The WoW Journey
The SIF’s signature Words on Wheels (WoW) mobile library has made its way into Ho Chi Minh City - all set to bring the joy of English and cross-cultural learning to more than 3,000 Vietnamese schoolchildren.
When asked what her favourite book was, Nguyen Ho Bao Ngoc, 13, replied, “I like Bubu’s story series.” With a huge smile, she quipped, “Well actually, I like any kind of books!” Ngoc is one of the many schoolchildren in the Bin Chanh district of Ho Chi Minh City who would benefit from the WoW programme, giving her and her schoolmates access to books and IT facilities.
At the launch of the mobile library, students were delighted with the range of books available and waited patiently for their turn on the computer.
Back in the classes, activities were being led by Singapore International Volunteers who were showing the kids that there were many ways to enhance their grasp of the English language – by singing, miming and other fun activities.
“The volunteers conduct interesting activities like singing and games, to bring out the passion for learning English and reading in the schoolchildren,” shared Ms Tan Xiu Fang, Associate Librarian with the National Library Board and Singapore International Volunteer (SIV). “Schools away from the city area have less access to the internet and media, so WoW is a good opportunity for them to learn the language through interactive platforms. The teachers in the school also learn to incorporate song, dance and even story to spice up their lessons.”
The project, organised by the SIF in partnership with the General Sciences Library (GSL) and sponsored by Keppel Land Limited, will bring over 300 SIVs to these schools in monthly trips to accompany the mobile library and bring the joy of English and cross-cultural learning to the schoolchildren.
“The children are very happy and confident to learn English [with the volunteers],” shared a Vietnamese schoolteacher in Le Minh Xuan Secondary School. “The mobile library with its access to books and the internet will open up a whole new world for the schoolchildren.”
The SIVs appeared equally happy, enthusiastically leading the classes in fun activities.
“I’ve picked up a lot of classroom management skills from the students. It was a challenge for me to overcome the local language and communication barrier, so it was a great learning opportunity for me too! I got to interact with students from the primary to the grade nine level,” Xiu Fang shared further. “My advice to people who are interested to volunteer with Wow is to overcome your shyness, so as to encourage the students to overcome their shyness. And most importantly, one must have the passion to share the things you know, and to encourage the students to learn more!”
In addition to the monthly volunteer trips, specialist Singapore volunteers will conduct training classes for 24 GSL staff, local librarians and teachers in enhanced library management and IT skills. These trainees are in turn expected to share their knowledge and skills with their Vietnamese peers, equipping more local professionals to bring the benefits of the library to greater numbers of children in the long run.
SIF Governor, Ms Elim Chew, who spent some time interacting with the schoolchildren, shared, “Words on Wheels is more than just a mobile library, it’s really about ‘connecting’. It’s a programme very close to SIF’s heart and we’re looking forward to seeing transformational change with these children and having them be ready to face the world and be changemakers for a better world.”
These impressions of the Words on Wheels Ho Chi Minh City launch and pilot SIV trip (14-17 May 2014) were contributed by SIF staffer Charlene Poon.
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