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An Interview with Annie (Year 12), Fouder Member of Silver Lining Community Organization

18 February 2016

Silver Lining is a student-run community organisation, founded by enthusiastic students from BVIS in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in summer 2013. They work towards improving the education of low-income children at pagodas in Vietnam rural areas through their projects. Silver Lining was founded at BVIS and is run in cooperation with other international schools, such as ISHCMC-AA, AuIS, SSIS, ABC, and AmIS to carry out different projects that provide educational equipment and classes for poor children at pagodas in Vietnamese rural regions.

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 We interviewed one of Silver Lining’s founder members, Bảo An (Annie), BVIS Year 12 student, to find out more about their activities.

Where did you get your initiative and what motivated you to establish the Silver Lining community organisation?

When I was younger, my family had a very close relationship with Buddhist nuns at Vien Chieu Pagoda. Hanh Dat, one of the nuns at the pagoda, loved me like her own family. When I was in the 3rd or 4th grade, she passed away because of cancer. My parents didn’t let me know the news right away, afraid that it would greatly upset me. I found out a while after that, and I was very upset and angry. I told my parents that I would never come to the pagoda ever again.

After a long time, when I came to the pagoda to donate some books on behalf of my parents, I witnessed something that later became a milestone that changed my thinking entirely. I saw that there were a lot of children adopted by the pagoda and they were misbehaving. When they were being loud and naughty, a nun came along. She didn’t punish them but calmly reminded them, explaining things to them and I felt that the love she had for these children is real. I was very surprised and realised that my problems are nothing compared to this, instead of being angry, I should find solutions and help people around me. From that day on, I started to come to the temple more often to teach English to children, give them knowledge that I’ve learned at school. This was the first step towards my establishing the Silver Lining organisation.

During the process did you face any challenges?

At the beginning, I couldn’t find anyone who had the same passion for volunteering, so I did everything by myself including going to the temple. I thought this was the most difficult challenge to me.

Later on, while attending a holiday camp, I made friends with many charity-minded students who are interested in charity activities. We held a meeting and established the group, and from then, our charity activities were organised much easier. This taught me a lesson, that finding like-minded people will make everyone achieve their common goal faster and more efficient than just doing it alone.

In addition, because all our group members are still students, we organise charity activities mainly in the summer. During the school year, we can only operate once every 1-2 months, we alternate with each other to go to venues to teach English and to help the children.

How do the knowledge and skills you gain at school and your teachers and friends support you?

The most essential skill that school has equipped me with is that we should accept the diversity of personalities and circumstances of each person, each child. Thus, I can integrate, find the most appropriate approach to help the children.

Additionally, I am also aware of the cultural differences between schools; therefore, I can understand and work better with group members, who are students from other International School.

My teachers have supported and assisted me a lot in all the activities, especially Mr. Graves and Ms. Thuy. My friends also help me very enthusiastically, they help me to implement my projects, donate books, and paint for my projects…

Which benefit has this activity brought to your studying, as well as developing yourself?

While teaching children, I see how difficult it is to convey ideas from teachers to students, and I understand that interaction between teachers and students is very important to understand and acquire knowledge. This helps me to understand teachers more as well as to improve my learning.

Besides, when I step out my comfort zone, I can see that many other people’s circumstances are more unfortunate than mine, and accordingly I perceive my problems in life in a more positive and light-hearted way.

And in the course of operation, I encountered many difficulties and got exposed to many people, so I know how to get people to participate and work as a team to achieve my goals.

Do you have any future plans you could share with us?

I am planning many new projects. The first is the sex education for children in Ben Tre, Binh Duong, Dong Nai. Next, I and a friend from the US are going to implement an Online Book Store project: selling books to raise funds for disadvantaged women, refugees, and donating to the United Nations so that they can build charitable houses in Vietnam. Besides, I am going to participate in organising Sealnet, performing volunteer trips to other difficult countries to guide women and children on how to protect themselves from violence in the family and in wider society. Another initiative is to manage media relations for the organisation of International Catalysts Empowerment as of this summer. This is the organisation that strives to improve the lives of poor children in developing countries.

Do you want to share anything with your friends?

Everyone should step out their comfort zone so you can see what is going in the community, there are many people who are facing worse problems than you do, even though their situation is very difficult, they still make it through easily. You should look at these situations in order not to complain, feel angry again, but instead try to solve your problems. And while performing volunteer activities, instead of thinking about achievements, such as how many books are donated or how many people participate, just focus on thinking about what benefits that this activity can bring to other people, community and what knowledge that you can learn.

I also want to tell you that Silver Lining organisation is looking for more volunteers for our next projects, if you are interested, please visit the organisation’s website for more information.