When the COVID-19 pandemic emerged, we contacted more than one thousand children (and their families/caregivers) whom we are currently supporting to learn about their situation, and the threats to their education and their daily living due to the impact of the pandemic. We learnt that many of them were not able to acquire new knowledge via online classes due to lack of equipment; many could not get their caregivers‘ support in–home/remote education. However, the most worrying finding was that many families had their income reduced dramatically due to social restrictions and social distancing methods. Children did not have food to eat. Some of them had to fetch food such as mice or snails to eat. Therefore, the obvious most urgent need that we have identified in this particular period is food.
To support poor people affected by the epidemic, the government approved a VND62,000 billion support package for poor people in the whole country. However, potential recipients of this package are contracted labourers while the majority of our targeted population are not contracted labourers, but rather are providers of seasonal manual labour, earning an insecure income. Thus, the majority were ineligible for the support package of the government.
The targeted population for this emergency relief were more than 1,700 disadvantaged children who are receiving sponsorship in our Child Development Scholarship Programme as well as the beneficiaries of our other two programmes which are Getting Ready For Work and Special Needs Education. These children live in six provinces and city, namely Tay Ninh, Dong Nai, Ho Chi Minh, Tien Giang, Tra Vinh, and Hau Giang. All children are from low-income families whose caregivers mainly provide manual labour to earn a living with very cheap and unstable income.
To bring timely support to the children and their family during the turmoil, saigonchildren launched an emergency appeal. Fortunately, it received strongly supportive responses from donors and friends. As a result, until May 31st saigonchildren were able to raise US$109,217 and 1,765 children and families were provided with emergency support.
We collaborated closely with our local partners in the six provinces to deliver the support packages to the children and their families. Each household received a package customised to the need of the child and his family. Most food supply packages contained rice, fish sauce, soy sauce, sugar, cooking oil, canned fish, glutamate, and instant noodles. For cases who live in areas which were severely affected by the drought, drinking water was added. For cases who were at risk of being evicted for not being able to pay the rent, the rental was provided. The quantity of each item varies among households to ensure the package can meet their most urgent food and hygiene needs.
The donation has kept more than a thousand children, and their families survive during this hard time. It kept them ‘learning, not earning‘ through the most challenging time of COVID-19, and in the mid-to-long term, it will reduce the risk of children dropping out of school and joining the child labour force and being at serious risk of exploitation or child trafficking. Our aim is to enable them to continue their education, rather than having to leave school to contribute to the household income or help provide food for the family.
The support brings both materially and spiritually to the lives of disadvantaged children and their families during this hard time.