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Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children

by Rock-Paper-Scissors Children's Fund
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Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Art Mentorship for Poor Vietnamese Children
Students of Son Tan Village, Vietnam
Students of Son Tan Village, Vietnam

 “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” - Paulo Coelho, Brazil

As a relatively new organization, with only three years under our belts, we are learning quickly what works in a program and what doesn’t, through failing on some things and forward achieving and improving our knowledge through those failures. As a partner member on the GlobalGiving community platform, we are constantly learning through their trainings and guidance, and most importantly adopting their core values to, “Listen, Act, Learn, Repeat” when working with the communities that we support in Vietnam.

As a young organization, we have definitely been more in the “Acting” and “Learning” modes than the “Listening” mode over these first few years. In some countries like Vietnam, this is almost unavoidable because in order to be able to receive our license to work in the country, we had to initiate and document lots of immediate activity so that we could demonstrate to the government that we had funding and could make programs work. In Vietnam an NGO (non-governmental organization) has to be licensed at all levels of the government; national, provincial, district and individual villages. In order to apply for our license, the “Acting” part of the “Listen, Act, Learn, Repeat” cycle had to happen quickly with little listening up front to the youth and families that we would be serving.

Although this should not be the exact order and process for establishing our programs, we should have been listening to the needs of the youth we serve and develop our programs based on what learn from these conversations, we have been lucky in that the programs we have developed have been very successful. We started with the dream that we could bring art and music classes to poor communities, and hire wonderful, fun, caring teachers, who would give kids the opportunity to freely express their creativity in a safe, encouraging, and open atmosphere. This does not exist in the very restrictive, government run school system in Vietnam. We believed that by providing small hands-on, one-on-one and group classes in the arts, along with close mentoring by our teachers, that our students would build confidence in themselves, form close bonds among each other, create a network of peer-to-peer mentoring, and eventually be inspired to excel in their pursuit of education. So far our programs have been flourishing with few bumps in the road, and we now support 90 kids, each attending classes two-three days a week after school, and during the summers. Evidence of our success started to appear this year, when our first high school student was accepted into a highly competitive University, where she will study art and architecture.

So what about our failures so far? We have definitely had a few failures, and continue to learn from them, but one in particular deals with a complicated, broad-based community problem that we never imagined would make us stop and rethink everything. To start, we are learning that sticking to one program model and trying to fit it into different communities, is definitely destined to fail. As an example, two years ago we opened our art program that had been successful in two other communities, in a small, ethnic minority village called Son Tan. This community is one of the many racially segregated ethnic minority communities in Vietnam. Most of the families live below the poverty level of $1.00 a day, often feeding 5-9 family members on that income.  We started working in Son Tan after giving bikes there as part of our Bikes for Girls Program, and while we were there, we noticed that none of kids at the school had uniforms or good shoes, so we provided them to the children--this is how our relationship with the small school began.

That year we opened our art and summer camp programs there, but it is clear to us now, that through observing for these few years in the community, that we have failed by not incorporating the value of “listening” in our program implementation and decision making, and that perhaps this continues to kept us from having a much greater impact on the lives of the children there. It’s not that our art and camp programs have failed necessarily, they have been something the kids wait for on the weekends and all year, but we’ve failed as an organization in not meeting the mission of our program in Son Tan. If our students are destined simply not to succeed because of racism and segregation from main stream society, severe poverty and the lack of educational opportunities beyond the fifth grade, and we have made no impact on their lives, we have definitely failed. It’s just not enough to mentor kids after school, if the school dead ends for them after five years and if they suffer from malnourishment, poor living conditions, and broken homes.

In Vietnam, it is very hard to get information from people and to have them discuss their needs openly, most likely an outcome of a society that continues to not support free speech. Observing what is happening in the village and at the school, how people continue to live, die and struggle daily and seeing very little change occur, has led us to believe that our program will ultimately fail and not have much impact overall for students. So, we have started to “fail forward” in this case and make changes, and recently started to get answers to some of our questions.

Why hasn’t the school opened to students beyond fifth grade if the government built an extra wing on the school with more classrooms a year ago?  If a student wants to continue their education beyond the fifth grade, what do they have to do? How many students in the village are being educated beyond the fifth grade? How does this ethnic minority school differ from the main stream schools in Vietnam? If kids from the village are allowed to go to the main stream schools, why don’t they?

