The Legacy of Green Spirit: Scholarships for Van Gia Floating School

One of the members of Incredible Asia Journeys, V’Spirit Cruises, headed out to Cua Van fishing village on a windy autumn day in 2014, intent not only on showing our passengers a beautiful and unique fishing village, but making a very special stop to Van Gia School. The children who attend Van Gia School are completely unaware of its uniqueness on a floating raft in the middle of Vietnam’s number one tourist attraction. Despite the huge amount of wealth that the bay generates, its schools, hospitals and residents’ home see very little of it, with Van Gia School especially getting by with poor lighting and low quality amenities. 

About 600 residents of Cua Van fishing village earn small incomes on fishing and minor concessions by the Halong Bay government authority to keep them afloat, so to speak. Despite the long history and utterly unique culture of this floating village, its distance from the mainland is a massive drawback as it means that basic necessities that people have access to on land never reach Cua Van. 

At Van Gia School, the students make do with the materials available. Sometimes, this means learning on the floating rafts outside, as the school itself can have too many students to house in its four classrooms. This is where we met Ngọc, a 3rd grader who was practicing her writing skills in the sunshine. Despite her young age, Ngọc is incredibly brave, given that her father regularly goes away on long fishing expeditions and her mother suffers from a disease that leaves her at home. This makes 8-year old Ngọc the sole guardian for her mother and two small brothers.

Understandably, Ngọc has dreams of becoming a doctor, in order to care of her mother and make enough money to support her family. With the current state of Gia Van School and the dire situation in her family, the chances of her being able to leave Cua Van and head for the Vietnamese mainland are very low. Heartbreakingly, Ngọc’s story is not unusual in Cua Van, where many children fail to see their dreams realised because of poor funding and a lack of quality education.

The team from V’Spirit Cruises’ charity initiative, Green Spirit, was touched by Ngọc’s story and wanted to help. We arrived at Gia Van School in October 2014 while our passengers enjoyed a sampan boat ride around Cua Van, with the whole Green Spirit team ready to give back to the local community that have supported our tourism endeavours for many years. To Ngọc and a few other students, we presented a scholarship and the chance to go to a school on the mainland, where their various dreams might become a reality. For other children, we presented gifts in the form of school supplies and candy, while ensuring that teaching materials in the four classrooms were adequate.

We left with a monetary contribution to the electricity bill of the school; a deed that we plan to repeat regularly. We believe that every child deserves the chance to follow their dreams, and with the help of other tour operators and tourists that come to Halong Bay, we can surely make a significant difference to every family’s life in Cua Van.

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