“I’M GLAD THAT I AM ABLE TO STUDY AT THANG LONG – WHETHER IT BE FACE-TO-FACE OR ONLINE” – PHAM DINH THINH

When speaking of the first day at a new school, I, like many people, have distinct memories and first impressions. My first day at Thang Long was filled with surprises and delight. After over a year of studying there, I still feel excited to go to school every day. 

At the start, when mum told me of Thang Long, I wasn’t interested as my timetable at Chi Lang school was already tight, and I hate talking to new people. After about a month though, I decided to enroll as I felt I should experience new things, and it would be a good opportunity to improve my communication skills. But before enrolling, there was an interview process regarding my family background. My family situation is average, the main difficulty is my mum’s job involves a lot of manual labour despite her suffering from an incurable illness. Honestly, even though it’s hard to talk about mum’s illness, I’m proud of her for always doing her best to support and care for my sister and I. 

The application process for Thang Long involves an aptitude test, which I think is reasonable. At the time of admission, there is an exam to identify a student’s skills/level in order to be placed in an appropriate class. This was one of the things that gave me a lasting first impression. When I first met my peers and teacher, I was timid when communicating. Over time, however, I quickly found that everybody was super friendly and easy to get along with. Everybody supports each other with studying and everything else. The teacher teaches us wholeheartedly. She’s pretty funny too and always finds novel solutions to help me better understand the material. 

However, I was only at school for a little while before the first Covid outbreak occurred in Vietnam – then, I could only see my peers online. Online learning is much more difficult. You’re more prone to distractions, your neighbours might be noisy, or you may have wifi connection issues. I have to sit next to the wifi router, clear my room of pillows and blankets – these are issues that can easily be resolved, but annoying nonetheless when faced every day. With that being said, everyone in my class is always studious, including when online learning. 

I’m glad that I am able to study at Thang Long – whether it be face-to-face or online. Even if there are obstacles, I’m happy to see my friends and teachers. Thanks to the support of my class, I was able to overcome my weaknesses in communication, and now very much enjoy talking and socialising with my peers. Everybody is easy to get close to – they’re kind and patient. Everybody wants to get to know each other better and support one another. The learning material is also incredibly beneficial. Besides teaching material from the textbook, my teacher further expands our knowledge with outside material – and sometimes, even organises fun activities to improve our understanding. 

My Thang Long school is like that. Everyone is easy-going. All the teachers are dedicated to teaching us – and in turn, all the students are respectful and listen attentively to the teachers. Whether it be face-to-face or online learning, I still enjoy it because I like Thang Long school. I hope I can achieve something life-changing in the future, and that disadvantaged students have the opportunity to go to school.

“THE COMPUTER CLASS HELPS ME OVERCOME THE FEAR OF FALLING BEHIND ON RECENT TECHNOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENTS” – MY LINH

As a student that grew up in unfortunate conditions, I assumed I could no longer pursue higher education. Fortunately, with the help of the Saigonchildren organization, I was able to further my studies. At the beginning of my junior year, I received the help of Ms. Phuong, who connected me with various organizations and sponsors, and introduced me to a free Computer class at Thang Long, a distinguished school where many teenagers put their faith and trust in. I am currently 4 weeks into a course about understanding online formats. I have not been in the class for long, but I feel excited about every lesson I attend, and I believe my classmates would say the same.  

There is a saying that goes “Every family has their own circumstances” – It really is true. Due to the prolonged pandemic situation, my parents have been unemployed for nearly 5 months, and we were struggling with our family finances. With the support package, Saigonchildren’s generosity has lessened our financial burden and addressed our concern for food. Despite the hardships, I am also very grateful to have a small device for online learning.

When I received the enrollment notice from Thang Long school, I contacted Ms. Phung, who was extremely helpful in allowing me to contact the course instructor. I was ecstatic after hearing the news from Ms. Phung that I would be able to be a part of this Computer class. In my first online lesson, I felt great anticipation but also nervousness. The image of Mr. Thinh—the dedicated instructor leading us through each lesson—would remain in our minds as a beautiful memory. After each lesson, he spent time answering our questions. I hope after the pandemic is over, I will be able to visit the school and meet everyone. 

The knowledge coming from these lessons has also proven to be very useful, which would hopefully aid me in my future endeavors. Furthermore, we were able to participate in the school’s training courses and work on improving our interpersonal skills. I am very thankful for all these opportunities. Therefore, I will dedicate all the skills and knowledge I acquired during my time in this course to apply it to my future careers as I move into the real world. My goals for the next few months would be to pass my MOS skills exam, which is part of my process of acquiring more knowledge and pursuing my dreams.

