Selecting Partner Orphanages
Many orphanages in Vietnam are interested in receiving a donation of computers to set-up their own computer lab. But many of these same orphanages are not prepared - or interested - in providing the disciplined program necessary to help increase the likelihood that a genuine impact will be made in the lives of the orphan children using these computers.
Is the computer learning center primed to become an educational priority of the orphanage? Does the orphanage leadership believe in the program and want to see their children succeed? If it is the orphanage staff who will be running the program, has the staff been adequately trained to run the daily program and run it well? Is Orphan Impact prepared to offer the individual orphanages the support they require to achieve success?
The answers to these questions are of high consideration for each new orphanage partner.
We do not believe that by simply bringing computers and internet into Vietnamese orphanages we will magically help each child to be successful. But we do believe that with the right balance of fun and challenge, mentoring, encouragement and discipline - as well as a carefully planned curriculum and properly trained teachers, we can begin to help the children develop many of the crucial skills they are currently missing to be prepared for today's fast moving and tech-focused society. With each new orphanage partner, we try to ensure the orphanage leadership is interested in working with us to help work towards these goals.
We are teaching orphan children how to learn, rather than what to learn.
The Orphan Impact education program is designed to help children develop important skills necessary to lead successful lives beyond the orphanage.
Creative Thinking. Problem Solving. Time Management. Team Collaboration and Cooperation.
Because the children are already attending school through the Vietnamese public school system, the Orphan Impact program needs to complement the education they are receiving, not replace it. We have created an environment within the orphanage where we are inspiring an interest in learning and motivating the children to take proactive steps in preparing for their futures.
- All projects are centered around computer and web-based learning. The children are learning to type and create charts and graphs and formulas. The children are using Flip Camcorders to create documentaries and learn how to edit and upload video clips, while also learning how narration or "on-camera" presentation skills. The children are using Skype to connect with other children. The children are using Google Apps to email and upload their research results, and embed pictures and video, and safely send/receive email with their project partners in the Vietnam or the USA. The children are using internet news sites to follow current events and compare the different points of view that are available from different sources. We believe it is crucial for the children to develop 21st century skills as they prepare for their lives outside the orphanage.
- All projects are focused on creating connections. Connections with children in similar environments. Connections with children in different environments. Connections with children in other parts of Vietnam. Connections with children on other parts of the world. Institutionalized orphans live out their childhood in an isolated environment. We believe that by using the web to create connections, we can diminish that sense of isolation and instead help the children to imagine a future that is exciting.
- All projects are team-based and set-up to give each child a key role within the group. Whether the children are researching countries in Africa, cities in Vietnam, or determining point-by-point directions for the nearest pizza location in Ho Chi Minh City, each child must play a role. Institutional living almost results in groupings of children where only a handful of children have a voice. The other children are left to follow and take orders. We believe that by encouraging positive group dynamics we can teach self-confidence and help the children to develop healthy self-esteem.
- All projects are set-up to encourage student inquiry based learning. Children naturally have questions about the world around them. But children who have been orphaned may have never had an adult in their lives to whom they can ask their questions. By the time they reach 12 or 13 years of age, they may have stopped inquiring altogether. Why inquire when you never receive an answer? But we know how important it is to teach kids how to think through issues, engage in discussions, and find solutions. We believe that by encouraging children to ask questions and learn how to seek solutions we are equipping children to be much more prepared for their futures outside the orphanage. We want these kids to become life long learners!
- All projects are geared towards encouraging children to consider career opportunities and what they might be interested in after leaving the orphanage. Every research project includes at least a few questions that are "career-focused" in nature. For example, if we are reading a news story in the Vietnam News we might ask the children to consider the process that occurred to bring this news story to us. The photography. The writing. The editing. The printing. Who was responsible for creating each of these items and how do we think they earned these jobs? We believe that by creating an increased curiosity about careers, as well as greater understanding about possible career opportunities, we can help motivate children to set career goals and begin taking steps toward achieving these goals.
Example daily/weekly program for participating orphanages
||1 Lead Teacher and 1 Assistant Teacher
| 15-25 Children
||Children are divided into groups of 8-10 students per class
| 8-10 Computers
||100% of our classes are taught on 1 laptop per 1 child
| 2 Hours Per Week
||Our curriculum has been designed for 80 hours over 40 teaching weeks
A key goal of this project has always been systemic change in orphan education policies throughout all of Vietnam. The project opened with a focus on developing relationships with orphanage directors to ensure that participating orphanages take an ownership in the success of their children. While that focus continues, the 2012-2013 project year will also begin to emphasize greater government participation at the policy-making levels of orphan care, education initiatives, and technology.