On my first day with PALS, we got out of the office at 5:30AM to begin our first series of home visits for potential female scholarship recipients for the ADAPT program. If qualified, the girls will receive scholarships to continue higher education until Grade 12. These girls are chosen by their schools to be interviewed by PALS if they are living in extreme poverty or come from families with only one working mother/father – any scenario that may make them more prone to getting tricked by traffickers through promises of making a lot of money through unreal job offers. 8th and 7th grade girls have higher priority for the scholarships than younger girls, but from the results of these home visits, I am sure some 6th graders will be receiving scholarships as well.
We traveled about 2 hours until we got to our first school, where we met with the teachers and broke out into groups to do home visits. We went to a total of two schools that day, and I went on about 10-12 home visits. Each home visit lasted anywhere from 45 mins to an hour.
The survey questions were very detailed and included questions such as:
- “What is your future career goal and how much do you think you’d make?”
- “What kind of student (below average, average, above average) are you & what is your favorite subject in school?” – these girls tend to be “above average”
- “What is your weakest subject?”
- “How do you get to school?”
- “Does your family have any debt/assets?”
- “Highest education level of parents?”
- “Have you heard about trafficking stories?” – some have and others haven’t
and many more that went into thorough detail of the families’ living conditions and indicators of whether or not the girls are strong-willed enough to finish school to at least 12th grade if given the scholarship.
The importance of: “What is your future career goal & how much do you think you’ll make?” question: some girls haven’t thought about this yet, which was a great way to provoke some thought into this. Whereas for girls who had a career goal in mind, they would come up with a salary that was above and beyond any real salary. For example, one girl said she dreamed of being a famous singer who would make 30 million dong/mth. However, a doctor in Vietnam barely makes about 3 million dong/mth. The interviewer had to give the girl some comparison because with an MD degree, you have to go through all that schooling,and yet still do not even make that much. This girl is considered as highly at risk for being trafficked because she can easily be tricked by men who claim that they will pay her a beyond realistic salary without her even realizing that she is being fooled. We had to explain to her that if a girl had no education and was offered a job that anyone can do (for ex: a guy says he will offer her a dish washing job in another country that will pay an extremely high salary, but why would he pay her that much when he can easily find someone to do that job in his own country), that job offer would most likely be unrealistic.
This is only one case. A few of the girls said they wanted to be doctors, among other careers. They’re book smart but some are far from being street smart, which makes them prone to being trafficked. As with parents, I met families where at least one parent was blind or deaf, thus leaving only one parent capable of making a living, further making the girls prone to quitting school to find jobs to support their family.
Shadowing the interviews was such a humbling experience. I observed so many different living situations and listened to so many stories that I never thought I’d get the chance to hear. The girls are so gentle, shy, and intelligent. However, they lack so many opportunities that American children have the luxury to easily grasp. From the results of the home visits that I attended, I’m pretty sure most of the girls I met will be getting the scholarships!! I’m so happy.
Unfortunately due to privacy reasons, I cannot post their pictures, which is a shame because their faces show so much emotion and beauty. Although I cannot show you their pictures, here are a few shots of some of their homes & the beautiful Mekong Delta surroundings:
We got back to Long Xuyen at about 10PM. It was a long but fruitful day <3. I’m going to miss the girls so much.
They make me want study my GRE’s already.