This Computer class has allowed me to be more confident in my abilities, specifically in overcoming the fear of falling behind on recent technological developments. I would like to express to deepest gratitude to my teacher, Mr. Thinh. Hopefully, the pandemic will be over soon for me to physically attend school at Thang Long. As I put great effort into learning, I hope one day I will be able to reap the fruits of my labor and meet the expectations of everyone that has put trust in me and allowed me to attend this Computer class free of charge. I hope for Thang Long school to be more successful in the future and hopefully continue to help disadvantaged youths like myself pursue their dreams. I wish for everyone from the school, as well as people from the Saigonchildren organization, to stay healthy and safe to overcome this deadly pandemic. Thank you!

ART CLASS’ TRIP TO THE ZOO

On November 28, 2020, the last trip of the year of Thang Long school’s art class was held at the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens. Unlike other years when children of the art class often left the busy city to the sea sights or the mountains to produce more creative pictures. This year, the students were taken to The Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens by their art teacher to have firsthand experience the most authentic pictures of animals that are very familiar in life but can only see them through photos and books.

All 21 students and the 3 teachers in charge were having a wonderful time here.

Most of the children in the painting class are in Primary and Secondary, so they are all very innocent kids. When they came to the elephant cage to draw the first picture, the children rushed to see the elephants and spend some time study the elephant here, smiling and talking playfully. The innocent drawings of the actual elephant through the child’s gazes are pretty unique and each painting has its way of innocent and lovely features.

    

    

For the next topic, they were required to draw giraffes. Seeing tall giraffes for the first time, all of them were raising their eyebrows in surprised. They quickly settled in front of the wooden bars, drawing and chatting with each other very excitedly.

    

After lunch, the children are free to visit any animal that they want around the centre of the zoo, where there are animal cages close to each other. The children go in groups and have a teacher in charge to watch over them. This is the time for them to go sightseeing and draw freely. After the teacher’s order to disband, some of them rushed to the tiger’s cage. 1 student pulled the teacher’s hand and lead to crocodile cage, some like to see the bears, some like to see the deers, children were running everywhere.

    

    

The sun gradually rises to the top, but the atmosphere inside the zoo is still very cool and fresh thanks to many trees around. Students had finished drawing. The teachers guided the class touring to the remaining areas and then out to the gate. Meanwhile, other teachers booked tickets to the History Museum and watched the water puppet show as a reward for the students for all of their hard work in paintings. The children were very excited. When they were going to the museum, they were very focused on the museum interpreter’s explanation about the meaning of each antiquity. Then the part that all of us are waiting has come, the water puppet show. This is a form of folk art that is slowly disappearing in the modern age. For the children, watching water puppet show is a very new and interesting experience They cried out in surprise every time puppet characters appeared behind the white smoke or each time the puppets splashed water on their rows of chairs.

    

   

At the end of the trip, all of the students had an interesting and realistic painting experience. Everyone is tired, but they are all happily looking at these lovely animal pictures they have drawn. They also have a chance to learn more about the ancient Vietnamese history and last but not least, experiencing and amazing water puppet show.

The purpose of this trip is to give students a real-life painting inspiration as well as a present rewarding them for a year of good dedication to study. With the love for children, we would like to ensure that every kid in Vietnam has access to the best quality education, so they can develop themselves intellectually and spiritually. No matter where they born or how difficult their family circumstances are, every child entering Thang Long school receives the love and the best quality education from the teachers and staffs of Saigon Children’s Charity

 

A TRIP TO REMEMBER – THANG LONG STUDENTS GOING TO THIEN BINH SHELTER

On 1st November, 2020, students of Thang Long school visited Thien Binh shelter in Dong Nai province. Visting different shelters is an activity that Thang Long school organises annually for its students, so that they can see from the perspectives of those who are even less fortunate than them, to appreciate what they have and learn the lesson of giving. This year, the students did not just visit the shelter, they took a pro-active approach to organise a funfair for all the residents. Below is the reflection of a student after the trip.

‘Happiness is a wonderful thing. But you only get it when you share it with someone else. ” And for me, happiness is what I received after a volunteer trip to Thien Binh Shelter – Dong Nai.

After I heard about the event, I was pretty excited and decided to register to join. Thang Long school has planned to set up a fair there in other for everyone to have fun, exchange and give gifts, so I decided to buy some candies to bring to Thien Binh Shelter, everything is well-prepared, ready for this meaningful trip.

