March 06, 2017
For many 12-graders in Vietnam, summer camp is an experience that’s often longed for. Each year before graduating secondary school, Room to Read’s Girls’ Education students anxiously await a life skills-focused summer camp. This once in a lifetime opportunity not only allows girls to relax and learn, but also encourage them to dream big and embrace their potential.
After graduation, many girls leave their hometown for college life in Ho Chi Minh City. Some study at local vocational schools, while others work part-time to pay for tuition. A few may give up on tertiary education for full-time work that often comes with little pay. Regardless of what they choose the new chapter comes with a transition–a transition that requires life skills to navigate into adulthood, where they’ll live away from home, deal with new people and adapt to new environments.
“Summer camp readies our girls to be productive, independent, and capable people—to prepare them to thrive without Room to Read’s support,” says Hoa Huynh, a Girl’s Education Program Officer.
To get to the beautiful beach town of Long Hai, 80 girls travel three hours by bus from Long An Province and Can Gio District on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City.
“This is the first time I have ever seen the beach”, says Ngoc Thanh, a girl’s scholar.
A Chance for Self-reflection
Camp starts with a session called Life-skills Reflection, where Room to Read staff selects three skills for girls to manifest: goal-setting, communications and job-hunting. Each girl must make use of their life skills to overcome challenges in order to know which areas they need to improve on and which strengths they can utilize in the future.
“We spent a lot of time to prepare for the tasks. We must both make the tasks intriguing enough for the girls to try, but still adequate to their capacity,” says Hoa, a Girls’ Education Program officer.
The staff simulates real life situations to challenge the girls. For instance, Hong Tuoi, one of the scholars, carries of basket of objects and tries to convince the teachers and staff to purchase as many objects as possible. “It was difficult because I didn’t know how to do it until an instructor told me that I must put myself in the buyer’s shoes to communicate what the buyers want to know,” remarks Tuoi.
When it comes to job-hunting skills, the girls can imagine any job they like, then write a cover letter and have an interview to land the mock-job in front of Room to staff and judges.
“I know the girls find it challenging, and many of them struggle with this assignment. But this is to let them know what to prepare for in the coming years, so they can land a good job after university,” says Ms. Bich, a Senior Girls’ Education Program Associate.
Those who got highest score in Life-Skills Reflection were selected to join the final round. There they would stand in front of everyone and passionately express why they want their dream job. Thanh Thao, one of the finalists, was amazed at the result.
“I have learned to be brave to speak in public. It was the first time I expressed my opinion without fear in front of judges and other students,” says Thao.
From Strangers to Friends
While Life-skill Reflection is independent work, afternoon team-building exercises requires girls to collaborate with new friends from different schools to solve the challenges. They go through diverse skills-based tasks with strong team spirit.
“This is the first time I feel like I’m not afraid of making new friends. I think we will be good friends,” says My Trinh, a member of a team comprised of ten girls from three different schools.
Room to Read staff presents developmental challenges for young girls to try such as, living in the same hotel room with girls from other schools, sharing meals together, and singing around the campfire together. This creates an ideal space for them to develop new friendship, sparking connections to build upon when they move to Ho Chi Minh City for tertiary education.
“I still remember the first time I joined summer camp years ago. As new friends, we didn’t only talk about everything, but we did things together, like active, sporting things. They strongly connected us,” says Tay Thi, alumni who also attended this summer camp as a supporter.
The outcome of the camp
“Watching girls grow as a result of their summer experiences is incredible. The profound thing is I believe they will reinvent themselves after the camp with all of these experiences,” says Hoa.
“I feel lucky that I have had the chance to learn all these crucial life-skills with Room to Read since I was in Grade 6. I wish every girl in my hometown was equipped with these skills like me and experienced such a wonderful time at summer camp,” says Thanh.