Charities provide scholarships, bikes for VN kids

VietNamNet Bridge – Six riders from Australia joined a 400km charity bike trip to raise scholarship funds for disadvantaged students in central Viet Nam. They raised US$22,000 to send seven academically gifted, poor students to university.

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Head start: Bikes donated to kids in Thua Thien-Hue Province. Photo courtesy of Mark O’Connor


Lifestart Foundation, a charity that helps disadvantaged Vietnamese people and their families to become self-sufficient, said it took the riders seven days last week to complete the gruelling, hilly ride in extremely hot weather.

The route took them from the coastal city of Da Nang, through the ancient capital of Hue, A Luoi  Mountains and A Roang districts to P’Rao Town in Quang Nam Province. At the finish line in Hoi An they were met by Australian Ambassador to Viet Nam, Craig Chittick, and Consul General Karen Lanyon.

"This was more than a bike trip – it was an inspiring journey with like minded people who were united by their passion for making a difference," said NGO founder Karen Leonard.

According to Lifestart Foundation, so far VND13 billion (approx $555,000) has been raised for the disadvantaged youth of central Viet Nam. Currently, the foundation supports students until grade 12 but is hoping to use the charity ride as an opportunity to expand to university education.

Lifestart Foundation is committed to breaking the poverty cycle of the central region’s brightest scholars via education.

Wheels for Education Viet Nam

Meanwhile, a couple of US military veterans of the Viet Nam War, Mark O’Connor of Sioux Falls, South Dakota and Michael Paul Shuman of Tallmadge, Ohio, raised $10,000 to purchase and donate 160 bikes this year to needy school children in the A Luoi and A Sau districts of Thua Thien-Hue Province.

Wheels for Education Viet Nam programme was started in 2009 by O’Connor and a few years later Shuman joined the effort. Both served in Viet Nam in the early 1970’s. The programme has partnered with local Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong or Ushi from Ushi’s Restaurant in Hue City who coordinates the effort and lines up the needed cooperation from relevant authorities.

In remote districts, the distance to a school and lack of a bicycle often means a child’s education stops, and the Wheels for Education Viet Nam has supplied 500 bikes for disadvantaged Vietnamese children since 2009. 

O’Connor returned to Viet Nam in 2009 for an aid project sponsored by the Viet Nam Veterans Restoration Project (VVRP) at a school in A Luoi and A Sau Valley in Thua Thien-Hue Province. He was touched by how a lack of bicycles was stifling the children’s education.  

“I initially came back to Viet Nam because I wanted to give something back, while I was here I found out that some boys and girls were not going to school because they couldn’t afford a bicycle. I knew that this was something that could be easily changed. I wanted to help and thought that if a bicycle is all that is standing between them and an education, then I can fix that,” said O’ Connor.  

O’Connor said “The bikes are a small thing that can have a big impact on these boys and girls’ lives, with an education their opportunities expand and they will be better equipped to meet the challenges they will face in life. This couldn’t happen without my donors and supporters, I really appreciate their help.”  

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Giving back: US military veteran of the Viet Nam War, Mark O’ Connor, who along with Michael Paul Shuman raised $10,000 to purchase and donate 160 bikes this year to needy school aged children in Thua Thien-Hue Province. Photo courtesy of Mark O’Connor



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Breaking the cycle: Six riders from Australia joined a 400km charity bike trip to raise a fund of US$22,000 for scholarship for disadvantaged students in central Viet Nam. Photo courtesy of Lifestart Foundation


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