In May, Nic and his girlfriend Christina travelled to visit two rural elementary schools in the Tien Giang Province of Vietnam, both of which had recently begun working with Room To Read to embrace their proven-successful library program. In 2017, Raven Supply and its generous partners raised $20,000 to fund the refurbishment of two libraries for Vietnamese schoolchildren who are often held back from obtaining secondary and post-secondary education due to socioeconomic hurdles.
Nic and Christina were guided by three of Room To Read’s Vietnamese regional representatives: Chau, Lin, and Trang. During the journey into the Mekong Delta, the three women shared how Room To Read’s efforts are tailored to help resolve the educational issues that are specific to the country of Vietnam. They learned that while the government usually provides adequate infrastructure and access to primary school for all children, many areas still lack important teaching resources such as books and librarian training.
Before the new Room To Read libraries were opened, the old libraries were mostly empty, decrepit, and locked shut to prevent students from freely accessing the books. Naturally, this left many students uninterested in exploring the world outside their doorstep, which has been correlated with a lack of interest in pursuing further education beyond primary school. By providing freely accessible libraries with an abundance of attractive books for students to borrow, Room To Read’s model has proven to be successful in encouraging students to continue their education and pursue careers in a diverse range of professions that are essential to the socioeconomic development of an independent nation that is still recovering from the devastation of war and impacts of foreign dominance throughout history.
Upon arrival at both the Phu Dong and Long Hoa primary schools, the group received a very warm welcome from the principals, librarians, government representatives, and administrative staff. With the help of Chau’s excellent translation skills, Nic was able to explain Raven Supply’s unique approach to successfully raising funds for Room To Read through its vendor partnerships and customer donations. Conversely, the staff shared glowing stories about how Room To Read’s library program is making such a positive impression on their students, after only 1-2 years since being introduced. The government representatives showed strong commitment to continuing their support for Room To Read, noting the organization’s strong leadership and accountability as being instrumental to their success.
Following the meetings with staff, Nic and Christina visited the libraries to observe and interact with the students during a reading period. Being from such a rural area, the children could not contain their excitement and curiosity at the sight of two foreigners. During a Q&A session, the children had a never-ending stream of questions about life in Canada, especially on the topic of polar bears. By the end of the visit, Nic and Christina were swarmed by hundreds of bright-eyed smiling children!
Eventually, the children reluctantly said goodbye. Nic and Christina then travelled to explore the natural and cultural wonders of Vietnam before returning home to Vancouver. Surely, it was a humbling experience that will never be forgotten!