Friendship Foundation of American Vietnamese

The Future is Bright

By Volunteer Marianne Nieman
Project XII Participant

As I wandered into Gia Hoa's hotel room after dinner to sort the project library one night, I had the honor to meet Dr. and Mrs. Chien and their two children. Dr. Chien is a doctor working in Saigon. Mrs. Chien runs an English school out of their house. Every evening, as many as 25 children and young adults, ages 4 to 23, enthusiastically show up at her door. In cramped spaces, she lovingly teaches them English through song, games, and conversations to improve their language skills. Mrs. Chien's own sons, age 4 and 9, attend the class as well. Mrs. Chien invited me and 5 other volunteers to come to her school the following evening. Since I love working with children and try to never turn down a good opportunity, I wholeheartedly accepted.

All of the children also told us what they wanted to be when they grow up.

The next evening, Dr. Chien and his 9 year old son met us at our hotel. As Dr. Chien followed on his motorbike, his son directed our taxi to his house. His English is very good, and he seemed really excited to learn more and talk to us. I hoped that his energy was representative of all the children we were to meet this evening. I was not disappointed.

When we arrived, children were sitting around a table filled with food. Mrs. Chien had cooked snacks for us. We went around the table and introduced ourselves. All of the children also told us what they wanted to be when they grow up. What a wonderful future for Vietnam, with a room full of bright young teachers, doctors, football players, makeup artists, pilots, engineers, and architects!

As Tawnee led the students through BINGO and Simon Says, I got to know the students around me. There were three children who particularly peaked my interest. Two of them are brothers, ages 12 and 17. The 17 year old immediately started up a conversation with me when we walked in. There was no hint of the shyness that I am used to with Japanese students. After talking to him for a bit, I learned that he and his brother were moving to Virginia, near D.C., in two weeks. They would live with their grandmother and attend school there. Although they were a little nervous at the prospect of unknown surroundings, they were filled with excitement as well. I know that with their eagerness to learn and their gorgeous, bright smiles they will succeed and excel in their new surroundings. I am glad I was able to meet them and wish them well on their journey.

The third person who I got to know was a beautiful young woman. At 20, she is in university studying to be a makeup artist. After her classes, she comes to the Chien's to practice her English. Although her English was not as advanced as some, I sensed her longing for the language. She was very curious and asked me many questions about myself. At the end of our visit, we exchanged emails. I plan to keep in touch with her. I think she is beautiful inside and out and will do well in any path that she chooses.

Dr. and Mrs. Chien are currently building a new house that will include a room to be used solely as Mrs. Chien's classroom. With this new house, the Chien's will be able to help even more Vietnamese people achieve their goals of good health and a good education. I feel lucky to have had the chance to meet such a wonderful family and students, and I hope our paths cross again in the future--the future which, in my mind, is growing brighter for Vietnam every day.


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