Child poverty in Vietnam is still a real concern for many. Step outside the rapidly developing urban areas and rural life is full of challenges, often in areas that are difficult to access. Basic infrastructure is all too often non-existent, and what many of us take for granted, health-care, education, clean drinking water and protection are needs that some struggle to meet.

Make A Small Difference (MASD) was founded three years ago by Ann Maasbol, a Danish citizen currently based in Vietnam. The goal of Ann and her family was simple – to raise money where every penny goes directly to support the specially selected charity groups and programmes they work with.

Every year the board decides on which groups to support, ensuring the funds are used to benefit as wide a range of causes as possible. One of the first groups that MASD supported was Little Rose Warm Shelter in Ho Chi Minh City, a centre that provides a much-needed safe space for vulnerable young girls.

Working to ensure that the girls remain in the education system for as long as possible, Ann and her colleagues have provided essential funding for scholarships, buying supplies and other relevant items for the girl’s studies.

Ann explained that more recently, MASD has worked on a project in Tra Vinh with a remarkable Vietnamese woman named Ms Thien who runs a shelter for impoverished local children. Although not orphans, many of the children come from families struggling daily to make ends meet.

Ms Thien provides the children with a day shelter, regular meals, and protection from those who might seek to exploit them. Ann and the team from MASD make monthly visits to the shelter to provide food, first aid and other essentials.

The shelter currently lacks running water and electricity and uses collected rain water for cooking and drinking. To help ensure the children receive a healthy, nutritional diet, MASD will be rebuilding their kitchen and installing a water filter with funds raised from a recent tennis tournament they hosted. Money raised from last year’s events has been used to build a new roof for the shelter.

The weekly cost for each child staying with Ms Thien is just VND30,000 but even this is too much for many the local families. Undaunted and funding much of the work herself, Ms Thien collects and sells coconuts at the local market. MASD now considers this one of the ongoing projects they will support and are raising funds to provide a better future for the children in her care.

MASD raises funds through events, donations and products that they sell. A recent partnership with Hanoi based initiative, Not Just Bamboo, has seen them launch a bamboo water bottle, offering a great alternative to single use plastic bottles.

Priced at just USD$39, these attractive, eco-friendly water bottles are helping provide disadvantaged children in the Mekong with the hope of a brighter future. Contact MASD via their website for further info or visit them at the MASD Bazaar on May 19 from 2 to 6pm in BP Compound at the Club House in Thao Dien.

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