Travelling impression with Save the Children Italy
By Vu Thi Ngoc Tuyet
Hoang Thi Lieu carefully arranged a food nutrition tray in the middle of a small hall room in front of about 20 ethnic minority mothers. Today, the local nutrition worker was teaching the mothers from Nam Kip Village how to cook proper nutrition food for their children. The session is a part of community’s communication session under Save the Children nutrition project in Van Chan District, Yen Bai Province.
It was lovely Spring morning as I accompanied two Italian colleagues from Save the Children Italy – Ms. Francesca Petrecca, the Head of Portfolio Management International Programs and Ms. Maria Luisa Altobelli ASIA and LAC Regional Portfolio Management – to visit projects that Save the Children in Vietnam is implementing in two mountainous provinces of Yen Bai and Lao Cai.
We have been collaborating in term of institutional operations, however, this was my first time to coordinate our Italian colleagues visiting Vietnam country office. I felt a bit over-worried at beginning for the schedule was tight and the roads to our projects by this time of the year were so bad. But then, we were all caught up with our activities with excitement.
We started with a visit to Tran Yen District to see Save the Children’s work on disaster risk reduction for mostly H’Mong population in Hong Ca Commune. It was a long and challenging drive up to a high mountain to get to the school. I couldn’t imagine the difficulties the children have in walking to the school every day and what could happen to them if a landslide occurred. When we got to the school, the children had been ready to play an evacuation drill for us and our visitors. The children were very skilful in actions and with first aids assistance to each other. We were impressed to hear from the teachers that the children were also promoting disaster risk reduction activities in the community after they learned at schools.
As we went to Van Chan District to visit the child nutrition project site, our visitors had an opportunity to attend a child nutrition education session for mothers in a private home of a community leader. Here, under-2 year old children were measured by height and weight while mothers were trained on how to cook nourishing meals for their children with locally available foods. The exciting atmosphere of the education session, from introduction of ingredients, demonstration of cooking, practicing to eating the food, was interesting. This is a typical activity organized by community health workers and Women’s Union who has been trained by Save the Children in partnership with the Department of Health.
Our last step was in Lao Cai Province, where we have started the Child Sponsorship Programme. We visited Nam Lu Primary school in Muong Khuong, one of the poorest districts with 55,6% poverty rate. It is home to 6 ethnic minority groups (about 88% of total district population). Children, particularly the ethnic groups, face various challenges from hunger, poor nutrition, language barriers and limited resources for quality education.
We had good talks with teachers, children and the school managers. It was really moving to see how difficult the poverty situation is. Teacher Then Thi Nhung said: “People are very poor, so they don’t consider education as important. Getting the children to the school is challenging, let alone asking parents to pay for anything. Many children go to school without textbooks and other school materials. The school facilities remain meagre. There is no clean water for the children to use.”
Ms. Petrecca asserted Save the Children’s support at a meeting with Lao Cai’s authorities. As we are trying for better future, I see the hopes in smiling faces of the children.
“I would like to go to school because I have fun, however, the school still doesn’t have electricity and water”, said a nine-year old girl Trinh.