A “dream” summer school

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 Trang Vu Hong:

Before we embolden someone to dream big, make sure that they are encouraged to have a dream!

 One of my dreams is to become a teacher, often deemed in Vietnam as a soul engineer.I often day dreamedi n class, imagining myself as a teacher, relishing the thought of looking at the curious eyes of my own students, and doing my utmost to instruct and inspire them.

I acquired my first-hand teaching experiences in dilapidated classrooms in impoverished northernmost areas of Vietnam during my summer voluntary trips to help local illiterate children, mostly girls, who were often discouraged from going to school in order to work with their parents in the farm.

One day in Ha Giang, 2013, I told my 9-year-old pupils, who had their first writing lessons, a story of a woman of humble origin also from their hometown, who later became an influential diplomat and scholar. I shared with them my dream of becoming a teacher and my brother’s desire to be an engineer. On the spur of the moment, I asked each of them about their dreams.

One asked me back: “What is a dream, teacher?”

This was indeed the toughest question that I had ever been asked. Dream had always been something that I had never questioned myself, something that anyone would ask me without even bothering to define it. I was at a loss for words.

I turned to ask other children: “Do you have any idea of what a dream is?”A sudden silence fell over the room of the most lively and lovely children I had ever met. I put aside my perplexed state , and explained “dream” in the simplest way: a big plan for your life, something that you want to achieve, or someone that you want to be like.

I cast my eyes on Nep, the most active girl in the class. Lowering her head, she murmured reticently: “I cannot have a dream. My parents need me to work in the farm.”A pang of sadness hung over me.

Gao, the monitor of the class, followed suit:“I will also stay here with my parents. They will marry me off to someone, either from the same or from a different village. Then, I will have children, and still work in the terraced field, like my mother does”.

Some others also echoed: “I have to toil away in the farm, until I am too old to work, just like my grandfather now.”

I felt a lump in my throat. I was so lost in thought at that moment that I finished the lesson without interest. It did not take long for me to understand the stunned silence of my usually vibrant class. The poverty and privations in mountainous areas have deprived disadvantaged children not only of basic commodities, but also of the chance to go to school, the courage to dream and dwell upon their own lives ahead. I shared my story with fellow volunteers, and all of us spent sleepless nights ruminating upon the “dream” question. We discussed at length on how to make these children start to think about their dreams.

The following week, we gathered all children, who were overjoyed to be able to read after their first lessons with us, in the schoolyard. We taught them to write and read vocabulary on jobs with numerous games. We explained to them what a professional or a practitioner does on a daily basis. We brought up the same question, and even asked them what they want their siblings to do in the future.

“I have a sickly younger brother. I wish I could be a doctor to cure his illness”.Nep started thinking differently.

Another raised her hand: “I want to be an electrician. I will be able to fix lamps so that my sisters do not have to read in darkness”.

“I want to be a teacher, just like you guys”, a girl shyly said.

We were filled with joy and pride. Their lives have not changed, but at least they have changed the way they thought about their lives ahead. At least, they would not think that their future must resemble the struggling life of their parents. They started nurturing a seed of dream at a tender age.

 

Before we embolden someone to dream big, make sure that they are encouraged to have a dream!

About the writer:

Trang Vu Hong graduated from Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam in 2013 with a BA degree in International Relations and Translation. Immensely interested in foreign languages, international affairs and knowledge dissemination, Trang has been involved in many international cultural projects in Vietnam as translator and interpreter. After obtaining an advanced diploma in Italian language and culture from University of Perugia in 2015, she is currently doing her MA on Erasmus Mundus scholarship in European Studies in France, Germany and Sweden while still participating actively in UN volunteering social projects. Besides, Trang is in charge of current affairs section at the Vietnam’s largest open online learning resource on international studies and is also editor at the Italian Association of Civil War Victims.

 

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