SCJ-sponsored school enables children of poor, working families in Vietnam, to get an education
In 2008, SCJs partnered in ministry with the diocesan parish of St. Paul near Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The parish has much in common with Fr. Leo John Dehon’s first parish assignment in Saint-Quentin. The population that surrounds St. Paul is made up primarily of factory workers and young migrant families. Many have come from the poorest areas of the country, seeking jobs and a better life near the city.
The families come for jobs, but often do not earn enough money to send their children to school.
In 2000, St. Paul rented a small parcel of land and put up four classrooms. Migrant parents were invited to send their children to the make-shift school. Through the contribution of volunteer teachers –– Catholics from the area –– these children, who otherwise spent their days on the street, were able to follow the same educational plan as students in government-operated schools.
Huong Tam now operates at its capacity of approximately 200 students, grades 1-5. In 2010, the U.S. Province committed to funding the school for three years.
Br. Nguyen Van Luong, SCJ, wrote the following about the end-of-the-year celebration:
On May 24 the Huong Tam school in Binh Tan District, Ho Chi Minh City, had a ceremony to celebrate the end of the academic year. The school is sponsored by the Priests of the Sacred Heart.
The celebration was organized by teachers and SCJ seminarians. In attendance were Fr. Dong, the parish priest, the school’s six teachers, two SCJ seminarians, local government authorities, 200 students and their parents.
Students at the school all come from poor families in the provinces. Their parents are workers in the factories in the area of Ho Chi Minh.
Speaking about the past year the school’s director said that in general, the students were doing very well. There are six classes from pre-school to grade 5. Among the 200 students were 100 who got “Excellent” or “Good” marks. Those students were given certificates and gifts.
Fr. Dong spoke. He encouraged the students to study even more diligently in the following year and the teachers to keep their commitment to the school. He also gave them some simple gifts. Fr. Dong also addressed remarks to the government leaders present. He requested that, if possible, a bigger piece of land be granted to relocate the school (now it operates in a rented facility), so that the students can have more space to study and for other activities.
One of the local government officials said that he would try to provide some support to help this school. He is very happy with the school and he was proud of it.
It was a wonderful ceremony celebrating the end of a good year. All were thankful to the teachers, the SCJ community, and especially the benefactors who make the school possible.