Tam – topped her class

A trip to Hanoi in August 2011 revealed an enormous amount of goodwill towards Platypus,
and good advice was offered by officials who work with those doing it tough. Rather than
rush about sprinkling school fees all over the place, a more selective approach will be
employed whereby people will receive what they need.

A family may only need help in purchasing uniforms, or for purchasing food since their child
could only perform limited paid work to assist family finances. In some cases education will
be a joint project involving the child, the family, the education authorities, the Women’s
Union, Platypus and perhaps the local hamlet or village. I have seen such a strange
partnership work very well in a hamlet in Hoa Binh Province, where Huong brought to my
attention the plight of 10 year-old Tam, a youngster I had helped in a small way the year

Bright as a button, Tam faced problems in remaining at school and was destined to become
a farm labourer. Her father has a few issues and is unable to productively cultivate their
land, or undertake regular paid work. Her mother is unusually diminutive, sometimes has
difficulty in expressing herself, and suffers from occasional depression. I take care of Tam’s
school fees. At the request of Tam’s family, I travelled to their home to meet the youngster
who wanted to meet me.

In the past year, Tam has topped her class with progressively-improving marks. Studying
in a single-room little house is difficult, especially when father is home, clouding up the
place with smoke. However, the whole hamlet is proud of Tam, pleased to see her receive
the support she needs and deserves, so she has several work places she can choose from.
The school has entered into the spirit of things: Tam receives extra classes in English and
mathematics, her favourite subject.

It does not end there. Her family needs income and father is unable to work well
consistently, so the hamlet keeps an eye open for employment opportunities for both
parents. Huong’s parents help out from time to time, as do neighbours. Tam has become a
community project and she will go to university so she can return to her village as a teacher
and care for her parents. That is all in train and it will happen.

There is so much more to what Platypus proposes doing. In tough territory, in tough times,
it is not only a matter of helping a child attend school. Lift a child and lift a family, a hamlet,
a village, a district. You give a lot of people a lot of joy and hope, and something to look
forward to with good reason. It’s about time foreigners gave them something good.

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