|Jrai ethnic students enjoy meal prepared by solders. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyễn Viết Tôn
GIA LAI — At 11am in La Dom Village, soldiers of the local border guard station proudly serve local students a tasty lunch.
The pop-up eatery in Đức Cơ District in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai is funded by Lệ Thanh Border Guard Station soldiers, who want to help local Jrai ethnicity students to stay in school.
Launched in June 2012, the soldiers serve food daily to 14 to 16 students from local Trần Phú Primary School, Nguyễn Trãi Secondary School and Nguyễn Trường Tộ High School.
Besides, each student receives a monthly assistance of VNĐ500,000 (US$21.5) from the soldiers.
Sitting around a small table, they happily enjoy hot and savoury food cooked by the amateur chefs.
Rơ Ma H’Đuối, a seventh grader and her tenth grade brother Rơ Ma Khải have been diners for three years.
Khải said that they had to ride some ten kilometres a day from home to school.
“After school, we do housework and pick coffee beans to help parents,” he said.
The distance and life’s challenges, however, don’t stop them from working hard at school.
Students like Khải and H’Đuối gave soldiers a reason to establish this eatery.
“This model has run well for seven years,” said Major Nguyễn Văn Thành.
“First Lieutenant Rơ Châm Giéo is tasked to raise funds, call for help from community, do grocery shopping and prepare food,” he added.
During their field trips to nearby villages, soldiers find and help students with disadvantaged backgrounds.
Rơ Ma H’Win, whose mother died several years ago, is among those students.
“They encourage me to continue trying, offer me good food and buy me books. Thanks to their help, I can finally come back to school,” she said.
Her older sister, Rơ Ma H’Rin also grew up with support from the force. She was able to finish school and now has a family for herself.
In Kon Tum, another Central Highlands province, soldiers of Bờ Y Border Guard Station are also making efforts to help locals.
The six-member family of Y Lới, a Ca Dong ethnic woman in Tà Kha Commune, Bờ Y District, depends mostly on a small cassava farm.
“As they are struggling to make ends meet, we support her daughter Y Bảo Hân, a second grader of Nguyễn Bá Ngọc Primary School, with a monthly scholarship of VNĐ500,000,” said Captain Xiêng Văn Thang.
Two other students, Nàng Lang and Năng Xít, also enjoy the support as a part of soldiers’ welfare programe named ‘Together we go to school’.
Colonel Nguyễn Văn Tưởng of Gia Lai Province Border Guard Military headquarters, emphasised the importance of those initiatives in improving living conditions, livelihoods and access to education for ethnic minority people.
Their efforts not only inspire Vietnamese students but also the Cambodian and Lao students living on the other side of the border.
It all started with the hope that education can fight poverty, in one of the country’s poorest areas. — VNS