by Br. Daryl Charron, C.PP.S., Vietnam Mission
St. Maria De Mattias wrote in one of her letters, “Do not spare yourself any fatigue. I want you to do all you can to get the poor to come and to instill into their hearts the truths of Christian Doctrine and the love of holy virtue, so that their life may be a consolation.”(Letter 892) These words of the foundress of the Adorers of the Blood of Christ still ring true through the actions of Sr. Hang Pham, ASC as she goes about her ministry of teaching poor children in remote provinces of Vietnam. Sr. Hang ministers closely with her co-worker, Duong Tran, as they carry out the mission of Ai Tam Educational Organization. They are both social workers who truly believe in what they do.
Ai Tam (Vietnamese for Loving Heart) was established in March of 2008. Its education mission is promoting education and empowering persons. Ai Tam chose to serve poor families in communities in remote provinces of Vietnam. This organization has focused on providing educational opportunities to students in these rural areas of the country. From their experience of in years of educational service, they have identified various economic difficulties and serious healthcare deprivation that affect the student’s ability to learn. Parents of these students have tried diligently for their children to accomplish their hope of completing their education. The Ai Tam staff closely works with students, families and community leaders to realize and implement educational opportunities.
Ai Tam Educational Organization believes education is a proactive way to help people gain their self-knowledge while at the same time breaking the unjust cycle of poverty. In 2008, when they first began their ministry, a report was released by the Education and Training Ministry of the government stating that there were 1.7 million illiterate people nationwide. A major hurdle on the road to combating
illiteracy is that the Government’s education budget is only enough to provide schooling for 20-25 million people, a third of the population. The country’s remaining population nearly 60 million people has not been given proper resources and opportunities to obtain an adequate education. Ai Tam strives to bridge this gap in their own way through their School Supply Program which serves over 500 students each year.
I had the privilege to volunteer for Ai Tam Educational Organization this summer as it carried out its School Supply Program. Unfortunately, I saw firsthand the effects of how these students have been oppressed under communist regime for many years. Fortunately, Ai Tam has been working to encourage and empower these families to claim their right to participate in decisions for their living conditions. It was promising to see this organization work for systemic changes through educational opportunities in order to eradicate poverty, end unjust oppression, and try to return to these people basic rights which were denied them. I am truly impressed by their ministry.
I thank the Kansas City Province for providing this organization with funding from the Human Development Fund. Ai Tam has some good ideas for the future. I especially think the mobile library project which includes the purchase of a thousand books is a worthwhile endeavor. The long-term goal of Ai Tam is to build sustainable communities, strengthen families and to empower persons by fostering self-confidence and promoting individual dignity. Staying true to this goal will continue to eradicate generational poverty through education. St. Maria De Mattias would be proud to see one of her own sisters carrying out such educational ministry today.