Safe water, healthier students in Vietnam

CWS Vietnam team | March 21, 2016

A student washes her hands using the new pump and pipes at Thanh Cong Kindergarten No. 2. Photo: CWS

A student washes her hands using the new pump and pipes at Thanh Cong Kindergarten No. 2. Photo: CWS

“From now on our students will have safe drinking water and no longer drink the unsafe well water from the field near the school.”

-Mrs. Nguyen Thi Thao, Thanh Cong Kindergarten No. 2 Principal, Thai Nguyen province, northern Vietnam

In late 2015 a CWS-supported school water and sanitation program began in Thanh Cong commune, one of the poorest and most inhospitable regions in Thai Nguyen province in northern Vietnam. Thanh Cong No. 2 is the second largest kindergarten in the commune, which is just 40 miles north of Hanoi but is very under-developed. More than 500 children ages two through five attend the school even though it has no safe water.

Built just six years ago, the kindergarten is surrounded by rice paddies and farms whose owners use chemical fertilizers that pollute the groundwater. Drinking and cooking water for the kindergarten came from a drilled well in these fields even though teachers and parents were aware of the dangers and saw the harm and illness caused to the children and the community. Having safe water for their children was the teachers’ and parents’ dream, but it was simply not available as a public resource.

“The only way we could address the danger was to buy bottled water at least for drinking and then use the unsafe water for other purposes. In a poor commune like ours, buying water is simply not something many poor families can afford.”

Because the Thanh Cong Kindergarten No. 2 situation is far from unique, CWS has been asked by local government partners to help address this pervasive issue as a part if water, sanitation and hygiene improvement efforts, and we have agreed.

When he heard about our WASH work, one successful Taiwanese businessman working in Hanoi was inspired to support our community activities, and now the children in Thanh Cong Kindergarten No. 2 now have a steady supply of safe water from a safe storage tank that is heated with a solar system during harshly cold winter months.

“We are thankful to CWS and their supporter from Taiwan for their great support to improve our school water situation, which has helped the children have better health and hygiene than ever before. Of course we are committed to keep these new resources in good condition, and will always be grateful for CWS partnership in helping us improve our lives.”

About the Program

A lack of access to clean water for kindergartens, and poor hygiene awareness and behaviors among kindergarteners, is cause for concern among poor parents and teachers, because of well-known health risks when children are all together in a group setting for many hours each day. Because CWS has agreed to help local government partners address this pervasive issue, we have engaged with several funding partners, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission as well as the Disciples of Christ and corporate donors like Vietnam’s Tetra-Pak operation.

CWS programs in kindergartens are designed to help to improve water supply conditions and to support awareness-raising and learning among children and their parents about positive hygiene behavior and improved sanitation to help improve child well being, especially hygiene and nutrition.

Outputs include:

  • upgraded water supply and storage systems with new pumps, pipes and elevated water tanks,
  • water filters for safe drinking and cooking water,
  • solar panels for heated water in the cold winter months, which help reduce firewood use, and
  • improved water supply to toilets and nearby taps for children’s hand-washing

Additionally, project activities include drawing contests and school festival with the theme, “Save water and protect our living environment” to help teach 500 children and their parents learn more about proper hand washing, personal hygiene and sanitation.