08/03/2007, 00.00
VIETNAM
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Dalat: Catholic schools for poor children

by JB. VU
The project launched by the diocese offers children education from kindergarten to primary school; more than 800 pupils are followed by religious and lay people whose point of reference is “the teachings on charity and love in the Bible”.

Dalat (AsiaNews) – The diocese of Dalat – in southern Vietnam, has a study programme dedicated to children coming from poor minorities, which starts in kindergarten and goes up to primary school. This initiative is part of a wider drive by the Vietnamese Catholic Church to help disadvantaged peoples in rural and mountainous areas and it arises from “Bible teachings” that invite us to “love and care for the poorest and neediest among us”.

Hoa, a diocesan primary school teacher, said families in the area “survive on less than a dollar a day” and this is why it is so important that “their children many receive an education so they will be able to improve the standard of learning and have opportunities for a better life.”

A priest explained: “The study support programme was born 14 years ago and has seen the contribution of parishioners and volunteers, who have dedicated time and resources to contribute to the children’s education. The support of lay people has been fundamental; they take part in social activities, collaborating actively with the priests of parishes and diocesan congregations.” The man said this course of action has developed over time thanks to the contribution of people of “goodwill” who want to dedicate part of their lives “to the service of less fortunate children”. They found in the proposal of the diocese of Dalat a project that not only responded to the “concrete needs of the little children” but also educated them in “life values and love for others”.

Currently the study programme of the diocese is implemented by 24 parishioners who follow up 872 pupils. Among the many people who could testify to the work undertaken by the educators, we heard Tung, a boy who goes to primary school: “I live in the village of K’Nai and I am about to complete the third year. Every day, I walk more than 2km to come to school but I do it with pleasure because I have the opportunity to study in the company of many friends who I got to know in these years, many of whom come from isolated forest areas, so they have to walk much longer distances than I do. But it is a joy for all of us to come here, to learn to read and to write. This is why I personally want to thank the bishop and soon I will write him a letter.”

The diocese of Dalat is part of the province of Lam Dong and is made up of 1,119,991 people, including 299,778 Catholics; of these, 89,000 belong to poor minorities.

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