Viet Nam News
QUẢNG NGÃI — Almost everyone in Tịnh Trà Commune, Sơn Tịnh District in the central province of Quảng Ngãi farms to earn their living.
Farmers struggling to get by saw a way to a better life for their children: education. Everyone wanted their children to attend school, said Head of the commune Study Promotion Association Phạm Đình Thu, “but many local families did not have money to send children to school.”
Supporting a poor student here costs well over VNĐ20 million (more than US$1,000) each year. In many cases, the students had to stop their schooling because their families were too poor and local organisations like Study Promotion Association couldn’t meet their needs. In 2009, about half the school-aged children in the commune dropped out of school because of poverty.
Thu’s association called for assistance from local residents but received only “sad eyes.”
“Local residents said that they could work to help but they did not have money,” Thu recalled. “That idea struck me. Why not?” Thu said.
He talked to local leaders, asking for land to grow forests where local residents could volunteer to grow trees.
The so-called “Study Promotion Forest” was first introduced in the commune when the commune’s People’s Committee agreed to grant one hectare of land in the commune’s Thạch Nội Hamlet to the Study Promotion Association.
Local residents donated VNĐ 3 million to buy acacia seedlings and they started growing the forest.
They daily nurse the trees. The trees grow well, carrying the hopes of growers for a better future for their children.
In 2013, the first acacia wood was harvested. Thu said that they earned VNĐ 30 million ($1,300) from the harvested wood, of which VNĐ 18 million was spent to buy seedlings for the next crop while the remaining sum were given to poor students.
Together with other donations, the money from acacia wood helped offer 835 gifts worth VNĐ 41 million to disadvantaged students.
In 2014, another “Study Promotion Forest” was grown in Phú Thành Hamlet of the same commune.
The second forest, covering an area of two hectares, is also nursed by local families with school-age children.
Local resident Lê Minh Đúng said that his family was very happy to work in the forest as it helped generate funds to assist poor students.
Đúng told baoquangngai.vn that some donated VNĐ 20,000, others VNĐ 50,000. He said that more and more people joined the project, not only giving money but also their labour.
Thu from the commune’s Study Promotion Association said that, next year, they expected to harvest 360 tonnes of acacia wood and make a profit of VNĐ 250 million ($11,000).
“With that fund, they could offer assistance to almost all needy students,” Thu said.
He said that previously, with modest funding, the association had to carefully consider each case before giving assistance to poor students and were often forced to focus on only the very neediest.
Thu said that he still felt sad to recall the case of a local boy named Huy. Huy lost his father and his mother was usually sick. With assistance from the commune Study Promotion Association, Huy attended school and studied very well. But after he graduated high school and passed an exam to university, he could not continue his schooling.
“If the commune had had a stable study promotion fund like we do now, we could have helped Huy,” Thu said.
Vice chairman of Tịnh Trà Commune People’s Committee Trần Văn Trường said that local authorities applauded the initiative of the Study Promotion Forest, suggesting that it should be applied in other disadvantaged areas where fundraising efforts faced difficulties. — VNS