This  is Tai. He’s currently in fifth grade. His mother proudly shows us all the certificates and achievements Tai and his sister have won in school over the years. Tai is proud of his most recent academic awards, however, next year, like all the other kids in his village, he will stop school and start working full-time in his family’s fishing business. To move beyond the fifth grade, Tai will have to travel 70 kilometers every day to the next town in addition to paying a higher school fee. The daily commute on the school truck costs VND24,000 per child for the hour-long trip from the river to the school, plus another VND20,000 for lunch. Tai begs his parents to allow him to continue studying, but their combined income is insufficient, despite both working full-time. His future is limited to fishing with his father or working on nearby farms as a manual laborer. For his parents, and most parents who live by and on Ma Da River, the financial burden of a higher education is simply too much to shoulder.

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Tai’s older sister, who’s also a high achiever, is 16 and hasn’t been to school in several years. She was given the option in 2013 to move to Saigon and live with an adoptive family, but didn’t want to leave her mother, who suffers from a health condition that leaves her incapacitated for days. Now Tai’s sister spends her days mending nets and taking care of her mother.

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Every year, approximately 40 kids are forced to stop studying in Ma Da. Giving the children in this community an opportunity to study beyond fifth grade can help elevate them from poverty. If funds can be raised to build a third building to add five more rooms to the existing school complex, there would be sufficient space to teach sixth through ninth grade, plus a planning room for the teachers. While this may seem small, it would make an immeasurable difference to the children. For more info, visit www.facebook.com/Hidgegroup or call Group Leader Nga Tong at 098 789 6242.

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Images By Charles Barnes