So here is what we’ve learned and where we are headed. We learned that although the government built a new wing on the existing school, they refuse to support teachers until the community can raise enough money to provide a lunch program for the kids. Unfortunately the community can’t afford this. We learned that right now, students who want to be educated beyond the fifth grade must go to a school for ethnic minorities that is over two hours away from the village.  The kids have to stay in poor, boarding house conditions away from their families in order to complete school. We learned that the kids have to pay for their transportation to and from the village, so often drop out very quickly, or just can’t go. We learned that yes, students can attend one of the main stream schools, but are fearful of being bullied by other kids and mistreated by teachers there.

So from stepping back and starting to listen we are developing a new program plan that we hope to raise funding for this year. In addition to continuing and expanding our art program in the village to include more kids, we hope to support the school lunch program with the agreement that the government brings in the new teachers to expand the school to 9th grade. We will continue to provide adult mentoring and support to the kids through our after school arts programs, with the establishment of a broader mentoring program to include students from schools outside of the village. We will be establishing an internship program with a local main stream high school, and recruiting students willing to act as tutors in math and English for the kids in Son Tan. The Son Tan kids will be tutored for one-two hours and then be able to have free, creative time in our art program on the weekends.  We hope that not only will the kids in the village learn from the high school students, but that the high school students will become better aware of the conditions in the village, create strong bonds with the kids and hopefully, eventually create change by carrying a voice for ethnic minorities outside of the village. Although these steps seem small, with bigger ideas and dreams, there is of course a great deal of work to be done in the village to improve living conditions overall, but we know that nothing can change if the kids there never have the opportunity to be educated and integrated into Vietnamese society as a whole. 

Thanks to all of you for supporting our program! 

Art Class Son Tan Village, Vietnam
Art Class Son Tan Village, Vietnam
Proud of his work, Son Tan, Vietnam
Proud of his work, Son Tan, Vietnam
Teacher Trang helping a student, Son Tan, Vietnam
Teacher Trang helping a student, Son Tan, Vietnam
Quyen, a fifth grade favorite student of ours!
Quyen, a fifth grade favorite student of ours!
Nhu, one of our talented art teachers!
Nhu, one of our talented art teachers!

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Fun with chalk
Fun with chalk

Dear Friends and Supporters of Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund,

 I wanted to share one of my blog posts from my summer as a volunteer in Vietnam for Rock-Paper-Scissors~~ Hannah

 “This week we held our first 3-day camp at Soui Cat. We found ourselves a bit overwhelmed on the first day – we were expecting 100 kids, but about 300 showed up. However, we powered through a hectic morning and on the following two days organized the children into three groups that rotated through art projects, music activities, and parachute games. We started each day with a short concert by our volunteer musicians.

 In the music class, our leaders Rozanne and Laurette taught everyone to clap a set of rhythms. Then we let the children try out the rhythms on drums, triangles, tambourines, and maracas. By the third day, we were able to assign a separate part of the rhythm to each instrument and play them as an ensemble.

 On day one of the art classes, we made layers of colors with crayons, then scraped away the top layer with a toothpick to create pictures. On day two, the kids made chalk murals on brown poster-paper. On day three, we used an old favorite: pipe cleaners. You can make them into anything, dolls, headbands, rings, or eyeglasses. The kids absolutely love them.

 The children who attend our camps are all ages, from babies too young to walk, to teenagers. They are all small for their age. One of our fifteen year old volunteers from the U.S. will easily be a head taller than a fifteen year old from Soui Cat. The babies come propped on the hips of their older siblings, who might only be 7 or 8 years old themselves, and are passed casually from one person to the next so it’s hard to tell which baby belongs to whom. Parents like to come as well. They gather outside the pavilion, sometimes calling in to the children to follow directions or encouraging them to speak to us. When our eyes meet they smile at us, and we smile back, and in their eyes there is something like gratitude or happiness – but of course we can’t know for sure what they are thinking, and we can’t tell them what we are thinking. The only communication we have is a smile.

 Most of the kids are shy, but some –a few little boys in particular- can get pretty wild. They gather together in close groups, arms wrapped around each other’s shoulders, and in such tight quarters they love to instigate fights, pushing and shoving, punching each other in the arm, and tickling. They’ll also run around and steal the girls’ crayons, chalk, or pipe cleaners. There are pretty wild; it can be frustrating trying to keep them calm, especially with two language barriers to cross (Vietnamese is their second language). Luckily, we are well staffed with students and teachers from our Cam Duc programs.  At one point, I picked up one of the boys to move him away from his friends, and he felt so weightless in my hands it surprised me. They are all so small, but somehow it seems a person who is so disruptive should feel heavier. I expected some kind of resistance. But he nearly floated in my hands, and went absolutely willingly, as though he knew perfectly well how small and defenseless he was.

