Disadvantaged children across Ho Chi Minh City have been given something to smile about, thanks to a new partnership between AIS School and Tiny Hearts of Hope (THOH) – a local charity that provides food, clothing and education to children in need.
Last week a group of ten Primary and Secondary students from AIS presented 140 Tet boxes to excited children at Hope Centre orphanage, with another 260 Tet boxes distributed across orphanages and slum areas in the surrounding provinces. This generosity has had a powerful impact, not only among those on the receiving end, but also within the AIS school community, as Primary SRC Coordinator Rebecca Evans explains.
“Every year, the Tet Boxes of Hope project gains more momentum. It has become a much-anticipated event on the AIS school calendar with students and teachers lining up to participate. I think this shows how caring the AIS community is: they see the impact their giving is having on the local community, and they’re proud to be involved. Without a doubt, our students gain as much joy from the giving process as the less fortunate children do from receiving. The AIS parents are also extremely supportive of their children being involved in the Tet box distribution as they know it’s developing important attributes of compassion and responsibility.”
Giving back is a mainstay of an AIS education – students are encouraged to foster a strong sense of community responsibility and make a positive difference in the world around them.
For many years, the school community has channeled its fundraising efforts into Loreto Vietnam, a charity providing education and sanitation to poor rural schools. However with Loreto’s recent departure from Vietnam due to Covid 19, AIS has been looking for another worthy organisation to support. Tiny Hearts of Hope has proven to be the perfect fit. And while faculty members have played a key role, students have been the driving force behind much of the Tet box fundraising (which has included proceeds from school production ticket sales, refreshment sales and the Christmas fair), providing more impactful opportunities for students to build leadership skills and develop empathy.
Deputy Principal Secondary School, Stuart Evans, couldn’t be prouder.
“AIS families have always been generous givers and want for our school to be a conduit for giving that makes a massive, tangible difference in the lives of those around us,” he says. “No maths or English lesson can teach such empathetic focus nor encourage generosity and giving, like spending time with a 4-year-old child whose world just changed because you stooped down, took the time to talk to him and hand him a brand new football. Parents want to see this warmth in their own children and we aim to provide opportunities for our students to develop in this area.”
SeongHee (Sunny) Park was one of five Primary SRC students selected to visit the orphanage, a two-and-a-half hour bus ride from the AIS campus. After some initial shyness Sunny and her fellow AIS volunteers relaxed and enjoyed a fun filled day playing games with the children, singing songs, having lunch and of course, distributing the Tet boxes.
“My favourite part of the day was giving out the Tet boxes, because everyone waited patiently and then opened them. There were giggles and happiness in the room and I found it really nice to see how happy they were,” says the big-hearted 11-year old.
Just seeing the smiles was enough of a thrill for Year 6 pupil Dev Mohanagumaran, who says, “Some kids are not living a fair life so we need to give them boxes to help them feel happy and special.”
Valued at around $40 each, the Tet boxes were created with love, and contained five precious items: something to play with, something to love, something hygienic, something to wear and something for school.
“Seeing the look on the faces of the kids as they received their presents was quite life-changing actually - for me and them,” admits Deputy Principal Evans. “It’s so important for our students to participate in these charitable initiatives as it encourages students to have a greater peripheral vision for needs in their own community rather than just donating money to a cause far away (though this is important too!). Community giving is powerful. It makes a noticeable difference and creates bonds that just wouldn’t be there otherwise.”
Year 10 student Riley Tran couldn’t agree more.
“It’s important because giving and sharing are beautiful traits that each person should have. It helps to create a loving community and since us students are luckier to be more privileged, we should share and help others out as well,” says Riley.
It was a humbling experience for all the volunteers, and Year 10 student Suri Ho sums up their collective impressions eloquently when she says, “It felt amazing to be able to support the children in the orphanages, especially because we were there to see what their living conditions were like. Being able to see the huge difference between my life and theirs makes me think about how privileged I am, and seeing how happy they were makes me feel very glad that I came to support them.”