Dear friends of Mai Nha,
2022 has been overall a solid year for Mai Nha despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic during the first four months of the year on the back of the very challenging previous two years again due to COVID-19.
Mai Nha Family Homes
For the first time since our last visit in February 2020, Pauline and I were able to travel to Vietnam where we spent our time at Mai Nha. Although our expectations of the local status and momentum were high regarding the 16 children and the local team given our frequent, almost daily, remote communication, the reality was well beyond our “wildest dreams”.
What we witnessed was not only impressive but also extremely moving.
Without exception, all 16 children are interacting as a close family, so happy to be together as brothers and sisters, surrounded by a loving, dedicated team eager to provide what’s best for each of the children individually.
Given their age, (Tuyen, 14 years old, and the other fifteen children between 8 and 11 years old) and having grown up together for most of them from the day they were born, the current situation convinces all local stakeholders, including the department of Social Affairs of Binh Thuan province, that Mai Nha’s mission and related charter are being accomplished in a rather optimal way.
Also, during one-on-one interactions with the eldest children, they all made Pauline and I realize that they consider us as “passengers of their family car” and not just as enablers ensuring “their family car” is getting enough “fuel” in terms of funding, infrastructures and other local practical support.
The direct consequence of this is that our commitment to and our involvement with the 16 children’s well-being won’t cease at any point in time in the same way as parents do.
As far as schooling is concerned, despite the frequent lockdowns and related school closures, the children were able to keep up with the expected academic levels at their respective ages. The frequent home-work support at Mai Nha from a dedicated tutor, has been instrumental in making this happen. And we are also extremely pleased with the progress the children are making in speaking English thanks to their weekly English courses at Mai Nha. Most of them, if not all, love to learn English!
The child psychology and psychiatry team, comprised of four highly experienced and motivated professionals, based in Saigon, continue to be involved with the children. Given their continuous interaction with the children since many years, they know each of them extremely well and their long-term commitment to them is flawless.
We feel very fortunate to have these dedicated professionals by our side as the children are growing up and getting into their teenage years in the not-too-distant future.
As always, frequent communication took place with Mrs. Han, our local supervisor, to ensure optimal support to the local team. Han, 33 years old, has also expressed her long-term motivation and commitment to the children which contributes directly to the confidence and balance of each of them as they know that all “passengers of their family car” are here to stay for their well-being.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that because of COVID-19, significant maintenance work could not take place for over two years especially regarding the paint work which, in a tropical climate, is of paramount importance.
Over the next 2 months, all required painting will happen (inside and outside) and we are very pleased the painting material has been donated by a large Vietnamese construction company convinced Mai Nha is fulfilling its mission in a remarkable way and eager to make the Mai Nha homes look perfectly clean thus sending a clear message to the children and staff that we are committed to providing them with simple but nice and cheerful looking homes to live in.
Mai Nha’s Scholarships
This year, Mai Nha has decided to grant scholarships to 64 students including 21 high school and 14 university students.
The selection process has been optimized to ensure each student qualifies for Mai Nha’s financial support. The cooperation with the local authorities in this process has been excellent. They consider Mai Nha’s scholarship program, started 11 years ago, as extremely positive as it contributes in a tangible way to the optimization of the schooling of each of the children of Thien Nghiep regardless of the financial challenges of their parents.
Given the rapidly increasing number of university scholarship students in Saigon, Mai Nha will launch in 2023 the one-on-one mentoring program for each of the students. More specifically, a senior Vietnamese professional working in a business environment often as part of the senior management team, will play a coaching role over time in a very pragmatic way mostly related to practical day-to day challenges the student faces living in a huge city and coming from a remote, rural village.
We are very pleased with the progress made with several companies which, most of the time, are also financial sponsors of Mai Nha.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the thorough selection process coupled with the mentoring program provide once again evidence that Mai Nha does implement in a very controlled and pragmatic way our scholarship program including the optimization of the use of funds donated by our loyal sponsors.
Taking stock mid 2022 regarding this ambitious project initiated three years ago, we have come to the conclusion that the project did suffer a lot from the long lasting COVID-19 constraints:
- We were unable to implement the pilot phase as planned as in-person teaching was impossible during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The project leaders, based in Saigon, were not able to travel to Phan Thiet to interact locally with the key staff members and take corrective actions where required.
- Our local program manager / teacher was not able to do her hands-on job as planned for a long period of time resulting in her resignation early 2022. It was a real challenge recruiting her.
Mai Nha New School Project
Finally, our preliminary field research has revealed significant uncertainties regarding the true motivation of the program candidates to sign up for a multi annual commitment to attend the English courses outside normal school hours.
As a result of the above, Mai Nha Education’s senior management decided to stall the project for an unlimited period of time. Needless to say this decision has been a disappointment to all involved as lots of time and energy but thankfully limited financial investments have been put behind this project.
We are currently reviewing other options to support the underprivileged students of Thien Nghiep. One initiative we are considering is the launch of a tutoring program aimed at high school graduates who don’t attend university but who need hands on practical support to engage in job orientation and professional training (including English speaking courses) in order to enroll in meaningful professional activities such as the ones in the hospitality sector which exists on a large scale in nearby Mui Ne.
I am very pleased that Mai Nha’s initiatives continue to generate extremely positive results on an overall basis. Like any humanitarian “journey” engaging in innovative, long-term initiatives, we do face alternatively head- and tail winds but on an overall basis, Mai Nha is delivering against its mission and objectives thanks to the relentless commitment and dedication of all involved.
- The children and staff at the Mai Nha homes are thriving as a family thus confirming that Mai Nha’s innovative “concept” is worth pursuing not only in Thien Nghiep but potentially also elsewhere in Vietnam by replicating the key success factors / foundations of our concept: 100% Vietnamese resources locally, high quality in everything we do, long term involvement and commitment of all stakeholders, tight financial management, integrity and transparency.
- The scholarship program continues to make solid progress thus enabling over time hundreds of children to reach their full potential.
- Mai Nha’s programs and accomplishments over the past 11 years are providing clear evidence that a “holistic approach” towards the underprivileged children of Thien Nghiep, i.e, providing support in a pragmatic, structured way to all children in need whatever their needs are, is highly effective and does create significant goodwill amongst the local population and local authorities. We believe this “holistic approach” concept is also replicable elsewhere in Vietnam.
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 operate every day.
We very much thank you and wish you a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year.