Crown Paints’ Jane Anderson has returned from a trip of a lifetime to help underprivileged children in a remote area of Vietnam.
Ms Anderson swapped her day job as a merchant sales manager to take part in the voluntary education programme, which saw her visit Lao Cai. There she helped teach youngsters at projects supported by The Hempel Foundation.
The Hempel Foundation, owner of the Hempel Group – Crown Paints’ parent company, supports projects around the globe improving the education of children in need.
Ms Anderson’s adventure took her deep into the remote north west mountains - close to the border with China – as part of a team of seven volunteers.
She said: “The local people were so welcoming and so happy to see us! My favourite part of the trip was meeting the children and spending time with them in the schools. I loved showing my class Scottish country dancing and teaching them the Gay Gordons. Their dance teacher even came to learn the moves so he could continue teaching it once I returned to the UK.”
Ms Anderson’s nine-day visit was supported by her customers, as well as friends and family, who donated a range of clothing and sporting goods for her to take for the youngsters.
Companies including Apex Decor, Buildbase, Crown Decorating Centres, Jewson, MKM Building Supplies, McNairs and Paint Shed all supported the trip to Lao Cai, which is famous for its rugged scenery and picturesque rice terraces, but it is also one of the poorest areas of the country.
The majority of the population are rural farmers with around 70% living in deep poverty, and the area is so remote there’s little reference to it even on maps.
It’s a life, which is particularly difficult for the children, and very few receive a good education. Schools are more than seven kilometres away for some and most make the journey through steep mountains on foot, which is especially tough during the rainy season.
Monday to Friday boarding schools have been established by the government to keep the children in school, but they lack study materials and well-educated teachers. The classrooms and dormitories are also in very poor condition.
As a result, the Hempel Foundation has pledged to support four schools - attended by 600 children - run in collaboration with UNICEF.
Ms Anderson concluded: “My first impression of the schools was just how good they looked compared with photos we had seen from a year ago. Hempel has put huge investment into the buildings and fixtures, as well as improving dietary requirements of the children in the schools.
“The children were so happy the whole time we were there and the people I spoke to said there had been an enormous improvement to their quality of life following the support of the Hempel Foundation. I feel very proud to have been part of a programme which is making a huge difference to peoples’ lives there.”