Volunteer in Vietnam: Sunflower Mission

Special thanks to Huy Pham, SM Director, for allowing us the right to reproduce and share stories about Sunflower Mission.

On January 20, we shared the story of Duy-Loan T. Le and her inspirational stories of success in her professional life at Texas Instruments and her private life advocating for education through groups like Sunflower Mission.  Like many young professionals, I aspire to be successful like Duy-Loan and still maintain the time and passion to give back to my community.  These success stories remind me that no matter what industry we work in, our individual talents and unique perspectives when applied to a just and noble cause can have far-reaching effects.  Today’s philanthropy feature is Sunflower Mission, an organization whose mission is to improve the lives of the Vietnamese people through education assistance.

Yesterday in his State of the Union, President Obama again focused his attention on education, stating that “the best anti-poverty program is a world-class education”.  The organizers at Sunflower Mission realize that Vietnam’s emerging economy will require a trained and educated workforce.  The following excerpt further describes this dilemma:

“To become part of the global economy and take advantage of the information revolution, Vietnam will require a highly educated workforce. But getting an education is not easy. Because of extreme poverty, children often must work before and after school to help support their family by selling lottery tickets, shining shoes, working in factories, and offering other goods and (often unmentionable) services.

Children who actually do attend often walk miles on dirt roads to a structure in desperate need of repair. These structures some of which have collapsed causing fatalities often have no foundations, windows, electricity, or ventilation.

Another disincentive is that the school system is not free and, even at the cost of just a few cents a day, is out of reach for some students. But even if students do graduate, there are not enough seats in the universities to accept them. There are 1.4 million applicants for 168,000 places at local universities.”

The nightmares of applying for undergrad or grad school may still be fresh in our memories. We have all crunched in those numbers and played around with statistics to figure out our chances of getting into college or specialty training programs.  The reality is in America no one gets left without a college education — no one.  Our community colleges and vocational programs are abundant.  We have more top-ranked, world-class research universities than anyone else in the world.  1.4 million applicants for 168,000 positions is discouraging.  Vietnam’s workforce needs a stronger education system.

Sunflower Mission’s 10-year plan is to build 100 classrooms and award 10,000 scholarships. From 2003-2008, SM has built 84 classrooms for children in rural areas of Ben Tre, An Giang, Can Tho, Kien Giang, and others.

More inspiring stories of SM’s work can be found here.


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