Some years ago, a group of American Viet Kieu met on the discussion pages of One Vietnam, an online hub for people passionate about Vietnamese culture. Motivated by a common desire to help disadvantaged communities in Vietnam, they discussed volunteering opportunities, fund raising events and how they could donate to other groups already working towards their goals.
People came and went from the group, some shared their experiences of volunteering they had already done and the impact this had had on people’s lives. Others told less positive stories and warned of the dangers of handing over monetary donations to unscrupulous operators. Eventually a small group decided that rather than relying on others, they would take direct action themselves and in 2011 BeCause For Hope was formed to be the cause of hope for disadvantaged communities throughout Vietnam.
Relying largely on donations from the Vietnamese community in California, their early projects focused on infrastructure development in the Mekong, replacing ‘monkey’ bridges in Hau Giang Province and installing sanitation facilities for schools in Gia Bac.
As they built closer ties with these remote communities, more urgent needs became apparent and over the next couple of years they installed water purification systems for H’mong villagers in Dien Bien Province and at schools across KonTum and Thanh Son. These projects provided a much-needed clean water source for hundreds of children and households and had a direct impact on daily lives of many.
Seeing the affects they were having further ignited their passion to continue helping those in need, but working closely with children and schools prompted a rethink in the direction future projects would take. As priorities changed, a new mission was formed: ‘to promote opportunities for intellectual empowerment by delivering educational resources to the underprivileged.’
“BeCause believes education is the power and premise to progress in every family and community” explained Trinh Huynh, Vietnam Country Director for BeCause. “As an advocate for educational advancement in impoverished communities, it is our commitment to provide key access, and resources while continuing to inspire positive changes leading to a path of opportunities, and endless possibilities.”
“One of the reasons we work in remote areas is because kids often have to work with their families” Kelly Vo, BeCause’s local representative in Saigon explained. “Because kids stay at home to work, they end up uneducated like their parents and the cycle of poverty and hardship continues. We have to help adults understand that education is the key to a better life”
This change in direction has seen BeCause strengthen relationships with locally based volunteer groups, with one in particular, Tu Sach Uoc Mo, or Dream Library ,taking a lead role in recent projects. Together, they have installed libraries in schools in Nam Dinh, Tay Giang and Van Quan, once more supporting ethnic minorities whose education opportunities are lacking, especially in terms of teaching resources.
Their ongoing commitment has now been recognised by the Committee for Foreign Non-Governmental Organisations Affairs which has recently agreed to a 3-year support plan. This enables BeCause to continue their work with ethnic minorities in some of the poorest areas of the country.
Starting with Ninh Thuan Province, the organisation will work with schools to install libraries, books, resources and support laptops. They hope to provide children with greater access to knowledge and learning than their parents had, and by doing so, help break the cycle of poverty that they were born into.