|Jrai ethnic students enjoy meal prepared by solders.-VNA/VNS Photo Nguyễn Viet Ton |
The pop-up eatery in Duc Co District in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai is funded by Le Thanh Border Guard Station soldiers, who want to help local Jrai ethnicity students to stay in school.
Launched in June 2012, the soldiers serve food daily to 14 to 16 students from local Tran Phu Primary School, Nguyen Trai Secondary School and Nguyen Truong To High School.
Besides, each student receives a monthly assistance of VND500,000 (US$21.5) from the soldiers.
Sitting around a small table, they happily enjoy hot and savoury food cooked by the amateur chefs.
Ro Ma H’Duoi, a seventh grader and her tenth grade brother Ro Ma Khai have been diners for three years.
Khải said that they had to ride some ten kilometres a day from home to school.
“After school, we do housework and pick coffee beans to help parents,” he said.
The distance and life’s challenges, however, don’t stop them from working hard at school.
Students like Khai and H’Duoi gave soldiers a reason to establish this eatery.
“This model has run well for seven years,” said Major Nguyen Van Thanh.
“First Lieutenant Ro Cham Gieo is tasked to raise funds, call for help from community, do grocery shopping and prepare food,” he added.
During their field trips to nearby villages, soldiers find and help students with disadvantaged backgrounds.
Ro Ma H’Win, whose mother died several years ago, is among those students.
“They encourage me to continue trying, offer me good food and buy me books. Thanks to their help, I can finally come back to school,” she said.
Her older sister, Ro Ma H’Rin also grew up with support from the force. She was able to finish school and now has a family for herself.
In Kon Tum, another Central Highlands province, soldiers of Bo Y Border Guard Station are also making efforts to help locals.
The six-member family of Y Loi, a Ca Dong ethnic woman in Ta Kha Commune, Bo Y District, depends mostly on a small cassava farm.
“As they are struggling to make ends meet, we support her daughter Y Bao Han, a second grader of Nguyen Ba Ngoc Primary School, with a monthly scholarship of VND500,000,” said Captain Xieng Văn Thang.
Two other students, Nang Lang and Nang Xit, also enjoy the support as a part of soldiers’ welfare programe named ‘Together we go to school’.
Colonel Nguyen Van Tuong of Gia Lai Province Border Guard Military headquarters, emphasised the importance of those initiatives in improving living conditions, livelihoods and access to education for ethnic minority people.
Their efforts not only inspire Vietnamese students but also the Cambodian and Lao students living on the other side of the border.
It all started with the hope that education can fight poverty, in one of the country’s poorest areas.