6 a.m. on 1st November, 2020, two buses carrying me and 73 other students of Thang Long School and the teachers departed to Thien Binh Shelter – Long Thanh – Dong Nai. My first impression of this place is the peaceful atmosphere with towering bamboo rows forming a large gate leading to the children’s living and learning area.

We divided into groups and started with the first activity to clear the weeds that grew from the backyard. The tools have been prepared, the volunteers enthusiastically embarked on the assigned works. Some picked up the tall grasses with hoes to make the soil looser so the roots go deeper into the ground. Some used rakes to rake the grass above. And some used a knifes to cut all the grass in the garden. After nearly two hours of hard work, we finally completed our first task well. No more grass, only vegetables and fruit trees remaining.

The fair would be held in the afternoon. The groups started brainstorming ideas to decorate the area where the fair was held and setting up game stations. There are 8 game stations so children can come and have some fun. There is also a special music exchange station, where members from both sides can come and sing some songs.

After the stations were well- organised, we were led by Thien Binh Orphanate’s volunteers to visit the elders’ area and the children’s areas. Seeing the smiles and happiness on their faces makes me feel very emotional. In the small kitchen, the nuns are helping to prepare soup, meat and vermicelli for the elders. I also took part in preparing food. Talking with the nuns, I learned that many elderly people have been here for more than 10 years.

“Today we welcome some sponsors comes and bring us some delicious food, so let’s enjoy it,” A nun said to the elders. She also told us that there has been a long time since the last sponsor visit, so everyone here is so happy about our present. They went to the kitchen by themselves to receive food and brought it back to their room. I remembered there was an old lady, though her hands were weak and shaky, she still wanted to bring food back to the room by herself, after a while of convincing, she let me brought the hot soup back to her room. I stepped into her small room, put the soup on the table and looked around the room, I saw the shell of the wrapped of the instance rice noodles, has not yet been thrown away to the bin.

I thought to myself that, at the age of this old lady, she might instead living in the love and cared from her family, but she could not. Each eldẻ has their circumstance, they meet each other and become a great family, loving and accompanying with each other for the rest of their lives.

Leaving the room, I continued my journey to the living area for the children. Suddenly, I saw a third-grader and a sixth-grader were dividing the work of drying clothes. The two brothers coordinated very well, even several buckets of full clothes were dried neatly on the pole. Chatting with both of them for a while, then I have to continue my trip, so I said goodbye to them and gave them some of the candies.

      

     

     

I walked into the big room with the babies crying for a nap. The babies were receiving the nuns’ care. At Thien Binh Shelter, the nuns play the role of both fathers and mothers, lovingly raising these disadvantaged children.

Then the afternoon came and the fair has been started, the children were very eager to play games and receive gifts. Maybe because it has been a long time since the last time that they had a fun time like this. We were talking and having fun together. Seeing the radiant joy on the children’s faces made me feel very emotional.

We ended the trip with the group photo session. Surely everyone had a good time together. We said goodbye to the nuns, to all the elders, to the friends and the babies. After those greetings, wishes were sent. we got on buses and returned to Saigon. I hope that one day I can come back to this place to visit all those disadvantaged but lovely people.

A voluntary trip left a lot of mixed feelings in me. I felt that I am still very lucky because I still had loved ones, I felt more empathise with vulnerable people and I thought that I need to open up my heart more to help these people have better lives.

Thank you Thang Long School and Saigon Children’s Charity for organizing such a meaningful trip. I hope that I could be able to take part in the next wonderful voluntary trips like this.

A WEEKEND LEARNING ABOUT EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION

Developing soft skills for disadvantaged children and youth is one of the purposes of saigonchildren’s programmes, in addition to improving their access to academic education. At saigonchildren’s Thang Long school, as well as English classes and training courses, soft skills workshops are built to meet the needs of each developmental stage of the children.

Last Sunday, 15th November, 162 students from the English classes of Thang Long English and Vocational School enjoyed a day trip to Giang Dien Waterfall Eco Resort to practise their skills in presentation and giving feedback.

Ms. Nguyet, who is in charge of Thang Long school’s soft skills workshops, explained that this is an annual event for the school’s students. Yet this is the first time the event has attracted such a large number of participants, almost doubling previous years’. The event was supported by A Better World, a centre promoting soft skills and life values. 13 volunteers from A Better World came together with 13 staff and teachers at Thang Long to facilitate this event.

The 180 students were divided into 16 teams to compete in a range of challenges. All the challenges were designed to strengthen verbal and non-verbal communication skills. The students were excited by first game, drawing saigonchildren’s logo while blindfolded. However, because it was the very first challenge, they did not yet have experience in presenting and giving feedback, meaning all the students were trying to instruct their teammates simultaneously. This exercise allowed them to realise the importance of proper communication, and how to give instructions in the most concise way.

