Give the gift of education this Christmas

Today, more than half a million children in Vietnam live with a disability. Even though the right to an education is mandated by Vietnamese law, thousands of school-aged children in Vietnam stay at home or sit uninvolved in classrooms because of a disability. When these children become adults, they face serious disadvantages in life due to the gap in their education. Many are trapped in a perpetual cycle of intergenerational poverty and discrimination.

39-year-old Lan* is a mother of three children and lives in the Quang Tri province in Vietnam. Her eight-year-old son, Quan*, and 12-year-old daughter, Loan*, both have a vision impairment.

“Because Quan cannot see clearly, it has been hard for him to make friends. He has a hard time keeping with his studies and because he has been afraid of using stairs, he would only use the ground floor classroom,” Lan said.

Quan and Loan were very shy and kept away from other children. Lan was often subjected to uncomfortable questions from her neighbours and fellow villagers, who would ask about her son’s condition.

“I often cried. In the past, neighbours and villagers would ask questions like ‘What’s wrong with his eyes?’ ‘Why so?’ ‘Is this due to your way of living or your ethics?’,” Lan said.

As any loving mother would, Lan wanted to help create a better future for her children. Determined to turn things around for herself and her children, she joined the Empowerment of People with Disabilities project, run by Caritas Australia’s partner, the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD).

Thanks to the generosity of donors, the Caritas Australia supported program provides an opportunity for children with disabilities who struggle to learn at school to play and make friends with other children while receiving help to complete their studies.

Through the program, Quan and Loan were able to join community-based classrooms so that they could interact with other children living with disabilities. Lan has volunteered to help run the classes and is now a leader of a parents’ group in her area. Her children are more confident and are looking forward to completing their schooling.

“Quan is more confident and talking more with others, responding when being asked, saying hello to someone coming to our home. Previously, he did not talk to those he did not know.”

“His first-grade teacher said he often stayed at one place in the class, not making friends. But now second-grade, his teacher has said he is talking and even joking with his friends. I am happy to hear that.”

“I believe that my kids will have a brighter and independent future from the hard work we do today.”

Caritas Australia invites you to make a donation this Christmas, which will go towards the life-changing work that its partner, the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD) is undertaking to support families like Lan’s, through its Empowerment of People with Disabilities program. Your generous contribution will support families around the world to live safe, just, and dignified lives visit to find out more.

*pseudonyms have been used to protect the privacy of program participants.

Tom Svich is a Communications Specialist for Caritas Australia

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Lizzie Watkin

Lizzie is Team Leader Content for the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.

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