult circumstances. However, the small girl's desire to attend school remained unaffected.

In seventh grade, Dung was allowed to participate in an education assistance program for schoolgirls, which provided her with the incentive to continue her studies.

Thuy Dung went from a little girl who didn't dare to stand in front of a crowd to a business manager for a real estate company after actively seeking out her preferred career and daring to try her hand at higher positions.

Thuy and Dung were both part of the girls' education program from Room to Read - a global nonprofit focused on girls' education and child literacy, with programs in Asia and Africa.

This year, the program will be supported by Masterise Group, a real estate company, to conduct a variety of activities in schools across three districts Tam Binh (Vinh Long Province), Tra Cu (Tra Vinh Province), and Can Giuoc (Long An Province).

The two units will provide life skills education, counseling (individuals and groups), community-family-school connections, and material support for girls from under-resourced communities.

Sylvia Lee - Head of Marketing, Masterise Homes, stated that she was both proud and surprised to find that Masterise Group is one of the first local companies in Vietnam to partner with Room to Read.

"Masterise Group also aspires to encourage girls to have the required knowledge and create a brighter future for all through educational support," said Lee.

Masterise Group and Room to Read representatives. Photo by Masterise Group

Masterise Group and Room to Read representatives. Photo by Masterise Group

Yen Nhi and Hoai Bang, both 12th-grade students at Vinh Xuan High School (Vinh Long Province) hail from poor circumstances but are not qualified for poor household certificates.

In 9th grade, Nhi had intended to leave school to work and support her family. Nhi was moved to tears when she saw the women mentors from the girls' education program arrive at the home of a student who had quit school to encourage her peers to return to school.

"I think, why people care about me so much, when I neglect myself, I want to quit school to go to work. Why do not I try to learn, so that I can have a good life, a better future," Nhi confided.

"My mother argued that life had been hard since she quit school in the past. That is why I do want a stable job that allows me to care for my parents and financial independence," said Bang.

Nhi and Bang have changed dramatically compared to the past, thanks to the support of teachers from the girls' education program.

They have learned a variety of important life skills, including team management, self-defense, learning how to socialize with others, and planning their future careers.

"I have the impression that I am growing up. It is not natural to have a girl like me right now who speaks confidently in front of a crowd. This is a long process of training," said Nhi.

Special 'second mothers'

Kien The Nga (Dai An – Tra Vinh Secondary School) had to alter her work schedule each day after accepting to be a collaborator in the girls' education program. She looks after her children in the mornings, drives them to school, and prepares lesson plans for teaching.

Nga has been the one who personally visits the girls' homes, counsels parents, and urges them to return to school for many years.

She also takes teaching classes to provide the children with basic life skills.

"I just want to spread the word that girls should have the same level of education as boys. There are numerous occupations that girls should be aware of, as well as identify their goals, and improve themselves. Women are half of the globe and each of them can decide "the world" in their hands," said Nga.

Students in the girls education program attend a session. Photo by Room to Read

Students in the girls' education program attend a session. Photo by Room to Read

Nga is one of many collaborators in favor of the girls' education program.

Due to Covid-19, many girls' families experienced difficult circumstances in 2021, which forced them to leave school.

The program's collaborators have worked hard to convince the girls to return to school despite the Covid-19 lockdown. As a result, 16 students were recruited to continue their studies in the project areas.

"These are energizing journeys to pursue learning despite material and mental obstacles.

Some students cycle to school for 90 minutes each day, but they refuse to give up. Some students take a gap year after graduating from high school to work and save money to continue their studies. Some people have bravely fought the nephrotic disease to pass college tests," said a representative from the program.

Michelle Obama, former first lady of the U.S., once said, let girls learn, and they will show the world what they can do.

The stories of Kim Thuy and Nga motivated Masterise Group to support Room to Read with the desire to help girls achieve brighter futures through education.

"We hope Masterise Group's partnership will not only provide opportunities for children to acquire a comprehensive education but will also assist to extend this important program so that more girls can benefit from the support of businesses and the community," stated a Masterise Group spokesperson.

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