Tan Son Nhi Elementary Charity School is located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and has been conducted by Sisters of the Good Shepherd since 2009.
Back in 2008, a new district was being built on what was formerly desolate waste land. The area grew very quickly, as the land was cheap in comparison with other areas or districts.
Many enterprises and small business were begun in the area, for example sewing, shoe making, textile, mechanical factories. This led to environmental pollution. These developments attracted many migrant families, living mostly in rented rooms. Also, crowded living quarters and inadequate facilities contributed to many social hardships: noise, dust, violence, drunkenness, drugs, stealing, prostitution.
A school was built by Tan Son Nhi Vicariate of Ho Chi Minh Archdiocese in response to the needs of the poor families in the area. The Vicariate entrusted to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd the caring and managing of the school. Almost all of the students in our school lack the basic requirements to enter public/government schools. Some of the requirements are birth certificates, family residential registration, school reports from former school, correct grade for certain age, school fees.
The students are in grade 1-5, aged from 6-11. However, there are older children in all grades at our school - an 8 year old who has never been in school would be in grade 1, or a 15 year old would find himself in 5th grade, because he missed much of his school years moving around with his parents making a living. The majority of children are dealing with a range of complex challenges including physical, medical, psychological and moral health issues. Some children show signs of their personal challenges, carrying negative attitudes toward education and life.
In general, it is difficult for the children to be motivated to focus on their studies. A number of the children have to help their parent after school: selling lottery tickets, collecting garbage, assembling some small items at home to make ends meet. Other obstacles they face daily are poverty, adults with too many pressures, the imprisonment of a loved one, drugs, even abandonment. Some children are living with relatives, mostly with grandparent/s while having little contact with their own parent/s.
In spite of all these life challenges, we witness in some students positive changes. There is an amazing resilience in these young children. Often they need plenty of encouragement. Each year the children surprise our guests with their presentation of the Christmas play, telling our redemptive story, from creation to the birth of Jesus. We believe that our Shepherd God will touch their lives and we stand in awe contemplating the wonder of God’s love for them.
Responding to an urgent plea from a sister in Vietnam, a team from Restful Waters Singapore planned and implemented the installation of a fresh water system in this School.