25 AND COUNTING
Twenty-five years of helping underprivileged children break the cycle of poverty in Vietnam
INGO Xuan has been helping underprivileged children break the cycle of povery in Vietnam
CELEBRATING ITS 25TH
anniversary this year, we speak to Dr. Chanh Tran Tien, a French-Vietnamese expat and Honorary Founder of Xuan, les enfants de l’avenir (Xuan), about the INGO’s WASH program, achievements and the eponymous Xuan.
What inspired you to come to Vietnam to set up Xuan?
I am a French-Vietnamese doctor with deep respect towards my Vietnamese roots. My family left Vietnam when I was 10 years old. In 1992 I returned to Vietnam to tour with a couple of friends. I recall that we were waiting for a ferry to take us to Cat Ba, a small island to the south of Ha Long Bay.
It’s when and where I met a little 10-year-old-girl named Xuan (“Xuan” means “springtime” in Vietnamese) at Hai Phong port. Like many other Vietnamese children her age at that time, Xuan had to work after school and during school vacations to earn extra money to support her family. Xuan was selling paper fans to boat passengers, and she sold one to me for VND500, an extremely little amount of money. I offered her a tip, without any expectation of being paid back. However, what happened next was a gracious surprise that left a strong impression in my heart about the true beauty of Vietnam and its people. This symbolic encounter drove me to found Xuan with the mission of helping and empowering Vietnamese children.
Tell us what Xuan does?
Xuan ( assoxuan.org) is a registered French INGO (International NonGovernment Organization) operating in Vietnam with the aim to empower underprivileged children, the poorest of the poor, by implementing a variety of educationally-based projects and activities such as scholarship programs, shelters and WASH (Water-Hygiene-Sanitation) for rural and isolated schools.
The Xuan team deeply understands that children cannot learn well in undignified and unhygienic environment. In undertaking the
WASH projects, we believe that a great number of school boys and girls’ wellbeing will be improved. As a result, they will concentrate better at school and share good health-related habits and messages with their families and communities.
In 2017, Xuan launched the WASHin-school projects in Kon Tun province and the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. In the world, every 90 seconds a child dies from preventable diseases caused by contaminated water sources and poor sanitation. Lack of adequate sanitation facilities and school not only affects children’s health and wellbeing but it also prevents them from reaching their full potentials and breaking the
vicious cycle of poverty. The WASH program actions are not only bringing clean water and decent toilet facilities to disadvantaged schools in which toilets potential but also focusing a lot on promoting good hygiene practice and increasing local partners and teachers’ capacity. We join hands with local authorities, schools and sponsors at different levels to bring the communities together to create contagious practical, life-transforming and self-sustainable effects.
Since its establishment in 1992, Xuan has supported over 5,000 disadvantaged children plus thousands of indirect local beneficiaries.
How do you ensure that funds and proceeds go to children in need and are not being used for overhead costs?
Xuan’s financial resources are efficiently allocated: 80 percent of our budget goes directly to our projects. The remaining percentage is disbursed to cover fundraising activities and operating costs. Initially, Xuan depended on the in-kind services of volunteers. As it grew, there was a need for reflection and we realized that although enthusiastic individuals’ contributions are invaluable, Xuan should not rely only on volunteers. It’s high time we invested in passionate skilled and experienced people who could dedicate their time and work really hard to implement programs with quality, efficiency and transparency. These team members are held accountable for every single action we take from planning to fundraising, operating, executing and monitoring projects—to both the ones we serve and those who support us. We care very much about operational efficiency, and the investment in employing the team and building up their capacity is based on a gauge to forecast, measure and evaluate performance, progress and impacts.
What are some of Xuan’s achievements and learning curves?
Bringing people together to support a cause is easy; working and staying together through years after years is challenging. Xuan is one of the first INGOs in Vietnam with the longest history of supporting children. We are celebrating our 25th anniversary this year.
We have empowered more than 5,000 needy children in Da Nang, Kon Tun, Nha Trang, Hue, Can Tho, Tra Vinh and Ca Mau. This year marked the official WASH ground-breakings of 25 schools in Kon Tun, Tra Vinh and Ca Mau. Besides that, over 1,000 less-privileged children have grown up from “Family 4,” a shelter having been supported by Xuan in partnership with Street Children Program in Da Nang City for almost 25 years. All of these achievements could not have been attained without a passionate and committed team and faithful supporters.
Bo Chanh, center