For many years, Hands-On Saigon (HOS) has been providing school supplies for the incoming first graders in the poor rural district of Can Gio –the same area where hundreds of rainwater harvesting tanks have also been installed by HOS for resident families.
These students come from impoverished farming families who find it difficult to meet even the basic essentials, let alone “extras” like books and stationery. The van above is loaded with enough supplies for 400 children for their first school year.
A recent visit to distribute supplies coincided with “Trung Thu”, the mid-Autumn festival, also known as the Moon Festival. Brightly-colored festive lanterns hung outside of the first distribution spot: a Catholic-sponsored school for poor or handicapped children in the area.
The HOS team organized the school supplies on site, preparing individual bags for each first grader. Volunteers took turns handing the children their gifts and receiving beaming smiles and grateful gestures in return.
Along with snacks and a set of 10 notebooks, each student received a pencil case equipped with the basics to begin their educational journey: pens, pencils, ruler, eraser, and sharpener.
Project Manager Mercy gave special attention to some of the children, in particular one deaf-mute girl who lives at the school because her parents are too poor to care for her adequately.
Project Managers Kjell and Mercy, with some of the volunteers, await the motorcycle taxis to take them to the next gathering place. This “centrally-located” house was the meeting place where local village parents brought their kids to collect their school supplies.
The HOS team busily organizes and prepares the individual packages of supplies, while the excited children wait patiently with expectant faces. Thanks to the assistance of many volunteers it didn’t take long before all was ready.
The distribution system was adapted to the cramped quarters and care was taken to make sure no children were overlooked. Soon they were off with their new treasures!
The driver above, chauffeuring his little sister, looks way too young to have a license, but this is not an unusual sight in this rural area—if the family can afford a motorcycle! On the right is the simple shelter where the next batch of first graders was met.
The bamboo and palm leaf roof offered effective shelter from the heat of the sun (and the rain that arrived just as the last children received their bags.)
Many of the children had no idea what a camera was, but the real novelty was seeing foreigners up close! The children were shown photos in the camera’s display and they loved to see the images and videos of themselves and their friends.
The fourth group of first-graders waited in the middle of the road that ran through the area where they live. This time, distribution of the pre-packed school supplies was made from the back of the van.
Apparently, these big boys were also first graders—they come in all sizes! It is gratifying to be able to give these sweet, simple kids a bit of encouragement and a little assistance in acquiring the tools needed to get started in their education.