Dear Friends of Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund,
Over the last four weeks a group of 14 volunteers including myself and my two daughters, have been here in Vietnam helping us to run our art, music, bikes for girls and summer camp program which takes place in a small, ethnic minority village called Son Tan, in the province of Khanh Hoa. This year one of our returning volunteers (this is his third year) created a great little video of one of our camp days in the village of Son Tan. Watch it here:
Rock-Paper-Scissor's Summer Camp 2017
There are 150 families living in this village, all very, very poor. The school in the village ends at 5th grade, and the children have little opportunity to continue school.We provide year round support and mentoring through our art program in the village for 30 children.
In addition to our year-round program, each summer we love to bring our volunteers to this village and provide some fun for the children. We play music, and do art projects, yoga, puppets and games. At the end of each camp we provide the children with a full, nutritious meal along with bread and fruit.
If you would like to help us fund our camps, please consider making a donation to this project (our art program) and we will buy art supplies and meals for the kids. Each summer camp cost approximately $2,500 USD for 120 kids.
Thanks so much and we hope that you enjoy Wesley’s video!
Dear Friends of Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund,
My daughter Cindy, and I have been hearing about Rock-Paper-Scissors Children’s Fund since it originated, because the founder, Sara, and my daughter are close friends. We have talked about visiting Vietnam and the programs here for the past few years and decided to take the trip this year. Although we are here for only a short 10 days, what we have found is all and more than Sara had described to us these past few years.
This week we took part in one of Rock-Paper-Scissor’s bike givings for girls and a day of bicycle repair at one of the local elementary schools, but we have also been teaching some of the art classes in the art program. There are two art programs, run in different villages, one in Cam Duc and one in a small, ethnic minority village about 45 minutes away called Son Tan.
We had come to Vietnam with a couple of project ideas, involving making mosaic-type pieces of artwork by having the children tear up small pieces of pages from old publications - magazines or whatever, then gluing them on to paper pieces, 8" x 11", that when completed we put together making a large mural. All of the children worked differently, some resorting to minute detail, while others quickly filling their paper with larger scraps. At the end, all of the kids connected as a team as they put their individual artwork together into a larger piece - showing such pride in what they had created.
The students in both schools, although very enthusiastic and excited followed our directions carefully, in spite of our language barrier and differences in ages. Almost all of the children do like to practice their English, and with the help of the program’s staff to translate, it was very easy to speak with them all. Their eagerness to please and have fun was a joy to witness and be a part of. One thing that was very noticeable to us in all of the classes is how the older children here are always quick to share and help with the younger kids and those falling behind, something obviously they do in their everyday lives.
I see the pride that the children here take in their work, and the acknowledgement that we have come to share their time with them has been a joy for us. Many of these children fall through the cracks of poor families who do not have the education or time for this type of parenting or teaching. With the support of the Rock-Paper-Scissor Children’s Fund programs and wonderful teachers, I believe the children will gain confidence in what they are capable of doing, the attention given to them absorbed, and hopefully will believe they are not limited by their surroundings.
Written by U.S. Volunteer in Cam Duc, Vietnam March 2017
In 2016 you helped us provide art classes to over 70 children who attend our art program weekly, year round. Just outside the city of Hue, Vietnam, Phuong and Tram have 25 kids who come to class every weekend. Tram, a young artist teaches the kids about color blending and how to be free with their art. Both teachers love each of the children and support them with so many things in and outside of class.
On Sunday afternoons, another one of our classes meets in the small, ethnic minority village of Son Tan, a very poor community located along the edge of the mountains in Khanh Hoa, Vietnam. The landscape is beautiful there, but poverty dampens the beauty. When our teachers Nhu and Thang arrive, the kids are waiting outside the classroom. You are helping to support 25 students here who have been in our program for two years now. The students love the classes and are happy to have the time to freely draw or paint and enjoy the love and mentoring that our caring and loving teachers provide them. Most of the children come from broken homes with very difficult circumstances.
Finally, our third art class is held twice a week in the village of Cam Duc, in the same space where our music program is held. It’s always bustling here with 20 kids taking art class and 15-20 kids coming in and out taking violin lessons with our three music teachers. The children are all sprawled out on the floor with paper and paints working hard to put their thoughts into their work. Each student is given the space to be freely creative and expressive. Below is a story about one of the young boys who we accepted into our program last year, his name is Huu. He’s an inspiration to us, and hopefully an inspiration for you to see how your donation has made a difference in the life of this young boy.
This story was written and translated by our in-country staff.
Story from the Field~~~Meet Huu
Written by Nhu -- RPS staff in Cam Duc, Vietnam
Seeing Huu and observing him in art class I am really impressed by his passion for color. I would never believe this is the same boy who I first met before he started in our class.
Huu, who is 10 years old, was born in a poor family in Cam Duc, Vietnam. His parents were hired laborers, so they had no time at home to take care of him. After school and on the weekends, Huu wasted a lot of time going out with a gang of boys, playing tricks on other kids in the village, and being part of a young gang. Both of his parents were upset and worried about Huu’s future.
Huu joined our art class by accident. He came as a guest to our Halloween party with one of the other art students. We celebrated a lot of art activities at this party, and we realized that water color, pastel and paintbrush revealed Huu’s other side--a passion for art, so we invited Huu to join the class weekly.
After one year Huu has been coming to our art class every Wednesday and Sunday no matter what. He becomes occupied in painting and color. He has especially become friendly with the other kids and always smiles. He is passionate about class. Huu’s mom has reported that he has “become so helpful and helps me a lot with teaching his younger sister to draw…It’s amazing and we feel happy for this.”
“I am very happy to be in this art class and meet a lot of good friends. I love seeing my hands “dirtied” in color,” Huu tells our teacher, “I want to be an artist to draw my beautiful village.” I think that art is extremely great in the way it has influenced this little boy, art has brought color to his dreams and life.
Thank you again for your kind support of our programs in Vietnam. We will be taking a small group of volunteers to work with us in Vietnam during the month of July 2017. We need talented artists, either adult or high school age. Please email me to learn more, or if you are interested: email@example.com
“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!
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)
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