Children in Southeast Asia need education, but their families often can’t afford it.
What’s the cause?
Enfants du Mekong, or Children of the Mekong, is a French organization which has been in operation since 1958 answering the call for local volunteers in the poorest and most vulnerable areas of Southeast Asia.
What’s the idea?
The organization’s vision is that even in the most desperate walks of life, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Even in the most hopeless living conditions, there are intelligent, responsible children begging for a chance to shine.
And if given the opportunity to grow, these children can sprout into exemplary models and leaders of their country. They can one day grow up to be intellectual adults who are concerned with the common good in their country and the world.
So, how does the organization go about ensuring this?
Glad you asked. Enfants du Mekong has a 4-step on-field action plan to make sure the right things are happening.
1. To build an environment and community conductive to schooling. This starts with, for example, construction of schools, homes, access to water, funds for school supplies, bicycles, etc.
2. Support and Educate. Thanks to sponsorship, the supported children take the road to school every morning and no longer work in rice fields or landfills.
3.Form communities.The reception of young people in centers and homes is one of the determinants of sustained change. Form welcoming communities, then children will be receptive.
4. Insert possibilities. Opening children up to opportunities outside of their own world goes a long way in finding their potential. This starts by introducing them to the world outside of their own. Make them dream bigger.
But what is The Chance Project’s involvement?
We have done very little in the grand scheme of things. We often like to pat ourselves on the back because giving to the less fortunate feels good. Some people do it for their own ego with little care about what is really going on, but in this case, there is a cause to recognize.
So, tell us what you’re doing. . .
Collage with Photo of boy
Meet 11-year-old, Tun Tun Win, whose education is sponsored by The Chance Project. Although we are a grassroots, on-the-ground-army without a lot of financial backing, we decided if the five of us pool money together, funding Tun Tuns’s education for a year (and beyond) is an honest sacrifice.
His mother and father are Myanmar refugees. Tun Tun was born in the Ban Mae Surin camp which he still lives in. His whole life has happened inside this refugee camp.
The camp currently hosts more than 4,000 people, the majority of whom are Karenni people like Tun Tun’s family. This ethnic group is normally settled in the state of Kayah, Myanmar. However, the war with the Myanmarese army that has been going on for more than 20 years has forced thousands of people to take refuge in Thailand. In Myanmar, their lives are threatened, their land is taken, and their houses are burnt down.
Tun Tun Win lives in the camp with his mother and his 6-year-old sister, who is in kindergarten. His dad left the camp long ago and Tun Tun Win sees him once or twice a year.
His mother is therefore raising her two children alone, and has difficulty taking good care of them. Tun Tun Win has skin problems, which result in scabs on his head and face. He has to go to the camp hospital every week for treatment.
Unfortunately, the people around him, like his teachers and even his mother, are afraid of this disease and sometimes neglect him.
Congrats, you guys are heroes.
No, that’s not what we are saying. We only share this information to encourage others to do the same. Like we said, in the grand scheme of things, we are doing very little to help the cause. Sharing this action and information is our attempt to make a bigger impact toward a solution.
So, what do you propose?
Sure, $30 per month to fund a child’s education all the way across the world may seem like a burden – especially if you are like us, freshly graduated and trying to get out of college debt plus working to build-up your savings.
However, if you can attract the interest of a friend, or say – four friends – and pool your money together in a crowdfunding-type effort, the $30 per month can then be reduced to a measly $6.
Or, better yet, why not open the floor to your social media following. Start a crowdfunding project on platforms such as Indiegogo or Kickstarter (our favorite) and share it with your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram audience.
Educate yourself on the problem and include all the information you can to get your friends passionate about helping. You’d be surprised who will offer to chip-in!
How can I get started?
Enfants du Mekong is a very transparent organization but certainly not the only organization helping children in Southeast Asia get a quality education.
Make sure you research all of your options. A few other organizations worth checking out are:
If you have decided Enfants du Mekong’s mission makes the most sense to you, great. We will explain how The Chance Project started sponsoring Tun Tun’s education in the town of Mae Hong Son in Northern Thailand.
The organization’s website is in French but if you Google “Enfants du Mekong”, the Google listing gives you an option to visit a translated version of the site (in English).
It is always a good idea to get ahold of the organization beforehand to ask questions and understand the mission a little better.
Get in touch with Enfants du Mekong through emailing or by phone (Note: They aren’t very good at responding to social media inquiries). We were in-touch with Fanny Tosoni (who works for the organization) through the entire process. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alternatively, you can get in-touch with the organization by visiting their contact page or calling +33 1 47 91 00 84 (French country code) for general inquiries.
Don’t know what to say? Start your email by expressing your interest to help. You may even introduce yourself and be open about your intentions (i.e. How long you are able to support a child according to your financial standing.) Don’t worry, the organization has employees and volunteers trained to help you out along the way. The important part is to initiate the communication so they can help you support the cause.
Recruit a group of friends to join you in your support based on your financial situation. Sometimes two, three, four, even ten friends can go a long way for your sustained support of a child.
You can do this in various ways as explained above. Depending on how close you are with any particular friend, you may be able to ask in-person.
If you’re not sure your close friends would be interested in directly helping the cause, it’s time to reach out to your online community.
You’ll need to prepare a crowdfunding campaign. Check here for the necessary steps in building a quality and informed crowdfunding campaign.
Make your call for help. Share the crowdfunding link to your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram communities. If you have a website, making a dedicated post about it on there could help, too.
If you’re not strongly connected digitally, do it the old fashioned way by writing letters and postcards. Nothing screams passion more than handwritten snail-mail requesting help.
Here’s something to guide you in writing pledge requests.
Keep the community updated. Whether they helped support the child financially or not, your effort is a human-interest story. Keep your online/offline community informed and updated on the situation.
Once you learn which child you’re assigned to sponsor, let your community know about him/her. Continue asking for help in supporting the child – the more financial support your campaign gets, the more sustainable your support will be.
It’s that easy?
Yep. Of course, not all of it is as easy as it sounds. It takes passion to get started. It takes courage to ask for support from those around you. And it takes dedication to keep supporting. But, in the end, you could change the life of a child – and that means everything.
Where can I find more information?
Here are some more resources to get you up-to-date about the situation in Myanmar, the sad realities of refugees fleeing to border countries, and the impact of out-of-school children on development in Southeast Asia: