I've just made a donation to an unsung and extremely worthy cause: The Children's Education Foundation - Vietnam.
This tiny charity, run by the tireless Linda Hutchinson-Burn relies on a just a few donors who know about her tenacious, selfless work that strives to keep young Vietnamese girls from impoverished families in school - and thus out of the hands of traffickers.
I was invited to a low-key fund raising dinner Linda organized in Brooklyn. At the top of this post is the impromptu video I shot of her presentation. I urge you to watch it and learn of her amazing work.
It started out like this: while holidaying in Vietnam 10 years ago, Linda saw that the mothers of extremely poor families literally worked themselves to death. "She died of tiredness" is a common explanation for death. Illness and premature death mean children must abandon school to look after remaining family members - making them a target for traffickers.
"A child in school is far less likely to be trafficked," says Linda. "An educated female is less likely to be violated or abused, and less likely to be exploited."
She was moved to tackle the problem, but from its root cause - ill health. By raising the health of these people, she reasoned, kids could stay in school, and be safer from trafficker's hands. So this amazing woman left her comfortable life in Australia and spent three years in Vietnam, cooking Vietnamese meals to raise money to finally open a free clinic.
How poor are these people? Many live on $1 a day, and have to build shacks on the most polluted canals where no tax is charged - they simply cannot afford to live on land:
Others live under structures of bamboo and newspaper; a family of four might sleep under a plastic sheet tied to a fence, their bed a platform on boxes, barely clearing a torrent of rainwater in monsoon season.
Thanks to donors - of which there are just a few in the world - school desks, books, pencils and waterproof clothing are hand-carried across rivers, streams and through thick jungle in the most remote parts of the country to give these kids and their families a chance at a better life - an educated life.
"We put girls back in school who have been removed due to poverty," says Linda. "We want them to have choices. A girl with an education earns 18 times that of one without."
As for Linda - now there's an amazing woman. She subsists on little more than the humanity she helps, as her charity is set up so that she receives no salary or payment. She is assisted by a handful of dedicated people including her long-time friend and USA coordinator, Stephen Jackel.
It turns out that just $150 equips a child for 1 year of school, and approximately double that for a year of university. I doubt there could be a more satisfying use for your spare $150.
Please donate to CEF now. Of course are many, many worthy charities, and many that have the PR and resources to attract the kinds of donations that CEF can only dream about. Toiling away year round in a far-flung corner of of the poorest places in the world, Linda is quietly putting 110% of her life into helping these kids in the small way she can.
You just know that your donation of $150 - or whatever you can spare - will be put to immediate and urgent use, $150%.
Write a check now.
‘Children’s Education Foundation – Vietnam’
Post it to the USA Coordinator - Stephen Jackel
277 Broadway, Suite 1010, New York, NY 10007.
Please let Stephen know of the donation so he can you send a receipt: firstname.lastname@example.org
And of course, check out the CEF Website