Volunteers sometimes ask me why we don’t make more of an effort to teach English to poor kids. It is a question that sometimes makes them wonder whether they should volunteer with us or not.
I agree that we do not attempt to teach English to the worst-off kids. The reason for this is that here at Teach for Change we are attempting to narrow the gap between city kids and those from the countryside. Our goal is to play a part in improving and expanding English language education and thereby plant the seeds of linguistic and cultural understanding that will set students on a path for success in international business and diplomacy.
We provide the opportunity (and believe me, most of the time it is the only opportunity available to them) for children in the towns/cities to learn English and experience cultural exchanges with foreigners, whom they would never encounter otherwise. We charge the children the lowest possible fee, to ensure that they can afford to pay, and take advantage of the program. Whatever profit we make, it depends on the school, is used to fund the “Empowerment Plan” to support disenfranchised women. But yes, it is true that we do not teach English to the poorest of the poor children.
And the question remains: why?
So let me attempt to answer two questions; why did you learn English, and how did English help you in your life?
In my case English changed the course of my life. I graduated from university with a lower score than my best friend there. However I was earning three times her salary just because I could speak English. (We had studied tourism by the way).
I got the chance to travel overseas, continue my education, make great connections and find support around the world, and finally to set up my own organization and help many women throughout Vietnam, all thanks to my hard work learning English at university. I have led such an inspiring life as a result!
And yes, I too was a poor kid growing up in rural Vietnam who did not speak any English before the 3rd year at university. My parents, despite the fact they had little money to spare, made huge financial efforts to ensure that I could finish my four year degree.
What would have happened had they not been able to help me financially you may ask? Surely English would still have enabled you to find a job as a hotel receptionist or a waitress? Yes, of course, you’re right! But let me ask you what restaurant or hotel in my town caters to English speaking tourists? The answer is not a single one! So I would have had to move to a city or find a tourist resort to work in and consequently face the innumerable difficulties awaiting a poor migrant in big cities, even if I did speak English.
It is true that English enables me to communicate with people around the world when I travel. It also facilitated my access to higher education abroad. But think for a minute about the little girl in Sapa who followed you as soon as you alighted from the bus, who tried desperately to get you to buy some souvenirs imported from China, and available not only here in Vietnam, but also in neighboring countries. Will the fact she speaks English allow her to study abroad, perhaps even in your country? You know as well as I do that the answer is no!
Let us imagine that to be successful in life, we need to climb the five rungs of a ladder: the first three are basic education, followed by vocational training, or even, in some instances, university. The fourth rung should be English and the last one is the effort you put into learning and improving yourself constantly. Without the first three, English, and the chance to exchange with foreigners would simply be a hollow dream that cannot come true.
So now let me ask you, are you willing to come and spend some time with us, providing help and becoming a beautiful image in the minds and hearts of these children we have chosen to help, an experience they will never forget even when times are tough. Your support will enable us to improve the lives of some of these children.
But I can almost hear you wondering what we do to help those really poor kids?
We provide their mothers with vocational training and job placements so that they can help their children to go to school (because there are still kids here in Vietnam too poor to attend school), and get at least a basic education. Their family has often abandoned these women, and our organization teaches them the parenting skills they lack so that they become confident enough to raise their children. As long as the mothers have a job, and the commitment to bring their children to our ENGLISH LEARNING CENTER(S), then we award them scholarships so that they can learn English. For those who can’t or do not have the motivation, we strive to encourage them to live as best they can and award their children grants to undertake vocational training and enjoy a better life.
Yes of course in an ideal world we would have equal opportunities for all, but we do not live in an ideal world and we have to accept that this is an impossible dream. So be proud of whatever it is you can do to help us make some child’s life better!
Note : Please read experience shared by an orphan kid click here