After a sleepless night in a steadily shaking train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, close to the Chinese border, we were welcomed by staff from Save the Children. On our way from Lao Cai to the rural schools, we were thrown back and forth, left and right by the bumpy roads. Due to a blocked street, we took a diversion and saw beautiful landscapes with fields of rice, water buffaloes, small street markets and countless pupils on their way to school.
After a three-hour ride, we finally arrived at Kim Son 1 school and felt emotionally overwhelmed by the reception: all pupils, their parents, relatives, teachers and the whole community welcomed us on the school grounds. A wave of curiosity and friendliness caught us. In a presentation, the school headmistress Nguyen Thi Duong showed us what the support of the IKEA Foundation achieved: visible is the new stone house with four classrooms; invisible but recognisable is the increased self-confidence of the students.
A big school party began with a dance by all the kids, followed by games, handicrafts and stick dancing. We joined them and tried to make a basket, win a sack-race competition and dance the stick dance (all with very little success, but we entertained the pupils and teachers). After a long morning, we finally got some food and toasted our friendship with many many people.
Every school here has additional satellite schools in very remote areas and communities, some of which can be reached only by foot. We drove to a satellite school in Cao Son where we can see clearly the differences between the main school and the satellite school. Although it is small and very basic, this school enables kids from the community to go and study near their homes. They get bilingual education and learn Vietnamese step by step, based on their own ethnic minority language.
We handed over a present to the school: hand puppets and soft toys from IKEA which enable the teachers to make their lessons livelier. A water buffalo gave us a last farewell on our way to the hotel in Bao Yen.