Dear friends of Mai Nha,
2020 has been a rather special year for Mai Nha due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are very fortunate that neither the children nor our team members have been affected by the virus In all areas we have been able to make solid progress and most importantly protect the children and staff working at Mai Nha by taking proactively various actions in the area of hygiene and safety.
The 16 children growing up at the Mai Nha Family Homes continue to be doing very well. From the eldest child, Tuyen, 14 years old, down to the youngest Duong, 5 years old, all are growing up in rather optimal conditions surrounded by a highly competent, committed and loving local staff as well as highly dedicated support resources such as the Saigon-based child psychologists and the Phan Thiet-based pediatrician.
As far as activities are concerned, the lockdown decided by the Vietnamese government from February through May, which meant the schools were closed during that period, did impact the level and variety of activities for the children. As they could not attend school nor enjoy activities outside Mai Nha and given the fact “Mrs. Little Lan”, one of the Saigon-based child psychologists, could not travel to Mai Nha in order to engage the children in various activities, the children mostly played with each other at home under the active guidance from the nannies. Also, the weekly English courses organized at Mai Nha during each week- end were suspended during that period. Fortunately, since June, school resumed and was extended through July and during the summer holidays, “Mrs. Little Lan” was able to catch up on many activities the children love and the English courses were again part of the children’s activities.
The child psychology and psychiatry team, comprised of four highly experienced and motivated professionals, based in Saigon, continue to be doing an outstanding job focusing on each child individually and taking whatever initiatives needed in order to ensure he/she is getting the attention it needs to grow up in optimal conditions. Every Sunday, Mrs. Hoa, the child psychologist in charge of the team and volunteer, follows and reports on Mai Nha’s major events relating to the children. As senior management of Mai Nha Family Homes, Pauline and I are impressed by the consistent, high quality, caring the children enjoy and most importantly by the sheer happiness and cheerfulness of each of the children. Also, since February 2020, with the support of Mrs. Han, our local supervisor, we talk to each of the 16 children very regularly through FaceTime which not only creates great moments of joy but also allows us to assess how well the children are faring and how fast they are growing up! A real treat to see them and have them understand that, despite the geographical distance, we deeply care for their wellbeing. The school results of all children, despite the lockdown, are overall satisfactory with some of the children having excellent results whilst others are average. None of the children experience structural issues at school. Several children benefit from homework support at Mai Nha during the school year and school holidays from a teacher eager to ensure all children attend school in optimal conditions.
As mentioned above, Mai Nha’s local staff continues to do an outstanding job. Their commitment and caring attitude are impressive. What is also remarkable is the fact that each of the staff members understands and adheres completely to our high-level quality requirements despite the fact they are not necessarily used to them. As an example, when the Covid-19
lockdown started, as Mai Nha management, we decided to implement additional hygiene and security related procedures and best practices which included wearing a mask 100% of the time and refraining from physical contract with the children. Despite these constraints, each of them, without exception, adhered to these new, somewhat unpleasant, rules.
One direct result of their excellent performance has been the assessment by the Department of Social Affairs, our supervisory government agency, which visited Mai Nha unexpectedly to review our procedures and best practices since the outbreak of Covid-19: “We wish all orphanages in the Province of Binh Thuan had the same high level of hygiene and safety as the ones observed at Mai Nha”.
Early February when visiting Mai Nha just before the lockdown, we conducted formal performance review sessions with each of the 14 staff members: Mrs. Han the local supervisor; Mrs. Lan; six daytime nannies; two nighttime nannies; two cleaning staff; our cook and our night security staff.
All, without any exception, expressed once again their profound satisfaction regarding their job, the organization and the way we all work together. Even last September, when we had to take the painful decision to let go one of the six day-time nannies as the support the children need is decreasing as they are growing up, the reaction of all staff members was impressive. Even the nanny being let go fully understood the underlying reasons and expressed her desire to come and visit the children regularly in order to keep in touch and keep the “family ties” created over all these years. Finally, it is worth mentioning that, without exception, the local resources in charge of the 16 children are all Vietnamese so no foreigners operate locally which is in line with our fundamental belief that Mai Nha, on a daily basis, should be a 100% Vietnamese run organization in order to ensure long term, high quality results benefiting all children Mai Nha has decided to support.
Last August, we celebrated the 9th back to school event for the scholarship students. Given the Covid-19 inherent risks, we were not able to celebrate the event at Mai Nha with all students present.
This year, Mai Nha is supporting 80 students versus close to 100 students the previous years which underlines the fact that more and more families in the village of Thien Nghiep are getting out of extreme poverty they experienced so far. This also allows Mai Nha to focus even more on the families who need it most thus making a tangible difference to their children’s future potential. Also, as mentioned in last year’s newsletter, we are extremely pleased to be able to support once again a higher number of University students (14 versus 11 last year) and High School students (27 versus 26). The selection process of each of the students, like every year, has been conducted in close cooperation with the local authorities based on strict selection criteria. It highlights the excellent relationship we have with the local authorities which we believe is of paramount importance for the long-term success of this program. Finally, given the fact that the scholarship costs of a university student are about 8 times the costs of a primary school student, Mai Nha’s financial needs in this critical area have increased a lot.
Mai Nha’s New School Project
The new school project has made solid progress this year.
From an administrative point of view, we have experienced some delays
despite the great support and positive attitude of the local and provincial
authorities. It is a fact that the project is totally new to the authorities (especially the fact it is a foreign initiative) which means that on several
occasions the authorities had to find out in detail how to deal with certain
constraints and obligations defined in various decrees. We expect all relevant authorizations to be received within the next two months.
Once the authorizations have been received, we will be able to start the
“pilot/prototype” phase which will cover a 12 – 18 months period before
we actually start building the new facility. Thanks to the local authorities,
we have been offered the opportunity to use the empty, former post office
building located in the village to operate the pilot phase free of charge.
Needless to say we are extremely pleased by this offer which should allow
us to test the programs and operating best practices before the full -scale
Like previous years, I am very pleased to share with you the fact that Mai Nha has delivered in 2020 on all critical goals and objectives. All 16 children at the family homes are thriving and the local team and organization are delivering results beyond expectations. Their professionalism, long term commitment and sense of ownership make us extremely confident that Mai Nha’s mission, objectives and long-term goals will be met.
And given the fact Mai Nha’s long term goal is the transition of the entire project to the local organization, we are very confident to make it all happen in the not too distant future. The same is true regarding the scholarship students. Many of them have received for the 9th consecutive year our financial support thus allowing them to ultimately reach their optimal potential.
And once again we have been able to experience the solid and committed support from the local authorities who are highly appreciative of everything Mai Nha is contributing to the local community in a pragmatic way. And finally, we, at Mai Nha, keep on realizing that all these achievements would not have been possible without the generous and loyal support from our sponsors who believe in us: in what we want to accomplish and in the way we do reach our objectives year after year. We feel extremely fortunate that, despite the fact the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted some of our sponsors financially, most of them kept their level of support. We very much thank you and wish you a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year.