|Nguyen Thi Anh Duong, 13, from Can Loc District, Ha Tinh Province presents her painting in the drawing contest. Her message on the painting: "Let's save the Earth." — VNS Photo Tran Loi
by Kim Thuy
HA TINH (VNS) — After her family finishes their meals, the first thing that 13-year-old Nguyen Thi Anh Duong does is to collect the remaining food and wrap it in a bag.
She has been saving all the leftovers for a lofty mission: to save the world.
"The Earth is ill because its carbon dioxide concentrations surpass safe levels," Duong said. "I hope one day it will no longer have to lie on a hospital bed."
For over a year, Duong has used the remaining food or trash to make organic fertilisers for growing vegetables in order to reduce pollution.
That was what she learned from a three-month on-site training course on climate change for children, organised by the Center for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD).
Nearly 150 secondary school children in Can Loc District of Ha Tinh Province attended the course.
The programme aims to equip children with knowledge about climate change, disaster risk reduction and skills to protect themselves when natural disasters strike.
Like many of her friends, Duong found the course interesting and helpful, especially because her hometown is in a low-lying area that experiences a higher frequency of abnormal and extreme weather events every year.
Climate change was once an elusive concept for the 13-year-old girl, but Duong said the subject has now become clear and more relatable.
"Climate change is not so far away," she said. "It is happening right here and everywhere else on the planet."
A living nightmare
Duong is still haunted by the nightmare of the historic flood that battered her hometown in 2010. At the time, she was only 8 years old.
The flash flood began with heavy downpours in the afternoon, and just several hours later, surging water submerged the entire village.
Everyone was taken by surprise because no preparations had been made for the disastrous flood.
Duong stayed on the third floor while her parents frantically tried to save their animals and properties.
The current swallowed a ramshackle house nearby, and swept away animals and properties.
Her father was badly hurt while trying to save animals, so her mother had to take him to a provincial hospital by a bamboo boat.
Duong was left alone at home, where the terrifying scenes she had seen in horror films became real. Luckily, her mother came home safely while her father stayed at the hospital.
The ordeal was not over, though. With the electricity cut off, she had to eat raw instant noodles provided by rescue workers for three days.
After the flood, like other households, her family had to start from scratch and rely on relief supplies.
The only silver lining during the seven-day flood was the sympathy and support from people outside the province, which helped her family survive and warmed her soul.
"My mother told me that our family not only consisted of three members," Duong said. "We had a much bigger one that was called Viet Nam, with every citizen being a part of it. We shared and helped each other in difficult times even though we had never met before."
After learning about climate change, Duong realised that her compatriots could do something else even more meaningful to help her.
"If we are all united to fight against climate change and make the Earth healthy again, my province will no longer suffer from unseasonable floods, and we will not have to rely on relief support any more," Duong said.
During the training course, a drawing contest was organised for students to express their dreams and thoughts on climate change.
Duong drew a big green leaf, which represented the Earth. The leaf was being consumed by worms, which were symbols of human activities that negatively impact the climate.
"The Earth is our common home," she said. "Everybody bears the responsibility to take care of it."
Nguyen Thi Quyen, 13, of Can Loc District, raised concerns over electricity usage. She drew a giant light bulb that was about to die out because of the depletion of energy resources by humans.
Quyen has set an example for her family by taking measures to conserve electricity.
"Sometimes, she explains climate change for us like a real meteorologist," her mother said. "I'm proud of my girl."
Some educators and parents think that climate change is a complex issue that is not appropriate for children.
However, children should be at the forefront of the global fight against climate change because they are the future owners of the country, said Tran Van Loi, a member of the project's management board.
"Children are curious and eager to explore nature and things happening around them," Loi said. "They will become active communicators and set an example for the community once they understand the problem."
Nguyen Thi Thanh Huyen, deputy head of the Education Department of Can Loc District, said that teaching children about climate change should start with small tasks, such as how to classify trash or how to use water and electricity responsibly.
"These small actions will help to form a child's character and lifestyle, as well as make them exemplary citizens in the future," Huyen said.
Duong said she no longer wants to become an artist when she is older.
"I want to become a scientist to produce a type of cars that do not produce emissions," she said.
"An artist can only make changes for the planet on paper, but to protect the Earth, we need to take action, whether big or small - not just by talking." — VNS