Ms. The Doan, the event’s facilitator, said, “I have been doing activities like this for students of Thang Long school for quite a while. For these students, their advantage is they have been together for years. I see students who I first met five or six years ago as little kids, and now they are already in high school. However, the closeness can also be their weakness. They may not cooperate as a team but just leave all the work to the ones who they think are best to do, or have already formed groups and only hang out in their groups. Therefore, when I divide them into teams I always try to mix up the groups and separate the ones who are always together.”

Besides competing in teams, there were other activities to develop a range of soft skills. This included challenges where the students played different roles in the communication process, either as the provider or receiver of information. There were also physical games to subtly teach communication skills such as throwing balls over a curtain. In this game the ball thrower was the provider of information, and was unaware who the receiver hidden behind the curtain was, meaning the receiver had to be flexible to extract information and only take balls of the right colours. At the same time the receiver was required to give feedback to the thrower on how and when to throw the balls.

Hoang Yen is a Grade 7 student who is studying B2 English at Thang Long school. In the morning she was shy and reluctant to interact with other students in the team, but by the afternoon she was participating in all the games. “This is the first time I get to join this activity. Although it’s tiring, I’m very excited to get to know many other students. I really like the “Mystery box” station, where we have to pick an object and describe it to our teammates. Through the activities today, I have learned how to trust and communicate with other teammates, and hopefully can apply these communications skills in life.”

Hoàng Yến, on the far right, with her friends

At the end of the event, all the students sat together to review what they have learnt through watching videos of themselves playing the games. Mr. Huy from A Better World spoke on how to communicate effectively, as well as sharing valuable stories from his own life experience. The students did not just learn about presentation and giving feedback skills, they learnt the most important lesson in communication that is to respect and to be kind to other people.

ENGLISH FUN DAY 2020 – LET’S TALK ABOUT HEALTH

Every year, our students of Thang Long school will join an “English Fun Day” where they play games and compete in teams to win prizes, all in English. This year, to underline what is going on in the world, the topic is health.

Through the four games, the students got to learn about the common illnesses, what food is good for their health, and work in teams to create their own dances to promote healthy habits.

Many of these students look so confident and are so well-spoken that you wouldn’t think they come from a disadvantaged background. In fact, they are all from low-income families around Ho Chi Minh city. But with years of learning English at Thang Long school and many opportunities to interact with native speaker volunteers, and of course a lot of their own effort, many of them now can communicate confidently in English with very good pronunciation.

At the end of the event, each student received a neck pillow and a reusable straw cup, sponsored by our partner Lock&Lock.

A letter to Thang Long school’s IT class

Nhung was a long-term beneficiary of saigonchildren’s scholarship programme. She graduated from university in 2019, and was an incredibly hard-working student at school. Now, her drive continues to pushes her to seek opportunities for personal development, in order to create future opportunities for herself within her career. After learning about the free Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) class at our Thang Long school (Getting Ready for Work Programme), Nhung applied, and on successful completion became the highest scoring student with 750 points for MOS Excel, 871 points for MOS Word, and 979/1000 points for MOS PowerPoint.

Dear teachers and sponsors of Thang Long school,

Firstly I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude and send my best wishes to you.

My name is Hàng Ngọc Phượng Nhung, and I was the fortunate receiver of saigonchildren’s scholarship through my school career. When I first heard about Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) course, and the full support that could be offered to me, I was inspired by the opportunity. Fully aware of how beneficial the course would be not only for my academics but also for future job prospects, I immediately applied at Thang Long school. I still remember how nervous I was at the office, but the lady who supervised me with my application was incredibly helpful, she asked me about my situation and gave me words of encouragement. It was a warming first impression.

Living in Thu Duc district, which is far from Thang Long school, coupled with my own health issues, meant accessing Thang Long for my classes was a challenge. However, on realising this, the staff supported me in creating a schedule that allowed me to thrive. That was my only difficulty, and it was overcome thanks to Thang Long’s impeccable support system. The course was straightforward and effective. The teacher was patient, and answered all of my questions, even giving me some IT tips for everyday use. At this point, I was already integrating what I learnt into my academic work and making good impressions on the teachers at my university.

