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Nonprofit spotlight: Children of Vietnam

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Since 1998, Children of Vietnam, co-founded by Ben Wilson and Loung Thi Huong, has been serving children in need in Vietnam.

The organization — which originated and is headquartered in Greensboro — works to break the cycle of poverty, illness and homelessness and provides immediate aid to Vietnamese children and families in crisis by building relationships with local people, finding the greatest needs and delivering aid.

The mission of Children of Vietnam (COV) is straightforward and bold: a Vietnam in which all children flourish, reach their full potential and contribute positively to society.

Nancy Letteri, retired executive director of COV, said that its basic mission springs from the idea that all children should “have the basic life necessities to achieve their fullest potential.”

Because poverty affects Vietnamese children in profound and various ways, Letteri said initiatives include helping children with disabilities, education, nourishment, clean water and sanitation, and empowering single mothers.

The group provides scholarships and educational aids for children living with the daily challenges of poverty in Vietnam. The organization helps children become proud, self-sufficient adults by providing an education when their families could not afford one.

Members are also fundraising to provide university scholarships for bright but disadvantaged students who want to further their educational dreams. The nonprofit has a donor who offered to match up to $10,000 for every donation made at this time. According to COV, there are more than 20 students in the Bright Scholars program on the waiting list hoping for scholarships to make a university education possible.

In addition to the Bright Scholars program, COV facilitates after-school tutoring and life skills opportunities through the Study Steps program. The organization started building kindergarten schools to meet the educational needs of young children in rural and mountainous areas. Since 2004, COV has built 62 kindergarten classrooms serving 1,550 children annually.

Study Steps starts in the sixth grade and continues through high school. The program provides tutors and school fees, and it also furnishes bicycles for the children to get to school. The program also provides lamps, desks and other basic study aids.

Life skills workshops provide guidance on self-protection, communication, teamwork and social skills.

COV also provides services for those with disabilities and for those who live in homes with food insecurity.

“What we do best is to look at the whole child and tackle the root causes of poverty,” Letteri said. “We wrap multiple services around each child to address their many basic needs. Our wraparound approach empowers children and their families to overcome barriers and strive for a life beyond poverty.”

Debbie Baker, a board member for the last four years, said, ”I can’t think of another nonprofit organization who works with such integrity, transparency and hope for the future for Vietnamese families who struggle to achieve economic security, education for their children, nutritious meals and safe and sturdy housing.”

Contact Ruth Anderson by email at ruth@secondbreathcenter.com.

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