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Priest keeps students in school

Poor children benefit from fundraising efforts

Father John Baptist Vu Van Kien (center) and scholarship winners Father John Baptist Vu Van Kien (center) and scholarship winners
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hai Phong
  • Vietnam
  • August 11, 2011
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Many students from poor families in the northern city of Hai Phong are avoiding being forced to drop out of school thanks to the efforts of a local priest.

“I’ve been providing fifty scholarships each year to students since 2006 as a result of my fund-raising efforts,” said Father John Baptist Vu Van Kien, from Hai Phong diocese.

The total cost amounts to around 40 million dong (US$1,943), he said.

Students, regardless of their background, are granted somewhere between 400,000 and 3 million dong each.

Father Kien, 40, said that on his birthdays, priestly anniversaries and feast days, he asks local Catholics to donate money, rice or other items for his education fund, instead of giving him flowers.

The priest, who was ordained in 2005, said he got the fundraising idea from priests in Ho Chi Minh City where he studied philosophy and theology.

He also raises funds by staging concerts at churches and asking for donations from individuals and companies.

Father Kien, who gets around by bicycle, said last week he and a local bus company are seeking to give scholarships and  500,000 dong each to 40 students, so they can buy uniforms, books, bags and other items for the new school year starting later this month.

“My main priority is to support poor students in furthering their studies so that they can escape from poverty in the future,” said Father Kien, who also serves as head of Caritas in the diocese.

People live in poverty because they have had a poor education, so children who are given the opportunity to study are more likely to lead a good life and avoid social ills in the future, he added.

He said about 20 percent of students in the diocese have dropped out of elementary and high-school education.

They drop out mainly due to lack of money or deaths in the family.

Marie Nguyen Thi Trang, a ninth grader, said she and her younger brother would have dropped out if they hadn’t received Church scholarships after their parents died in a flood two years ago.

They are supported by their 84-year-old grandmother who begs for help from neighbors, she added.

Father Kien said during the last academic year, Caritas also offered scholarships to 350 students in the diocese, most of whom are living with HIV/AIDS.

Related reports:

Church scholarship boost for poor students
Vietnam parish joins state to fight illiteracy
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