Viet Nam News
by Lương Thu Hương
Starting the new school year, fourth-graders from the Hanoi Academy primary school had a chance to join in some very interesting and meaningful activities: making handbags from old newspapers and growing black-bean plants in pretty colourful pots made from plastic bottles.
Before that, a short video clip had been shown to demonstrate the current state of the environment worldwide and what humans have been doing to the environment.
“Lasting just two short lessons, the activities have offered the little students an exciting experience, useful knowledge in life as well as raise their love for the environment through happy and fun activities,” says teacher Nguyễn Thanh Hòa.
All the students demonstrated their keenness, enthusiasm and concentration on what they were being taught. Their instructors, instead of the teachers, are high school students who share a common love of nature.
“I’m very surprised I can make a handbag with just simple things like discarded papers, rope and adhesive tape,” says student Trần Minh Anh. “I hope to have more lessons like this.”
Such activities are part of a project called Lọ Mọ, implemented by a group of high-school students in Hà Nội. Launched in early July under the sponsorship of the voluntary organisation Water Wise Việt Nam, the project aims to raise children’s awareness of the environment in general and recycling in particular.
“We are all members of the Youth Leadership Camp of Water Wise Việt Nam. After this summer camp, we have been trained to create projects that contribute to the community,” says Phạm Thanh Thảo, a 11th grader from the Foreign Language Specialised School and one of the initiators of Lọ Mọ.
“As the environment and recycling is not a new issue, we were very confused about finding more innovative and effective approaches for our project.
“We finally came up with instructing small children, who are very eager to learn new things and are also future citizens of the country, to recycle discarded materials. We expect that this approach will more effectively raise their interest in environmental protection rather than dry knowledge from books. We want to spread love for the environment widely,” she adds.
Besides Thảo, there are three other members in charge of managing the project, and about 60 volunteers, all of whom are high school or universities students in Hà Nội.
“As soon as Lọ Mọ was launched, we started to collect discarded materials like used paper or empty bottles from volunteers to create souvenirs, which we have sold at charity fairs on 6 Phạm Ngũ Lão to raise funds for the implementation of the project.”
In addition, members of Lọ Mọ also go to the Sword Lake to propagate about environmental protection and sell their recycled products to both Vietnamese and foreigners. Workshops have also been regularly held with renowned speakers invited to deliver talks, which aim to offer interesting playgrounds and inspire the children to join in protecting nature.
“The project is not expensive because of its recycling theme. The cost for non-recyclable materials likes adhesive tape or brushes have been covered by our funds raised through fairs and sponsorships,” Thảo says.
In the two months since it was launched, Lọ Mọ has been introduced to three international primary schools in Hà Nội: Vinschool, Hanoi Academy and Hanoi Star.
According to Thảo, the greatest difficulty they have had is persuading schools to adopt Lọ Mọ into their syllabuses.
“At first, schools hesitated to coordinate with our project, because all of us are still students with limited experience in teaching. But after one to three lessons, on seeing their students get very excited over our projects, they’ve gradually had more confidence in letting us approach their students,” she recalls.
Members of Lọ Mọ also cooperate with the schools to introduce the activities of the project to a wider number of students. Those who don’t get a chance to attend the project classes can attend one of their workshops to listen to talks and get trained on how to recycle things.
The positive responses from schools, students and their parents became the motivation for members of Lọ Mọ to launch a workshop, called Nụ Cười Đêm Trăng (Smiles on a Moonlit Night) that was held on Saturday. The event drew the participation of many children and parents within the city, and all the money raised through selling recycled objects will contribute to Operation Smile Việt Nam, an organisation dedicated to repairing childhood facial deformities.
“We have been pretty pleased with the result of the project on seeing all the students happily listening to our messages, making paper bags, growing plants in empty bottles and seeing them grow. I think Lọ Mọ has been partially successful, at least in meeting our expectations,” Thảo says.
A new school year has come, and all the members of Lọ Mọ have to finish up their project to go back to school. “Lọ Mọ will end in one week, and we are very happy that we have somehow inspired children to be more concerned about the environment. If possible, we will plan another project for next year’s summer vacation,” she adds. VNS