Millions of children and young people in Vietnam face challenges preventing them from realizing their full potential in life, exacerbated now by COVID-19. There are estimates that approx. 20 percent of all Vietnamese under 16 years old are either orphans, abandoned, disabled, victims of toxic substances, infected with HIV/AIDS, sexually abused, exploited and/or in conflict with the law. According to an UNICEF Situation Analysis of Children (2017), their number is rising and in Ho Chi Minh City alone (where Kidspire is headquartered and amongst others working) the three largest groups of children living in special circumstances are orphans without caregivers and abandoned children, children with disabilities and children infected with HIV/AIDS. The reason why a child becomes an orphan is mainly economic: families are too poor and have to give their children away. In Vietnam, only very few organisations are specifically focussing their work on institutionalized orphans. Even where organizations are working with marginalized children or young people, the programmes often exclude the orphanage(s). In all 8 orphanages where Kidspire is currently working, they are the only service provider focused on supporting these children and young people in their education, goal setting and future planning. It is a fact, that Vietnamese children in general, and institutionalized orphans at even higher rates, lack training e.g. in 21st century skills and/or core competencies required for future work. Specifically orphans are usually receiving little support from the institutions where there were placed, are stigmatized and drop out of secondary school at a high rate: Kidspire internal statistics vary according to the orphanages they work with, but about 50% of the students aged 14-16 years old are leaving school and the orphanage to go to work in menial jobs with limited income. Kidspire is bridging this gap striving to keep these children and young people engaged and in school and at the same time working towards expanding their opportunities with a high quality educational technology focused program they would otherwise not receive.
Kidspire was founded in 1991 with the aim to find adoptive families for orphans living in institutional care. Kidspire operates in Kenya (with Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) programmes that started in 2005 and run to date) and Vietnam (with STEM programmes that started in 2009 and run to date). Both operate independently but under the umbrella of Kidspire. Until today, Kidspire Vietnam has been collaborating with more than 32 orphanages across the country. At the moment, the team has MOUs with 8 orphanages in 6 provinces: Ba Ria-Vung Tau (1), Ben Tre (1), Hau Giang (1), Kien Giang (1), Ho Chi Minh City (2 + 1 with which Kidspire collaborates on Technovation only) and An Giang (1, currently closed due to COVID-19). The key goals of Kidspire Vietnam are: 1) to provide orphans with access to a high quality educational technology/STEM program, 2) to prepare them to pursue continuing education and/or professional careers after leaving the orphanage, and 3) to empower them to secure a decent employment later. Orphaned children and young people shall learn relevant 21st century skills through a learner-friendly programme and get empowered to imagine professional careers and get best prepared for their independent lives once leaving the orphanage.
The three major programmes of Kidspire Vietnam are:
1) Digital Literacy and STEM programming (for 9-18 years old): An educational technology programme for children and young people to enhance their self-confidence while learning digital and internet literacy, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and communication skills.
2) Lead VN (for 16-18 years old): A programme to support young people to answer questions they have about their futures and to imagine their futures but also to take steps of preparation, including (virtual) field trips to companies and/or universities. It guides them to discover the value of finishing school with the aim of pursuing higher education and/or vocational training and learn about the steps required to do so.
3) Lead VN (for 18-22 years old): A mentor programme for young adults after they have left the orphanages, supporting them to pursue their strengths and career aptitudes, identifying internships, and searching for decent employment.
Kidspire was recognised by the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organisation (Kidspire’s governing body) for its outstanding work with orphans: Girls from Kidspire participated in the global Technovation Challenge and a team of 3 girls (aged 12-14) advanced to the final 6 teams from 5,900 participants across 60 countries for their book sharing App they had coded and presented.
EMpower’s 1st grant to Kidspire Vietnam will support 225 marginalised young people 12 to 18 years old (approx. 163 girls and 62 boys) living in institutional care in 7 orphanages in 5 provinces. They will participate in 2 programmes: 1) Lead VN: that not only supports them to answer important questions they have about and to imagine their futures but also to take steps of preparation (e.g. career mapping and planning). 2) Technovation: a global challenge for girls only where they work in teams to code mobile apps that address real-world problems, pitch and defend their projects. Girls are frequently excluded from STEM careers and Technovation aims to build future female tech leaders. This first grant will also strengthen Kidspire’s organisational capacities in: 1. Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) and 2. programme delivery.
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