However, midway into the course, I had an internship and the staff were kind enough to let me take a brief hiatus while I completed my internship. At the moment I can say that 50% of the goals I set for my experience of this course have been fulfilled, as I can apply the knowledge in my work. And the remaining 50% is the advantage this international certificate will bring when I apply for a job. I think this support, offered by saigonchildren is highly practical, as an IT certificate is always valued within the office environment. For a student like me, coming from a disadvantaged background, this will help me to close an inequality gap, gaining a competitive advantage in order to secure a better future for myself. Additionally, as university students, having a certification in Microsoft Office IT is a requirement for us to graduate. For people like me, obtaining all the three MOS certificates is not very financially viable, therefore many students bypass this issue this by undertaking a less valuable course from a traditional IT centre. With this in mind, I am blessed and incredibly grateful to have been offered this course, and supported with 100% of the examination fee.

After my internship, I completed the course and passed the three exams: 750/1000 points for MOS Excel, 871 for MOS Word, và 979 for MOS PowerPoint. I’m so thankful that all the effort from everyone who has contributed to my education has been worth it.

These days, Saigon reminds me of when I was still taking the course, as even on a rainy day, my teacher was already there waiting for me. That perseverance and reliability was a big motivator for me to study hard, in order to thank my teacher with my good results. Now with these certificates, I’m ready to conquer my future, eagerly awaiting what it has in store for me.

ONLINE ENGLISH CLASS

As the pandemic’s development is getting more and more complicated every day, Thang Long school’s English teachers have taken on the challenge to continue providing English lessons to impoverished kids by moving their classrooms online. E-learning is not easy, especially when the students come from low-income families with limited access to suitable devices and good Internet connection, but we will try our best to make sure our students get to practice English often even when schools are still closed.

 

Teachers’ training

 

Online teaching

THANG LONG SCHOOL CELEBRATES ANOTHER SUCCESSFUL YEAR

On December 15 2019, Thang Long school, saigonchildren’s charity school for IT, English, and vocational training, held a summary event to wrap up its activities in 2019.

Participating in the event were the Headteacher – Ms. Phan Thanh Thuy Hang, saigonchildren’s E.D. – Mr. Damien Roberts – who also serves as a member of the board at Thang Long school, saigonchildren’s Head of Programmes – Ms. Nguyen Thi Duy Huong, 65 students, 50 parents, as well as volunteers and other guests.

The event started with a dance performed by students of the Dance Class – an extracurricular class held on the weekend at Thang Long school. The Headteacher, Ms. Phan Thanh Thuy Hang, then gave a speech about the activities and achievements of the school in 2019, including a trip to Tin Thac shelter for abandoned children in Lam Dong. According to her, 2019 was a successful year for the whole school when not only the quality of teaching was improved but also more extracurricular activities for students were added. In 2020, Thang Long school aims to further improve its services to be able to provide better training classes to even more disadvantaged children and young adults.

The event also recognised 65 students with excellent academic results in 2019. Despite of their underprivileged backgrounds, they still realised the value of education and worked hard to acquire the knowledge that will be able to help them secure stable jobs. In his speech, Mr. Damien Roberts thanked the teachers and parents for their effort in supporting the students in their journey of education. He hoped that all of the students find the knowledge and skills they had learned here valuable after their graduation.

SHARING WITH THE LESS FORTUNATE – A TRIP TO REMEMBER FOR THANG LONG STUDENTS

Written by Ms. Huynh Thi Kim Loan – staff of Getting Ready for Work programme.

As a social worker, this is not my first time going to the field, but it is probably a trip that leaves me with the most impressive and meaningful memories. It is meaningful because I had a chance to witness the heart-warming care of disadvantaged children to those who are even less fortunate than them. That is a small child carrying a bag of toys that he had collected from his friends in the neighbourhood, or a child saving up allowance money to buy two beautiful stuff animals to give others, as well as carefully-selected gifts from teachers at Thang Long school. Yes, that is from the field trip to Tin Thac shelter for abandoned children of 42 students and teachers of Thang Long school from 29th November to 1st December 2019.

Not only visiting children of the shelter, in this trip, Thang Long students also helped the shelter with picking coffee beans even after a tiring 200km-trip from Saigon to Lam Dong. The love for the children at Tin Thac shelter helped our students able to pick 1.6 tons of coffee beans. Never have I witness our students worked so hard. Observing the conversations, the heand-holding, the good-bye waving, and even the tears of our students, I knew that it’s not just tears of farewell, but also tears of shared encouragement between our students and the shelter children.

On the way back to Saigon, I overheard the students talking about how they liked this trip. They saw how meaningful this experience is to them, making them understand the value of love and labour. I hope that all the lessons from this trip will remain with them along with the beautiful friendships that they had made with children from Tin Thac.