 A few of the girls will do a little pushing and shoving themselves, but most are too shy. They hide from cameras and turn their faces away when you speak to them. Their smiles are slow and bashful. But they are quick to learn and make an effort to be helpful, collecting the instruments and art supplies when it’s time. The older ones will correct any young children acting out around them and are a little braver -they smile more quickly and openly.

 At the end of each day, we hand out snacks and sandwiches for the kids to take home with them. This year we provided over 1200 meals to the kids in our camps.”

 I hope that you enjoyed my post. Thank you for supporting Rock-Paper-Scissors, it’s a wonderful organization making a difference in so many kid’s lives in Vietnam.

Hannah(Volunteer for Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund)

Chalk murals
Chalk murals
Piper cleaner fun
Piper cleaner fun
Crayon scratch art!
Crayon scratch art!
Caring for her young sibling
Caring for her young sibling
Love the pipe cleaner glasses
Love the pipe cleaner glasses

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RPS Art Student Work
RPS Art Student Work

In one week, 19 volunteers from the U.S. will be giving violin lessons, cello lessons and teaching art classes in our small schools in Vietnam. Each year we take a group of musicians and young artists to teach and work with the students. The volunteers also help us to run our summer art and music camps for ethnic minority children. It’s an exciting time for everyone both here in the U.S. waiting to leave, and in Vietnam for the kids waiting to meet and in some cases see the volunteers again.

Our art program would not be possible without your generous support, and the gifts of our recurring donors. You’ve helped our art program to grow to over 70 students who attend classes 1-2 days a week throughout the year. These 70 kids have not only been getting art lessons and time to paint and draw and enjoy the freedom of creativity, which they aren’t allowed in school, but also the weekly mentoring from our wonderful teachers and staff. We have teachers and program staff who care and love the children and help them with many things in their daily lives outside of the art classes. The kids have also developed long lasting and close friendships made among them. This is such an important aspect of the program, not only being able to be artists, but to be part of a small, supportive community away from the difficulties of the many struggles associated with poverty.

