Over 200 children are currently rebuilding their lives at Hope School – a Da Nang-based project that works with kids orphaned by COVID-19.
The children at Hope School are of all different ages and hail from 41 provinces across Vietnam.
Despite the diversity of age and background, they have all come together to build a warm, loving home, according to Hoang Quoc Quyen, director of the Hope School project.
Quyen’s approach to bringing the children together revolves around creating a collective mindset.
"They need to memorize the 10 oaths and Hope School's slogan about honesty, discipline, and solidarity," Quyen said.
"They wake up at 5:00 am every day to walk, play, and do gardening. They also eat and sleep at the same time together every day.”
Quyen and her team spent the first year creating a foundation of order and discipline.
Now, they are looking toward developing each child’s strengths. Fortunately, their efforts are already paying off, with many students who previously had average grades now winning prizes in city-level competitions and other contests.
Recently, Hope School’s robot team, which consists of six members representing five different provinces and cities and three ethnic groups, participated in a 200-team competition.
Prior to arriving at Hope School, none of the students had any experience in programming.
Still, they managed to place in the top 25 percent of the participating teams.
Hoang Xuan Quyen, a teacher at Hope School, believes the students’ success is the result of their comradery and love for one another.
"They live with each other like siblings in the same house. They were taught and trained. They were shown how to work together, how to serve themselves, and how to support others," Quyen elaborated, adding that the students are often put in situations where they are forced to depend on one another.
"Each room has four roommates, including older siblings and younger ones.
"We try to structure activities as if the students were in troops and platoons in the army, where older members teach the younger ones.
"They learn and practice survival techniques, as well as how to eat and sleep in the forest, how to swim, and how to ride bicycles.”
The teachers understand that the school is still in its infancy and that there are many challenges ahead.
"A tree can only grow if you care for it every day. It is easy to simply notice that a student has won five or six gold medals in competitions. It is much harder to see all the time and effort it took to get such good results," Quyen said.
|Hoang Quoc Quyen, director of Hope School, which is part of the FPT Group, in a provided photo|
Teachers as parents
At Hope School, learning is not just for the students. As many of the teachers do not have children of their own, learning how to care for the students is definitely a challenge.
"[Caring for the children at Hope School] is a big challenge. If you have children, you have probably learned how to tell when a child is sick. Many teachers [at Hope School] have never been parents, and because all the students come from different regions and have different characteristics, it can be difficult," Quyen explained.
Besides its permanent teachers, Hope School often welcomes 'new friends' such as artists, doctors, authors, and entrepreneurs who visit the school to share their knowledge and experience with the children.
During these visits, the guests meet with the children, play games, do gardening, play soccer, and tell stories.
"This is Hope School's way of learning: learning through experience," Quyen said.
Aside from established professionals, the school also invites outstanding students to share their stories in the hope of inspiring the Hope School children.
“It takes a village,” Quyen said.
Standing by the children
According to Quyen, many of the students at Hope School spent their first few days homesick and withdrawn, gripping tightly to mementos from their parents, who died of COVID-19.
"Bringing these [mementos] nourishes hope, sows memories, and strengthens bonds," Quyen said.
As part of their role as ‘parents,’ the teachers at Hope School are charged with guiding the children through their emotions, growing pains, and life’s daily obstacles.
"Children grow up, get pimples, and start puberty. We have to prepare for that. We have to teach them everything. Academic knowledge is just one aspect, there are many other important aspects of life," Quyen said.
"We teach them the skills to overcome obstacles and negativity, but it's a long process.
"Our daily lessons are like an 'inoculation' that helps them cope with bad situations."
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