Everyone has their own lockdown story. In Hoi An it’s clear many businesses are struggling because of the Covid-19 situation and lack of international tourists. We spoke to Jackie Wrafter of the Kianh Foundation – a special education facility for local children, close to Hoi An – about how the events of 2020 are impacting the charity, both on a personal and professional basis.
How has lockdown been for you?
Lockdown in Hoi An is bittersweet. I have lived here for 20 years and have seen Hoi An grow and change from a peaceful, charming, sleepy little town to a thriving tourist metropolis. I cannot deny that it is enjoyable to be able experience Hoi An without the tourist hordes once more. But of course, this comes with a difficult price, as we see more and more businesses closing down and so many families whose income came from the tourism industry struggling to get by.
How has lockdown been for the Kianh Foundation?
Like most people in the world, we were thrown by the first lockdown. The school had to close and we all sat around, waiting for it to pass and for things to get back to normal. Of course, that never happened.
Eventually, we got our act together. Our staff started to do some mentoring with the families of our students, supporting them to do simple things at home with them.
Getting the families to be more proactive with their children at home had been a goal of ours, and this turned out to be a golden opportunity to get them to do it. When the second lockdown happened, we immediately activated the home mentoring again, with some good results. However, nothing can replace the stimulation and development opportunities that you get from a whole day at school with your peers!
What are the main difficulties the foundation has been faced with in 2020?
Like so many people, businesses and charities, we are struggling with the financial impact of the pandemic. Supporters both within and outside of Vietnam are taking a hit and this of course impacts how much they are able to give us.
Describe your average day with the Kianh Foundation
Programs at our school run from 7.30am – 4pm, Monday to Friday. We currently have 80 children, aged from 2 – 18 years of age, with a wide range of disabilities, including Cerebral Palsy, Down’s Syndrome, Autism, and Cognitive Delay, plus less prevalent conditions such as Microcephaly, Chromosome 10 and Deafblindness.
We have programs to fit and support each of these children so our staff really have to become experts in everything. The students tend to have their academic lessons in the morning, and fun, creative sessions in the afternoon. Those that need it also have physio, occupational therapy and communication therapy, and our older students have vocational training.
We are a one-stop shop for all the needs of children with disabilities and special needs, and our results are excellent. However, we do need money to keep this very special project, that has been years in the making, to carry on.
How can people make donations to the foundation?
People can make donations directly to us online through Virgin Giving.
You can also donate directly to our bank accounts in Vietnam and the UK. If you’re in the area, you can visit our school in Dien Ban to make a cash donation directly.
Can people volunteer to work with the foundation?
Our Vietnamese staff have been extensively trained over the years by overseas special education and therapy professionals. They are now able to deliver our programs at a very high standard. It was always our aim to make our Vietnamese staff able to run the program independently, so there is no longer really anything for volunteers to do!
What are your plans for the future of the foundation?
It is very hard to plan anything at the moment! Our program is running as normal, and we have taken on an extra 12 students this term. But we are constantly looking for ways to bring in money to keep everything running. As well as donations declining, we have also not been able to do any of the fundraising activities that we had planned for this year.
However, even before Covid, it had been getting even harder to raise money. Whilst within Vietnam we know that there is still incredible hardship and lack of opportunity for the most vulnerable people here, the outside world no longer regards Vietnam as a developing country. In fact, Vietnam is now classed as a medium-income country by the World Bank, although it is at the bottom of that list.
I strongly feel that financial support for the school now needs to come from within Vietnam, and I hope that Vietnamese interests will see the benefit of keeping a special school of this caliber running. It is both a lifeboat for so many children and their families, and an example of what can be achieved within Vietnam.