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Published: February 20th 2008
KAREN AT THE PAGODA
L-R Nguyen, Thao, Nhu, Truyen, Thao, Tam and Karen.
Lifestart Foundation is very happy to welcome three new student groups for 2008.
Five girls who are training to become Buddhist nuns have now joined the student body at the Lifestart Foundation Free School. The girls, TRUYEN, THAO, TIEN, NGUYEN and TAM all live at the Pagoda, just around the corner from the Lifestart School.
The girls live at the Pagoda for a variety of reasons. In some cases, it's a choice made by very poor parents in lieu of leaving their child at an orphanage; for others, this is a personal choice made from a deep commitment to their faith.
The head nun from our local Pagoda, TY KHEO THICH NU HANH NHU, visited me at the Lifestart school and asked if the girls could attend our classes. After meeting and interviewing them I had no hesitation in offering them a place at the Lifestart Foundation Free School.
All five girls are a delightful addition to our classroom. They are bursting with personality and bring with them an eagerness to learn and study.
ENGLISH CONVERSATION CLASS FOR THE DISABLED
The second gorgeous group of new students is our English conversation class for members of
MIRIAM & HER CLASS
Miriam is pictured with some of the members of her English conversation class for the disabled.
L-R Hanh, Miriam, Hoa, Song, Chau and Lieu.
our disabled group.
This class is being taught by volunteer MIRIAM CLARK who is originally from Melbourne, Australia. Miriam is currently based in Vietnam.
She has been managing one of the Hotels in Hoi An and has generously offered her time to teach the class.
For this group, the conversation class is so much more than an English lesson. It provides them with a social outing, a chance to be with friends, stimulation and- most of all acceptance in the wider community. For many, it is their first opportunity to be a student and to attend a school.
Getting to school is not an easy task for these disabled students. Several walk on their hands as they cannot stand upright, several come to class on two crutches. Their faces reflect a great sense of accomplishment just to make it into their seat ready to start class!
There is a widespread lack of acceptance for people with disabilities, making it is difficult to find places they can access easily or indeed where they even are made to feel welcome. I hope that over time, the integration of able bodied people and those not so fortunate will become
Ngoc's mother took a prescribed drug when she was pregnant with Ngoc. This resulted in Ngoc's arms, hands and fingers not being fully formed.These problems don't stop her from being an active member of Miriams English class. Ngoc is a bright and talkative class member.
In the meantime, Lifestart Foundation aims to bridge the gap and increase awareness and acceptance through inclusion and education.
VIETNAMESE SIGN LANGUAGE CLASSES
Our third class that will commence this year is Vietnamese Sign Language.
Vietnam is home to between eighty and two hundred thousand deaf people. The number of people with hearing disabilities may
be as high as five hundred thousand. However, until the year 2000, there was only one school in the country that offered education to deaf people at levels higher than fifth grade. Even at that school, the educational philosophy stood against using sign language, in favor of using oral-only education. For this reason, the educational level of deaf people in Vietnam is phenomenally low.
Vietnam is a country with an annual per capita income of 550 dollars. In such a place, it is simply impossible to develop a nation-wide educational development program aimed specifically at deaf people.
Lifestart Foundation would like to welcome volunteer, MAI McCANN. Mai, a nurse with a wide range of experience from Australia will be heading up the Sign Language Class Project.
Mai's first task will be to assess all of the potential students for the first sign language class and to ascertain how best to help them.
A Vietnamese Sign Language teacher will then be employed to teach the students. It is hoped that we can establish a support group for the students and that the first class will form a peer support group for the next group of students that will attend sign language class. We already have the classroom set up and ready to go.
This will be the first Sign Language Class in Hoi An.
UPDATE AFTER THE FLOOD………….
The Lifestart Foundation Free School was completely under water during last years flood, as was all of the peninsula that the school is situated on. The flood affected all of the families that Lifestart helps. Most of them lost food, clothing and the few possessions that they had. Rising very quickly during the night, the flood - the worst in 50 years - caught everyone off guard.
When I returned to Hoi An in December, the water line on the school building was still
It is a supreme physical effort for Hoa to attend Miriams English class. You may remember Hoa from a pevious blog " The World Wide Problems Of Being A Working Mother" After one very kind Lifestart supporter donated a computer for Hoa she now has a successful home business set up complete with computer, scanner and printer.
visible. The students had spent days at the school cleaning up and did a wonderful job.
With the flood water comes a lot of debris, the contents of people homes, dead animals, snakes and lots and lots of mud, cleaning up is a dirty and messy job.
I had the school repainted and replaced the damaged and broken equipment. The smell of damp and mould is still in the air, but I hope with some warm weather everything will dry out.
Here is the flood contingency plan for 2008 ………….( I actually had one in place for the last flood, but no amount of planning could have prepared us for such a bad one!)
We are closing the school for approximately six weeks during the flood period this year. I have rented a storage space in a dry area where we will move all of the school equipment to preceeding the next wet season.
Children who attend government school in Vietnam have a three month holiday break, from June to September. I had always thought that as the children at the Lifestart school were already a long way behind their peers a three -month
A MOUNTAIN OF RICE - DISTRIBUTION DAY
Truyen, Thao, Tien and Nguyen are pictured resting on bags of rice. The rice was given out to many poor families just before Tet. ( Chinese New Year )
holiday break was excessive and not needed. Anyway, our students would much prefer to be at school rather than on holidays! However, closing the Lifestart school for six weeks would seem to be the most practical solution to what will be an ongoing annual problem on this flood prone peninsula.
Lots of Love from Karen.
P.S. I have been invited to talk on radio, Friday 22nd of February. ABC 7.74 Conversation Hour with JON FAINE at 11.00am.
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