Viet Nam News
HỘI AN — Six riders from Australia joined a 400km charity bike trip to raise scholarship funds for disadvantaged students in central Việt Nam. They raised US$22,000 to send seven academically gifted, poor students to university.
Lifestart Foundation, a charity that helps disadvantaged Vietnamese people and their families to become self-sufficient, said it took the riders seven days last week to complete the gruelling, hilly ride in extremely hot weather.
The route took them from the coastal city of Đà Nẵng, through the ancient capital of Huế, A Lưới Mountains and A Roàng Districts to P’Rao town in Quảng Nam Province. At the finish line in Hội An they were met by Australian Ambassador to Việt Nam, Craig Chittick, and Consul General Karen Lanyon.
"This was more than a bike trip – it was an inspiring journey with like minded people who were united by their passion for making a difference," said NGO founder Karen Leonard.
According to Lifestart Foundation, so far VNĐ13 billion (approx $555,000) has been raised for the disadvantaged youth of central Việt Nam. Currently, the foundation supports students until grade 12 but is hoping to use the charity ride as an opportunity to expand to university education.
Lifestart Foundation is committed to breaking the poverty cycle of the central region’s brightest scholars via education.
Wheels for Education Việt Nam
Meanwhile, a couple of US military veterans of the Việt Nam War, Mark O’Connor of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Michael Paul Shuman of Tallmadge, Ohio, raised $10,000 to purchase and donate 160 bikes this year to needy school children in the A Lưới and A Sầu districts of Thừa Thiên-Huế Province.
Wheels for Education Việt Nam programme was started in 2009 by O’Connor and a few years later Shuman joined the effort. Both served in Việt Nam in the early 1970’s. The programme has partnered with local Nguyễn Thị Thanh Hương or Ushi from Ushi’s Restaurant in Huế city who coordinates the effort and lines up the needed cooperation from relevant authorities.
In remote districts, the distance to a school and lack of a bicycle often means a child’s education stops, and the Wheels for Education Việt Nam has supplied 500 bikes for disadvantaged Vietnamese children since 2009.
O’Connor returned to Việt Nam in 2009 for an aid project sponsored by the Việt Nam Veterans Restoration Project (VVRP) at a school in A Lưới and A Sầu Valley in Thừa Thiên-Huế Province. He was touched by how a lack of bicycles was stifling the children’s education.
“I initially came back to Việt Nam because I wanted to give something back, while I was here I found out that some boys and girls were not going to school because they couldn’t afford a bicycle. I knew that this was something that could be easily changed. I wanted to help and thought that if a bicycle is all that is standing between them and an education, then I can fix that,” said O’ Connor.
O’Connor said “The bikes are a small thing that can have a big impact on these boys and girls’ lives, with an education their opportunities expand and they will be better equipped to meet the challenges they will face in life. This couldn’t happen without my donors and supporters, I really appreciate their help.” — VNS