A lot can happen in a few days here. A few days after our arrival in Cam Duc, we had already attended one of RPS’s bike givings, held our first art and music classes for students in the Cam Duc programs, visited RPS’s art program in the ethnic minority village of Son Tan, and made time for a Saturday trip to Nha Trang where we collected art supplies, relaxed at a cafe, and had some delicious vegetarian food.
The Bike Giving
RPS’s bike givings take place throughout the year, whenever the nonprofit raises enough funds to hold one. In Vietnam, children get to school by foot or by bike, sometimes traveling several miles or more. Because school takes place in two daily sessions – one in the morning, and one in the evening – they cover that distance 4 times a day. A bicycle can make the difference between going or staying home. This is particularly true of girls, whose brothers usually get priority when it comes to making the difficult decision about who will stay in school when finances are tight.
During our trips, we attend the bike givings as RPS representatives. There’s a short ceremony, speeches given by officials from the Vietnamese Red Cross, the local school, and one of the girls who will be receiving a bike. When we’re here, one of us will usually speak too. Plenty of photographs are taken and we help to adjust seats, handlebars, and helmet straps. Then the girls pedal off for home.
RPS’s strings students in Cam Duc have been working with their local instructors (who in turn have been studying with a professional violin teacher in Nha Trang) all year long. Our visit gives them a chance to show off what they’ve learned and get feedback from experienced string players and teachers from outside their community. On Friday we walked over to the house where RPS holds its classes to see our music students for the first time and see what progress they’ve made since last summer.
Art Class in Son Tan
Son Tan is an ethnic minority village located at the base of the mountains about 30 minutes from Cam Duc. Son Tan is a very poor village, and children there grow up under particularly difficult circumstances. Most will drop out of school by the 5th grade. RPS has been running an art class there on the weekends for about a year, giving the kids an outlet where they can relax, use their imaginations, and relieve the some of the stress of everyday life. The classes also allow RPS to keep track of the children in the program, encourage school attendance, and help support families wherever possible.
At the art class we attended on Sunday, the students made their own booklet out of cardboard and cardstock – a great project, since the only notebooks they normally have are those required for school. Credit goes to Sierra, one of our volunteers, for designing and leading Sunday’s class.
Thanks to our excellent photographer and videographer, Rich Ferri, for the pics of the music and arts classes!