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Published: August 26th 2007
THE NEW LIFESTART FOUNDATION FREE SCHOOL
This photo was taken before all of our beautiful trees were planted.Unfortunately the school is still in a flood prone area, however we now have a flood plan in place.
Lifestart Foundation Free School opened in March 2006 in a building kindly donated by the Vietnamese government. Although we shared the building at times, which was not the ideal set up for classes, I was very grateful to have anything at all. The government truly has been outstanding in supporting Lifestart's educational hopes for the disadvantaged children of Hoi An.
To my absolute delight, the government has built us a brand new school, on the same street as our old building. April 2007 saw us set up and move to our new location. The classrooms are colourful, bright, and spacious, and drew an audible gasp from the children when they first entered their "new room." They are thrilled to have such a lovely, safe and stimulating place to come to every day.
The outside of the building was somewhat of a concrete wilderness. Richard, a friend, volunteer and outreach worker from Melbourne, collected money from his family before coming to Vietnam to help with the greening of our concrete wilderness. Richard has planted beautiful frangipani trees, palms and bamboo. With the help of the crew from HMAS Success (of the Royal Australian Navy) we also relocated all of the
HMAS SUCCESS CREW
Ambassador, Bill Tweedle( centre in the suit) opened the new Lifestart Foundation Free School in April 2007.The Ambassador is pictured with Karen and the volunteer crew from HMAS SUCCESS ROYAL AUSTRALIAN NAVY.
children's palm trees and memorial benches from the old school.
The crew of the HMAS Success volunteered by helping Lifestart move from the old school to the new, also providing some "hard labour"—clearing the river area adjacent to the school. The children all enjoyed having a game of football with the big guys from Australia. As I explained to the navy crew, not only was their volunteer work invaluable, they were also fantastic role models for the children we work with.
I was invited to a cocktail reception on board the HMAS Success, which had docked in Danang, the night before the crew volunteered with our move. I brought with me Marelyn, one of our volunteers, and my two soon-to-be-adopted sons, Sinh and Tu. This was the second time I have attended this type of ceremonial event (the other event was last year, when the HMAS Newcastle came to volunteer for Lifestart). It is truly very special night.
Sinh and Tu had the time of their life! For starters, they wore suits for the first time—it was also the first time they saw “mum” so glammed up! Much to their delight, one of the officers gave them
CO HUE'S CLASS
Lessons begin in the new classroom.
Co Hue a retired teacher has taught the children from Day 1.This group who previously could not read or write are now able to do both.
the full tour of the ship; they got to explore all 10 stories.
The move to the new school coincided with our official opening day, and we were honoured to have His Excellency, Bill Tweddell, the Australian Ambassador arrive from Hanoi for the occasion!
Lifetstart Foundation English classes are now running seven days per week. Honestly, the children would attend English class 24/7 if they could. I have employed some terrific new English teachers, who are young, enthusiastic and fun. The children are really understanding and progressing, but more importantly, they are in love with learning. At the end of a lesson, they usually beg for a little more time! And they never want to go home...
We are slowly building our English class resources; however, we can always do with some help in this area. Bilingual books (Vietnamese/English ) and CDs would be very helpful. I am still maintaining very small class sizes (a teacher’s dream) with seven students as the maximum in any of our classes! As you can imagine, this gives the children the optimum chance to learn and to not become invisible or lost in a large group.
Learning English is extremely
The new classroom displaying some of Sinh's and the childrens art work.
important for all of these children, and I hope to continue to expand our classes and, in turn, find more excellent teachers. I was fortunate to have a very experienced ESL (English as a second language) teacher volunteer on this particular trip. Lee Dib, from Melbourne, made fantastic contributions to our English language classes, with the students and teachers benefiting from her many years of experience.
Another adjunct to Lifestart Foundation’s educational arm is a project for high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds. In previous blogs, I mentioned two students we have been supporting through secondary education, Nhon and A (that's his full name). Both boys are from the poorest of poor families. They have studied by candlelight and gone without food to buy textbooks.
Through sheer determination and dedication, they successfully completed year 12 and just recently sat for their University entrance examinations in Hue City. I am so thrilled to announce that Nhon has been accepted into an Engineering Degree and A received the highest marks out of 4,000 students and was accepted into medical school!
A has become somewhat of a celebrity, appearing in newspapers and on Vietnamese television, stunning many when they learnt of
OFF TO MEDICAL SCHOOL!
A, pictured in front of some of his many scholastic awards.
his background. He is committed to doing community service in the future. I hope that in about six years, I am able to report that A has come back to help our Lifestart community.
Lots of Love from Karen.
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