In April this year, we had a special visitor at our schools to review our programs for Global Giving. We wanted to share with you the report that she wrote to her Global Giving colleagues about our programs. Global Giving sends a representative to Vietnam every couple of years to review our programs and see what we’ve been up to, and where and how your donations are being used. Here is the note from Caroline, the Global Giving representative that traveled to Vietnam this year:

~~~~~~~~~

Notes from Caroline, Global Giving In-the-Field Traveler

This was truly such a beautiful weekend. Giao (Rock-Paper-Scissor’s Program Manager) and her family went above and beyond any hospitality I have been shown, thus far. I was not only welcomed into the organization and into the community, but also into her family. From the time Giao and her brother picked me up from the bus stop in Nha Trang, to the moment she and her mother returned me there at the end of the weekend, I was treated with the utmost kindness.

Furthermore, every encounter with local leaders, the local Red Cross and the families and children of Cam Duc, was educational and welcoming. I could not be more thankful for my weekend here.

Quote from Caroline-Global Giving Representative

These projects help children and young adults develop skills they would otherwise not have the means to develop, skills that can often be powerful catalysts for future jobs. Even more than that, these projects help develop and instill an understanding of confidence and self-worth in children that often come from underserved communities and often, quite difficult backgrounds. This is of the utmost importance because programs that address self- development are often difficult to describe, and difficult to share how far the impact stretches. However, the importance of such programs in long term growth within a community should not be forgotten.

These particular music and art classes are offered several days a week, and several of the teachers are former students. Both the teachers and the older students interact, play and teach the younger students, displaying not only what they have learned, but also the maturity and care they have developed within these programs. The children are incredible- it is so good to see an organization that is actively engaged in community development, by means of individual and familial development. The joy these children found in painting and playing music is hard to describe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Please remember, as we always do, that this great program is a direct result of your generous donations and trust in our organization. You have supported the artistic and personal growth of these many kids that will be carried throughout their lives.

Best to all of you and thankyou,

Sara (Founder-Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund)

PS-Please email me at sara@rockpaperscissorschildrensfund.org if you would like to learn more about volunteering, or helping us in any way. Thank you.

RPS Art Student
RPS Art Student
RPS Art Class
RPS Art Class
RPS Art Student Work 2
RPS Art Student Work 2
RPS Student 2
RPS Student 2
RPS Art Student Work 3
RPS Art Student Work 3

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Son Tan School Vietnam
Son Tan School Vietnam

Chúc Mung Nam Moi means Happy New Year in Vietnamese. For about a week each winter, families, friends, and neighbors celebrate Tet, the most important celebration of Vietnamese culture. It takes place from the first day of the first month of the Vietnamese calendar (around late January or early February) until at least the third day. It is considered to be the first day of spring and the arrival of the new year. Traditionally, all Vietnamese turn a year older on this day, often not keeping track of their actual birth dates.

Many customs are practiced during Tet, such as visiting a person's house on the first day of the year, ancestor worship, and giving lucky money to children and the elderly. It’s an occasion for family reunions, a time for forgetting troubles of the past years, and bringing in new luck for the coming year.

This year we wanted to do something special for our 22 students in Son Tan Village. The kids and families in this village live far below poverty level, and have very little to be able to celebrate the traditional Tet holiday with. So some of our students and teachers from Cam Duc, put together food packages and treats for our students there, to give them during our Sunday class.

When they arrived in the van at the little Son Tan school, there were not only our  students, but over 40 kids waiting. The word had gotten out! Luckily the teachers came prepared and had put together many more gift packages. As you can see from the photos, it was an exciting day for the kids! For art and English class that day, the kids spent time drawing things related to the holiday, and sharing their stories.

We love the children at this school, and hope that we can continue to support them through this new year as best that we can. We want you all to know that it’s not us giving these gifts--they come from all of you and your generosity and kindness. You have provided the funding for us to build this program, and we all, including the kids, will be forever grateful.

Thank you all—and the kids from Son Tan send you their best wishes for the New Year!

Sara

Please email me at: sara@rockpaperscissorchildrensfund.org  if you would like to start a fundraiser for us, be a volunteer, or just simply learn more about our programs in Vietnam.

Tet gifts for the kids
Tet gifts for the kids
Some of our Son Tan students painting
Some of our Son Tan students painting
Gift packages for the kids
Gift packages for the kids
Students painting-Son Tan
Students painting-Son Tan
Our class
Our class

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Son Tan village art student
Son Tan village art student

Today is Sunday and our teachers and art student volunteers from Cam Duc climb into the van for the 45 minute drive up into the mountains. Every other weekend, for the past year, they have traveled out to the ethnic minority village of Son Tan to teach a small art class to 20 young students selected to attend by the local school principal.

The students in this village are very, very poor. We have been trying to help support the local school over the past few years by providing books, supplies, uniforms for the students, shoes, and art and music summer camp opportunities where we provide fun activities and meals to 100 kids. We decided to start this small weekend project to continue to stay connected to the school, as well as try and support and inspire the kids to stay in school as long as they can. Most drop out before 5th grade.

This year, because all kids in Vietnamhave to take English class in school, we decided to have our teachers teach the kids English through art class. It’s been a great deal of fun, and the kids love it. The most amazing thing is that when we traveled to visit our programs last summer, some of the kids were coming up to us and speaking simple words to us. It was so great to see their confidence and determination to try and speak. 

Although we don’t have a great deal of money to support this program at this time, our teachers, and music and art students from Cam Duc volunteer their time to travel out to Son Tan to work with the kids. They have become attached to the children, and these adult and peer mentoring and loving relationships is now so important to all of the kids. We hope to raise more money to hold these classes every weekend rather than every other, and hopefully to support more kids in the future.

Throughout the month of December we have been trying to raise $15,000 to help us keep both our art and music programs securely funded for another year. Thank you again for your donations in the past, and please consider again making an end of year donation to help to provide art classes to our students through 2016. Asking for donations is the most difficult part of running a non-profit, but please know none of this work would be happening without you. Please consider a donation through GlobalGiving given in someone’s name as a Christmas present, or simply just making a year-end gift that can be deducted on your taxes. If you are unable to make a donation, please consider sharing this report in an email to friends and family. Thank you so much!

Thank You Everyone and Happy Holidays to you!

Sara 

Learning English through art
Learning English through art
Thang our teacher and students
Thang our teacher and students
Our beautiful students
Our beautiful students
Some of our students
Some of our students
Snacks
Snacks

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Organization Information

Rock-Paper-Scissors Children's Fund

Location: Wakefield, RI - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @RPSChildrenFund
Project Leader:
Sara Nerone
Wakefield, RI United States
$39,214 raised of $50,000 goal
 
296 donations
$10,786 to go
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