IESC Vietnam: Making an Impact with Orphans

Thumbnail image for Vietnamone.jpgAs part of Intel’s ongoing commitment to improving education through the effective use of technology, Intel’s Education Market Platforms Group (EMPG) launched the Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) in September 2009. This program is a short-term service and career development opportunity, for a select group of Intel employees to travel to a developing country to directly support the deployment of Intel-powered classmate PCs. Sarah Frawley, an Automation Engineer from Ireland, recaps her team’s first few days in Vietnam.

(In photo left to right: Gabe, Ben, Marissa, Sarah, Tad, Bao)

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Good Morning Vietnam

by Sarah Frawley

I am one of five Intel employees that has just arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam as part of the Intel Education Service Corps to work with the non-governmental organization (NGO) Orphans Overseas to help with their Orphan Impact project. Orphan Impact has been delivering computer training to 800 children in 12 orphanages across 9 provinces in Vietnam since 2009 using Intel-powered classmate PCs.

My name is Sarah Frawley (Automation Engineer) and I will be working on this team with 4 other Intel Employees: Marissa Mertzic (Process Engineer), Bao Nguyen (Microprocessor Product Developer), Ben Young (Business Development Manager on 4G/ Wimax) and Gabe Schnaubelt (Technology & Manufacturing Group Software Engineer). Gabe, Ben and Bao are all based in Oregon, Marissa is from Massachusetts, and I am based in Ireland. Bao is originally from South Vietnam and has been helping us all with the language translations and with ordering local food and especially requesting gluten-free for Marissa!

We have been working together for ~30 hours the last 5 weeks preparing for the assignment incuding virtual training, face to face training and regular meetings to sort out our logistics and project goals. The training phase of the project was conducted in parallel with our existing roles at Intel.

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We all arrived in Ho Chi Minh City April 1st when some of us met for the first time while others had met at the face to face training day in Santa Clara a couple of weeks back. Temperature has been ranging from 25 -37 degrees Celsius with humidity averaging 83% so it’s pretty hot and sticky!

We are all very eager and excited in getting started with the project. We met Tad, our NGO representative for the Orphan Impact project and went through the agenda for the next 2 weeks. Our team began to decide how best to tackle the tasks that were ahead of us. We will be working with LEGO kits which will be used in the classes for the first time. We are also planning lessons, revising existing lessons, and focusing especially on training the local teachers on 21st century education skills. Gabe and I both have technical backgrounds and began going through some initial setup and configuration on the classmate PCs, as well as installing classroom management software which will provide new capabilities to the students and teachers within the Vietnam orphanages. We also worked with an experienced classmate PC representative at Intel Singapore, Bernd Nordhausen, who gave us some useful advice with getting the classmate PCs configured.

On Day 2 we met some of the local Ho Chi Minh City Orphan Impact teachers, and Ben, Bao and Marissa got involved in their lesson-planning for the week ahead. The teachers travel by motorcycle to each of the centres every week to roll out 3 hours of computer training. They bring all the classmate PCs and equipment with them which results in 30 machines getting spread across all the Ho Chi Minh City centres and orphanages which reach up to 109 students. That evening we visited our first orphanage in Binh An which is 15 kilometers from downtown Ho Chi Minh City. We got to observe the local Orphan Impact teachers teaching a class on Microsoft Office. The kids have been using the classmate PCs for over 6 months and are pretty comfortable with their navigation and enthusiastic about learning more. Our team had some fruit to give each of the kids and there were smiles all round at the end of class.

The next day we had 2 orphanage visits. Marissa and I got the chance to ride to one of the centres on the back of a motor bike wearing a “Winne the Pooh” helmet with one of the Vietnamese teachers which was pretty exciting, especially at rush hour! There are over 3 million motor bikes in Ho Chi Minh City making it the main mode of transport. While she was riding on the back of motor bike, Marissa asked her driver Bang, a local Vietnamese teacher, if she had been in many accidents and Bang replied “Many!” Marissa made it through the ride ok regardless.

We went to Tu Xuong in the morning which is a centre for teenagers ranging between 14-18 years of age. Some kids attend the classes by day and travel home to their families at night and are usually from economically disadvantaged backgrounds (for example, single-parent families where the parent is sick or disabled and unable to work). Some of them walk for 2 hours to get to the centre and others cycle for 1.5 hours. The kids at this centre have been taught English for the last few years and they all introduced themselves in English and told us what they would like to be when they grow up. We had some budding song artists among us. Our team introduced ourselves also in English, apart from Bao who was able to introduce himself in Vietnamese.

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Our afternoon was spent observing a lesson at an orphanage in Thu Duc. The kids here are either attending the orphanage full-time or are one of many undocumented kids who are unable to attend public schools and attend this one by day. This was a busy and noisy centre with other classes and break times taking place nearby the area where our classmate PC lesson was happening. However this did not faze the students at all and they were all focused on the Microsoft Word activity for their lesson. We chatted with some of the kids at the oprhanage, again a lot of them had enough English to introduce themselves and were also keen to find out things about us and they all loved my sunglasses.

The last couple of days have given us an insight into the exposure to technology that these kids have been given by the Orphan Impact project and the opportunity it will give them to further their education. One of the Orphan Impact teachers, Thao, is a previous student from one of the centres here. She is an inspiration to the existing students on the many career paths available once they leave the centres.

P.S. Click here to catch up on the adventures, experiences and learnings from the 14 previous Intel Education Service Corps teams and the other two teams who are working right now in Kenya and India.

2 Responses to IESC Vietnam: Making an Impact with Orphans

  1. Brian says:

    Sarah, Looke like your team are all having a great time in Vietnam getting to showcase the Intel powered Classmate PCs in the orphages. You are sure to make a great impression on all the peopole you meet and leave a lasting legacy when you leave. Congratulations.