These Children are Thriving

With the support of Holt child sponsors, nearly 1,500 children at seven daycare centers in Vietnam now have a safe place to learn and play during the day.  At one preschool and daycare center in southern Dong Nai province, free milk and nourishing school lunches have helped to drop malnutrition rates from 7.5 percent to less than 1 percent. When Holt staff members visited the school in early June of this year, many of the children were busy coloring pictures for their sponsors — a new feature of Holt’s sponsorship program designed to strengthen communication between sponsors and the children they help support.

Twenty miles outside of Ho Chi Minh City in southern Vietnam, tucked between marshy fields of growing rice, stands a small preschool and daycare center. When we visit in early June, only about a third of the number of students who attend during the school year are present. Still, the sound of children playing is deafening as we drive up — with giggles and high voices joyfully resounding off the cement walls and through the open air doors of this four-room school. The air is hot and steamy from overnight rains, and children run barefoot on the cool cream-and-yellow tiles of the school — their shoes in a pile in the hallway. They are between the ages of 2 and 5, and the little ones are watching a Tom and Jerry cartoon in one classroom when we arrive. They are engrossed in the show and barely acknowledge us when we peek inside. The older ones are busy coloring pictures in the room next door, and they look up with bright eyes and toothy grins when we join their class.

Two years ago, the atmosphere at this school was quite different. When the Long Hung School opened in 2005 to serve the children of this rural farming community, many families failed to see the purpose or benefit of sending their children to preschool or their littler ones to daycare. In their community, the elders of the family traditionally care for children at home while their parents farm the land during the day. The school itself was run down and had no water supply for cooking or drinking, and the cost of tuition — $3/month, $23/month with lunch — seemed an unnecessary burden to many of the families in this low-income area. Only 41 children enrolled that first year.

Then, in 2012, the local authority referred Holt Vietnam to upgrade equipment as well as the quality of care and programs for the children — and, ultimately, to attract more children to the school.

“When Holt came, only 41 families had signed up their children to enroll,” the principle shared during our visit. “Two months later, it came up to 78. By the end of the semester, the number increased to 102. The next year, we were able to enroll 141.” Continue reading “These Children are Thriving”