By Ha Vinh Tho
Tho and Lisi Ha Vinh, the founders of Eurasia lived for many years in Perceval a Camphill community in St Prex. When Vietnam reopened its borders after the war in 1982, Tho took the opportunity to return to the homeland of his father. He was deeply touched by the suffering of the people, and the wounds of war which were still visible everywhere. The life of people living with mental disabilities and their families was very difficult.
Eurasia started its engagement by supporting families having children living with disabilities. Very soon it became clear that there was a need to create adequate education and work opportunities for people living with disabilities, and also to train the people supporting them. This became the central work of Eurasia in the following years.
The first Eurasia training courses were given in 1998 in Saigon. Seven Vietnamese students were sponsored to complete a four-year Training in the Camphill Seminar in St.-Prex. They all returned to Vietnam and four of them have been working for Eurasia since.
Since 1999, Eurasia built seven schools and created special classes in Hue. With our various partners we have also built and sponsored vocational training centers and a home for elderly ladies, widowed during the war.
In 2018 Eurasia celebrated 20 years of work in Vietnam. We now have three entities working closely together:
- Eurasia is the name of the Association and Foundation. It is a network of people with the same values who work together to develop ideas and find funds for the different projects.
- Tinh Truc Gia (TTG), in English: The Peaceful Bamboo Family, is a vibrant living and working community for 60 people living with special needs, affiliated to the Camphill Movement. It includes an inclusive Kindergarten, adolescent classes, and vocational training workshops. The community celebrated its 10th anniversary this spring.
- Eurasia Learning Institute for Happiness and Wellbeing (ELI) is the part of Eurasia which organizes training courses. Our tasks have evolved over the years towards a wider ecological awareness and developing social entrepreneurship in order to make the life and work with/for people living with disabilities sustainable and financially autonomous.
The Happy Schools and the Empowerment Project
Based on the experienced gathered over 20 years – and at the request of provincial authorities – Eurasia started an educational project to bring Mindfulness, Social and Emotional Learning and Ecological Awareness to the public schools in Hue. The first training session for 120 « Happy Schools teachers » was held in April 2018 with the support of the Education Department of the province, and a second batch of 120 teachers started their one-year training this August. Over 6000 children are currently part of this pilot project.
The project includes bringing classes to our community to learn about Biodynamic gardening, community life, arts and crafts. The aim is to fully empower our young people living with disabilities to become co- facilitators and trainers – together with our staff – of the children, adolescents, and students who come to TTG to learn about ecology, biodynamic agriculture, sustainable living, mindfulness, social innovation, arts and crafts, and community life.
In this sense, the empowerment project represents a very important shift in social work, as we have gradually moved from a situation where the educators were providing support and services to the people living with disabilities; to co-creating, together with the youngsters, a social field where all stakeholders contribute as partners.
According to a recent study:
“Researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed. Being “needed” consists of a natural human hunger to serve our fellow men and women.”
This fundamental human need is as real for people living with disabilities as for any other person; but more often than not, this aspiration to be of service is not considered when designing interventions for people living with disabilities. This project is a pioneering concept that takes the field of social therapy to a new level, by creating an opportunity for young people living with disabilities to be of real service to the larger community and to address a very real need: reconnecting children with nature and with hands on learning experiences.
Nature Deficit Disorder” or “NDD” is a wide spread problem in urban settings all over the world, and Vietnam is no exception. Most children grow up in cities, having hardly any connection with Nature. Our program meets this need for connection with nature, by giving the children and youths the opportunity to reconnect with nature in an active way, by learning about and practicing bio-dynamic agriculture.
There is a growing awareness in Vietnam of the environmental challenges caused by chemical and other pollution, loss of tropical forest and climate change. In this context, the TTG biodynamic organic garden offers an exceptional setting for children and youngsters to be actively involved in taking care of the planet, by caring for a garden and growing their own fruit and vegetables. However, we can no longer rely on our current garden, which is too small to welcome all the students and also as the focus of this garden is on producing food for the TTG community.
In order for us to develop our activities with school children, we need a bigger piece of land. We are currently fundraising in order to buy a piece of land next to TTG. We need a bigger vegetable garden where students, teachers and parents can come and experience nature and touch the importance of caring for the environment. Along with the garden we would like to create a natural space for outdoor physical activities, as well as a sensory experience park. If this is something that you feel a calling to support, we would be very happy for your support.
To donate to the empowerment project :
Banque Cantonale Vaudoise
IBAN CH78 0076 7000 A098 78601
With the mention : Empowerment project
Thank you for your generosity