Each week we are in 4 different provinces teaching 17 computer classes, in 5 orphanages, to 148 orphaned children. What a great year it has been for Orphan Impact! Looking back, I see that our progress this year has been very different from past years. We were very introspective this year – examining what exactly we do in each class, why we do it, how it is making an impact in our students' lives, and what we can be doing to improve our program offerings to better prepare our students for the chapters of their lives that will come next…after the orphanage.
I feel our 2012 progress is most visible in 3 key categories:
Teacher Training Academy
It was in April 2012 that we first started brainstorming the ways we could streamline our project model to make it easier to expand to reach new orphanages. With the help of the Intel Education Service Corps we started to develop a "training package" that we could share with new hires to Orphan Impact, volunteers, and other organizations within Vietnam who have seen the Orphan Impact program and want to learn how to implement their own computer & internet training course for children.
Though this type of training and operational streamlining is likely a very natural process for many corporations and organizations, it was a HUGE undertaking for a small project like Orphan Impact. We spent hundreds of hours creating multi-year curriculum goals, organizing lessons plans, systemizing our technical set-up, imaging our Classmate PCs, and building PowerPoint slides and training exercises for 20-hour, 35-hour, and 70-hour training courses. It was well worth the time– not only are we much more organized, but we were invited to provide 2 teacher training courses for staff from the Worldwide Orphan Foundation, an American NGO with programs for orphan children all throughout Vietnam and around the world. Today WWO is providing their own Classmate PC computer & internet training course for 30 vulnerable children in Ho Chi Minh City and preparing to open a 2nd course at the Ba Vi Orphanages outside of Hanoi. We love knowing that we could share our program experience with another NGO and see it result in the program expanding to reach and benefit more children!
An oft-asked question at Orphan Impact is: How will this help the children have a greater chance at success when they leave the orphanage? We ask ourselves this question on a weekly – sometimes daily – basis. We know computing skills are relevant in today's tech-dependent society. But we also realize computer knowledge alone will not completely pave the way for our students to earn good jobs upon graduation.
With this realization in mind, we are continually exploring new ideas for how we can better prepare our students for the job market they will face when the time comes to leave the orphanage – in essence, how we can equip our students with the life skills required to succeed in their job interviews. Frequently during these brainstorming sessions someone on our team will point out those job applicants in Vietnam who have English fluency have a huge advantage over non-English speaking candidates. So we knew it was an amazing opportunity when we were introduced to the British Council Vietnam and they agreed to begin providing English training each week at the Linh Xuan Orphanage – while considering future expansion to more orphanages in the future. The classes began in September 2012 and have been taking place every Saturday for the past 4 months! We are thrilled! We know that equipping our students with Computer + English skills is a huge step in the right direction towards our goal of better preparing our students for their futures beyond the orphanage.
Hiring Local Operations Manager
I am also very pleased to announce that I recently promoted Long to become the "Operations Manager" for Orphan Impact. Long has been working with me for 2 years and has shown high proficiency in both the technical side and the teaching side of our operation. He is highly organized and has shown himself to be a great manager of our staff, while also doing a great job of maintaining our working relationships with our government orphanage partners. It has been very pleasing to see my local staff begin to take more ownership and responsibility in our activities. After all, our project is located in Vietnam, for Vietnamese children, taught in Vietnamese language, by Vietnamese teachers. I know that we will increase our chances of being successful as our local staff takes on greater roles.
Looking to 2013
As we look towards 2013, I would like to ask for your support. Fundraising has been slower this past year than it has been in previous years. Despite canceling our rented office space and moving our offices into my apartment to help save $4,000 from our 2012-2013 budget, we are still facing a funding shortage of $13,600 for the year ahead.. Our budget for 2013 is $18,624 and we currently have just over $5,000 in remaining funds. It is important for you to know that I do not draw any salary from Orphan Impact donations. I work hard to use our funds wisely and stretch each dollar as far as we can. 100% of all donations go directly into our project activities in the 5 orphanages.
I truly believe that we are making a significant impact in the lives of the 148 children in our program. The progress we have seen in these past 4 years has been incredible and we have great positive momentum in our current project activities. I want to do everything I can to keep that momentum moving forward in 2013 and beyond. I would be so grateful if you would join me in helping to keep us moving forward.
As always - please feel free to contact me via phone or email with any questions, comments, or concerns.
I wish you and your family many blessings this Christmas!