Are you planning to take Northern Vietnam tours to discover the beauty of landscape and the distinctive cultures of ethnic groups in the mountainous areas? Read this article to understand the life of children in mountainous areas in Vietnam and what to expect as a tourist.
Vietnam situated on the Indochina peninsula boasts of breathtaking scenery and diversified culture. If you ever intend to visit this beautiful country, do not skip out Northern mountainous areas where are gifted with stunning green rice fields and magnificent mountain ranges. Apart from the mesmeric landscape, you may not forget the friendliness and surprisingly good language skill of many ethnic children especially those who live in tourism spots such as Sapa, Ha Giang. They are on average quite poor materially. However, when it comes to the ability to fill others with joy and a pleasant “je ne sais quoi” feeling, they are definitely among the richest ones. The first thing that will strike you about their attitude is the brightness of their smiles, the outward expression of that inner joy which seems boundless and is in some ways unfathomable. Children in mountainous areas overall have a positive outlook on life and enjoy the fullness of the bounty of nature.
Facts of children in mountainous areas of Vietnam
As a consequence of the deplorable financial conditions in remote mountainous areas, ethnic children are lack of necessary schoolings. Most of them drop out of school at quite early age to serve as breadwinners for their families. Therefore, you will often find them either helping their parents with farm work, weaving clothes (mostly for girls) or splitting wood (mostly for boys), or simply hawking little food items and selling bracelets.
In famous tourism spots like Sapa town, there are even more children willingly stay away from school because they find it more fulfilling to mingle with tourists and do petty trading. Their marketing acumen will amaze you, as they will form little groups and come around you playfully, say nice words to you in your native language and later invite you politely to purchase an item for them.
In terms of family care, children in mountainous areas get little support and protection from their families because their parents have low awareness themselves and also busy to make ends meet at the markets and on farms. Children at the age of 7 already have to take care of other younger brothers and sisters. Every year, there are many deaths of ethnic children due to the carelessness of family. They may get knocked by the speeding trucks driven by reckless drivers on the streets or get bitten by snakes or even get suicide with eating poisonous leaves (Lá Ngón)
Actions from Vietnamese Government & NGOs
The Vietnamese government has set up several policies to protect the rights of children especially those in the mountainous areas who are generally more vulnerable. The schemes implemented for this purpose are generally aimed at giving children a say on decisions that pertain to their health and welfare services, creating a forum for them to report any abuses that they may suffer either from local adults or foreigners and to make sure their participation in household chores and economic activities do not harm their personal development. This further ensures there are enough public schools charging low school fees in rural areas, so that all children of schooling age in such areas have access to education and several other objectives pertaining to the respect of children’s rights. There are quite several local and international NGOs in Vietnam that assist the government in this regard such as Oxfam, UNICEF, CNC, and VUFO.
Some tips for tourists to deal with children in mountainous areas
– Do not buy stuffs from ethnic children or give them plain money since they won’t have desire to go to schools. Instead you can offer to visit their villages and sponsor meals during your stay. If you want to sponsor their education, sending fees directly to the school or team up with an NGO to give a donation.
– Keep smiling at children that approach you to sell something. Even if you don’t buy from them, they will be happy to interact with foreign tourists.
– There are many incidents of tourists exploiting local children either in child labor or in child prostitution. As a result, it is advisable to stay some distance from them, since excessive friendliness can be looked upon by local adults with suspicion, especially if you are seen giving children sweets and gifts whether in cash or in kindness. The locals may suspect that you have an ulterior motive. However, this does not mean you should not be nice and friendly towards them.
– Vietnamese children in mountainous areas, like most other children in underdeveloped areas, are greatly fascinated at the sight of children of other races. If you happen to accompany with your kids, know that these Vietnamese children will have a tendency to get very playful with your own children and may express their excitement by prodding them and nudging them around. If this happens, do not be alarmed because it generally does not involve any malice on their part, but rather admiration. However, do well to make sure your children do not move around with valuable objects such as bangles and necklaces that are easy to be pulled off.
Regardless of some annoying situations you may encounter caused by children street hawkers during your trip to northern areas of Vietnam, ethnic children are very cute and joyful to be around with and visiting these mountainous areas is an absolute must for anyone who wish to have a unique experience in a different part of the world.
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