She has a very unique project that gives us perspective into another culture. Here’s how it went:
What is your project name?
What is your background and how long have you been involved with this project?
We adopted our son, Nam, from Vietnam in 2008. Upon visiting Vietnam, we were instantly taken by the beauty of the culture and the people, at the same time as being heartbroken at the state of poverty, and the amount of children abandoned to “the system” because their parents could not afford to feed and educate them. We built our first kindergarten there, in Danang in 2011.
The Clara and Nam Kindergarten serves 180 children every day, for free. Realizing that the school needed a jungle gym and other supplies, when our son was turning 9, we asked if he would be willing to give up the presents his friends would give him (nerf guns , slime and the like) in lieu of donations to make the kindergarten better.
He thought that was a great idea, so we had our first FUNdraiser Birthday Party.
Our community support was extremely generous and we raised enough money for the jungle gym and to build a 2nd kindergarten. “But Mom, where do they go for first grade?” My now third grader asked. Not knowing the answer, I turned to Nancy Letteri of The Children Of Vietnam Organization.
“There is a tribal village I the mountains. They are ignored by the government and the kids don’t have a school… ” and so our quest began…
That summer, we took our son to visit his birth country for the first time since adopting him. We went to the orphanage to visit the nannies who cared for him during his first year of life.
We visited the Clara and Nam kindergarten in DaNang, met the children and played on the jungle gym. We brought back packs and supplies with us. Played with the children and got to see the look on our son’s face when he saw the jungle gym he provided. It was being climbed and played on.
We then journeyed 5 hours on dirt roads up into the mountains of Quang nam Province and met the beautiful children of the C’Tu Tribe. Upon seeing the corrugated cattle shed-like building, no floors, windows doors or running water, that was their school, my son turned to me and said
“Mom, we have to do better for them than this”… and so began our journey to build a school for kids half way around the world.
Where is this project located?
About 5 hours north of DaNang, up in the mountainous jungle of Quang Nam Province, Vietnam.
Can you give the audience a little more insight into this project and what exactly you are trying to accomplish?
We are building a primary school (grades 1-5) for the children of the C’Tu Tribe (approximately 350 kids). The school will be a stucco building with electricity, windows doors, running water, interior bathrooms, a food prep kitchen, a computer lab, art classroom and 7 classrooms and teachers’ offices.
How did this idea come about?
Our son was in third grade when this idea began. Being conscious of graduating to the next grade level, he wanted the kids in Vietnam to have a grade to graduate to as well.
How did you organize your team?
Our team initially consisted of my son (now ten years old) and I, but has since inspired other children and their parents to join the cause. People of all ages have donated their birthday presents in lieu of FUNdraising parties. One school friend, Ella Del Perro, and her family own a successful sandwich restaurant chain called Mendocino Farms.
For the summer menu, they did something extraordinary- they created the “Nam’s Charity Chicken Banh Mi” and donated $.25/sandwich sold to our cause. They sold nearly 30,000 sandwiches!
On the Vietnam side, we are working with a small American-based non profit called The Children Of Vietnam Organization. (www.childrenofvietnam.org/meandyou4ctu) – Founder Ben Wilson and Nancy Letteri have been doing spectacular work in Vietnam for over 20 years. They are totally inspiring and never give up on making life better for those in need.
What were some of your concerns about starting this project?
Our full budget raise is $75,000 USD. I had personally never raised that much money before. I was concerned that people would not be inspired to help children on the other side of the planet, when children in our own country need help too.
Its wonderful to see the difference you can make with just a little bit of help.
What I didn’t realize is that people often want to help make the world better, but don’t know how, or with whom to do so. Having a small organization allows donors to have an intimate connection to the good work they are doing is priceless.
Its a tangible effort. It’s real. It’s not a small drop of water in a giant sea (like with large NGO’s and charitable groups,) but the immediate evidence of benefit is extremely gratifying to people.
What is your favorite aspect of this project?
My favorite aspect about this project is that children are inspiring children to become Global Citizens. Third, fourth and fifth graders, who live privileged lives in America, where they can get an amazing education, are giving up the extra “stuff” that comes with birthdays, to think outside of themselves and help children on the other side of the planet.
Inspiring and nurturing that connection is an incredible bonus. Compounded with the joy and opportunity we will add to lives of the C’Tu children who will attend this school, it is good for everyone involved.
Do you have any advice to give people with new ideas as to how to bring their ideas to fruition?
If anyone had ever asked me, ten years ago, that I would be building schools in Vietnam, I would have laughed at the lunacy. But here we are.
I think the best advise to get an idea moving is to just get going: Make a call. Ask a question. Speak to friends about it. Where energy is spent, actions happen. One step in front of the other, one day at a time. Life leads you and the doors that are meant to open, do.
What are the top 3 skills you believe are needed to be successful?
What is your favorite quote?
“Every human is an artist. The dream of your life is to make beautiful art.” Don Miguel Ruiz
What was the best advice/wisdom you were ever given?
Whatever you are, be a good one!
How has this project affected your life overall?
Inspiring people to reach farther and wider is a tremendous feeling. Teaching my son this, and watching him inspire others to do the same, is makes me a profoundly happy mom.
What is one of your favorite books that inspired you the most?
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
Has this project impacted your family in any way?
This projected has impacted my family and our community profoundly. So many children are involved now and they are looking forward to going to Vietnam and cutting the ribbon on the school they are building.
Kids- boy and girls , 11 years old- pulling their heads out of video games, sports and the “selfie generation” to help others. Its amazing!
This is a really unique project, do want to add anything else?
If anyone would like to get involved with our efforts, donate their birthday presents, get their kids involved, anything… I would be happy to help organize and help you along.
If not with this project, do it with another.
Showing our children how to be activists, empowering them to be global citizens, is a great gift to them and to the world.
Or if you are inspired to donate, or do a promotion with your company, I would be happy to help there as well. You can see the viral video I directed for Mendocino Farms on their website: www.mendocinofarms.com/nam
What are your thoughts on the interview? Let us know with a comment below!
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