|The Soc Son School for Supporting
and Training Disabled Children
According to UNICEF there are about 1 million disabled children in Vietnam. Putting that in context, every 90th person living in Vietnam is a handicapped child under the age of seventeen. Agent Orange sprayed in the 60’s and 70’s invaded the ecosystem and the national gene pool, impacting the countryside and the people even until today.
The Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) has launched an initiative to mainstream 70% of Vietnam’s disabled children by the year 2010. Soc Son District, one of Hanoi’s poorest areas was targeted for a new school designed to be a prototype for inclusive school buildings throughout the country.
Mr. Nguyen Trieu Hai, Chairman of the Hanoi Relief Association for Handicapped Children asked UniReach to assist in constructing classroom buildings at the new school, located near Hanoi’s international airport. Tim Klinkenberg, pastor of St. John’s Lutheran church in Orange, CA stood with UniReach’s President, Bill Hoyt at the edge of a field in Soc Son and dreamed of children playing and learning at a school we would help build.
Wonderful partners joined UniReach in funding and building the two classrooms and adjoining restroom. St. John’s provided a significant part of the funding as did the Baptist General Conference. Additional funds were provided by Vista Grande Baptist Church in San Diego, CA.
In June 2004, twenty one people spent a week assisting in the construction of the classroom buildings. Large contingencies from St. John’s and Vista Grande were joined by individuals from Gateway Church in Visalia and Whittier Area Community Church.
Today there are 300 students at the school, 120 of whom are disabled. The site is nearly complete with a large classroom/administration building, a kitchen building for the preparation of student meals, the two classrooms funded by UniReach and its partners
The school was completed in time to greet students in September 2004. Dr. Hoyt and his wife, Gwyn brought a team of 13 women from across America to the Dedication program. A group of handicapped children sang and danced, brief speeches were made, a tree was planted in the school courtyard, and a meal was shared with the teachers and administrators of the school. Officials from Soc Son District, the contractor and the leaders of the Hanoi Relief Association for Handicapped Children also attended.