August and September are the busiest time of year for the East Meets West education team in Danang. This is when they finalise SPELL scholarship packages to support thousands of disadvantaged middle school and high school students in seven provinces of central Vietnam.

In 2004, EMW launched SPELL as an anti-dropout program to help disadvantaged Vietnamese students transcend the cycle of poverty. SPELL supports students from the bottom 10 percent of impoverished families in seven provinces of central Vietnam: Quang Binh, Thua Thien-Hue, Da Nang, Quang Nam, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh and Phu Yen.

The cost of keeping a child in school in Vietnam, US $80 a year for secondary school and $240 a year for high school, is beyond the reach of many impoverished families. By supporting families with the cost of school expenses, including tuition, insurance, tutoring, school uniforms, books, and sometimes bicycles, SPELL helps students stay in school.

In 11 years, SPELL has provided support for a total of 5,790 middle and high school students. Each year, an increasing number of students in the SPELL program show progress in their academic performance, and are admitted to specialised high schools in each province. Additionally, many of SPELL’s scholarship recipients win municipal, provincial, and national awards for their academic achievements.

In the school year 2014-2015, EMW invested $557,000USD (11.7 billion VND) to support the education of nearly 2,500 disadvantaged middle and high school students. For the upcoming school year 2015-2016, EMW will provide an additional 583 students in grade 9 with multiple-year scholarships. In addition to the scholarships for middle school and high school students, East Meets West also supports 170 university students pursuing a four-year undergraduate degree in universities in Danang, Hue, Quy Nhon, and Ho Chi Minh City.


EMW is also in the process of winding down an ambitious school oral health program in six provinces of northern and central Vietnam.

While dental care is often not seen as priority health care in Western countries, the lack of access to dental care for children in developing countries has been linked to malnutrition, a higher rate in school absenteeism and lower rate of school performance.

Since early 2014, with funding from Ronald McDonald House Charities in the United States, EMW’s oral health team has carried out two rounds of training for 225 school nurses in preventive dental treatment and oral health promotion.

To get an idea of how poor oral health is among children in rural communities, EMW and the school nurses found that over 90 percent of the 1,341 children ages four to eight who were screened in just six schools had signs of poor oral hygiene and tooth decay. In the majority of cases there were at least three decayed, missing, or filled teeth.

For the next few months, as part of the program’s focus on cavity prevention, EMW will assist the nurses in carrying out oral health promotion events in each province. EMW will organize interactive classroom activities that nurses can use to teach children about the importance of daily tooth brushing and eating the right foods.