Young Teen Builds School in Vietnam

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The Problem

My project began when I founded Kids Building Hope, an organization for kids, by kids and about kids. The first mission of Kids Building Hope was to build an elementary school in Vietnam. I was inspired by a project I worked on in the third grade when my grandmother's Rotary Club in Pennsylvania was building a school in Vietnam. My classmates and I gathered school supplies and toys for the Vietnamese school children and my grandmother brought back pictures of the children receiving our gifts. I will never forget the faces of the children. I promised myself then that one day when I was a little older I would build a school in Vietnam. I prepared a power point presentation on the needs of the children in Vietnam and visited over 30 Rotary clubs in Northeast Ohio asking for financial support for a school. Being only 14 years old, my family and friends provided transportation to all the meetings. A project in Vietnam was difficult. I learned valuable lessons about predjudice and indifference. That was hard for me to understand, but I came away stronger. I also visited schools, other organizations, foundations and even my karate studio asking for help. At the end of summer 2006, I had raised over $30,000. At that time, Mr. Terry Anderson(former hostage for 7 years in Beirut and journalist)learned of our project and assured us that his organization would match us 100% to build the school. Mr. Anderson is the Chairman of the Vietnam Childrens Fund. He also was guest speaker at a fundraising dinner we hosted for Kids Building Hope. At the end of a 17 month grassroots effort (April 2006 - September 2007) Kids Building Hope reached the goal of $50,000 with a matching grant from the Vietnam Childrens Fund for a total of the $100,000 needed to build the school. We didn't stop there. I spoke at several churches and a vacation bible school and raised an additional $2500.00. This money will be used to give each and every child a backpack. The school, which is being built by the Vietnam Childrens Fund, is near completion in the Lam Dong Province of the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The well constructed building will have 12 classrooms, a library and teachers room. Over 500 very poor children will now have a school to attend and give each child the opportunity of a good education. My entire family, friends and several Rotarians will travel to Vietnam in March 2008 to dedicate the school with the Vietnam Children's Fund and the Vietnamese government. I can't wait to meet many of the kids and their families who will benefit from the school. We are now organizing a school supply and toy drive in the grade schools in the Canton, Ohio area. We will be taking these items to present to all the children. I hope that this will inspire these young grade school children as I was, and they can start their own project when they get older. The support of my parents, family, friends and Rotary International made it possible for me to be successful in this very challenging project. Please consider my application for a Do Something Brick Award

Plan of Action

Project Updates

Since I submitted this project, many things have happened. First of all, the Vietnam Children's Fund asked us to switch locations for the school. A private donor had become available for the Lam Dong location so they asked if we would reallocate our funds for a school in Chau Doc in Southern Vietnam. It is also an extremely poor area with great need for a school. Of course we said yes. With all of our funds raised to build the school and buy backpacks for all the students, we set off to fill the backpacks with supplies and goodies. We had five enormously successful school supply drives! We had enough to fill all 500 backpacks and then some. We solicited local grocery stores for donations of candy and treats. I was asked to speak to many different groups, -- churches, schools, and service organizations. It was wonderful to tell the story of Kids Building Hope and maybe inspire someone to step up and "do something" to make a change in the world. Then the day finally arrived. We set off on our journey to Vietnam for the school dedication. It was a LONG trip but I knew it was going to be the experience of a lifetime. We traveled to various parts of Vietnam and learned so much about the country, the people and the culture. The people were so warm and welcoming to us. We saw extremely poor living conditions and a hard way of life for so many. We traveled to Chau Doc in Southern Vietnam and onto Hoa Loc, the small village where the school is located. The last 7 miles on a narrow dirt road took us 2 hours. Then we finally reached the school! It was so rewarding to finally see it. The entrance way was lined with cheering kids...clapping, drumming, waving flags and singing. I teared up seeing all these kids so happy, and knowing I played a part in making that happen. There was a beautiful ceremony of dedicating the school, where children sang, and representatives from the school spoke. We were honored to cut the ribbon on the school! After the dedication, the students lined up and we handed out backpacks, school supplies, and noodles. (With some extra money raised right before we left for Vietnam, we purchased 130 cases of noodles for the schoolchildren and their families.) I witnessed sincere appreciation and great excitement when the kids received their filled backpacks. It was humbling to see each child bow to us and thank us as they took their gifts. We then visited the children in some of the classrooms and played some games with the kids. My brother and cousin taught some of the boys to play 4-square. It was one of the most awesome days of my life! The day went by so quickly and we had to leave. As we pulled out, the kids formed a line waving good-bye to us. I felt sad to leave, but filled with hope...which I guess is pretty fitting.

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