Helping kids in Vietnam

CATHERINE HEALY
Last updated 05:00 23/11/2012
Vietnam
NEW FRIENDS: Katherine Muir at a kindergarten in Vietnam.

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Have you ever given money to a charity and wondered what happens to it?

Katherine Muir of Meadowbank admits she was a bit of a sceptic before going to Vietnam and seeing World Vision's work for herself.

Miss Muir works as a cabin manager for Jetstar. The airline runs a programme called StarKids in partnership with World Vision. Money collected from passengers on trans-Tasman flights goes to World Vision projects in seven Asian countries including Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia.

Jetstar gave eight of its staff the opportunity to travel to Vietnam in early November and see some of these projects for themselves.

Participants were asked to fundraise $2500 for the projects before departure and another $2500 on their return.

Miss Muir, 31, is a keen traveller and thought it was too good a chance to pass up.

"I only saw the notice on the staff website a month before the trip, so I didn't have long to raise the money. It was a lot harder than I thought."

She held sausage sizzles, sold chocolates and is now planning a fundraising dinner party.

Jetstar Australia and New Zealand chief executive David Hall says Kiwis donate generously to StarKids.

"In-flight donations from passengers disembarking in Auckland and Christchurch totalled more than $50,000 last financial year."

Miss Muir loves her job and says while air travel can be stressful for passengers, most people are good to deal with.

"You just have to be understanding. Once you get talking to people, they're pretty friendly. You do what you can to make sure their time on board is as enjoyable as possible."

Miss Muir is looking forward to being able to share her Vietnam stories with passengers. She visited World Vision Area Development Projects in a rural area three hours' drive south of Hanoi.

"I didn't know much about Vietnam before I went," she says.

The country ranks 128th out of 187 countries on the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index which measures three basic dimensions of human development: Long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living.

"We went to three different area development projects," Miss Muir says.

"Two of them were quite new and one had been going for years. You could really see the difference - you could see how far they'd developed."

The group also got to see a water and sanitation project, where toilets had been provided for a community to improve the population's hygiene and health.

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"The children had painted the outside with a mural. They were so proud of their toilet," Miss Muir says.

"Children living in households with no access to a toilet are twice as likely to get diarrhoea as those with a toilet, causing more deaths every year than Aids, malaria, and measles combined," World Vision New Zealand chief executive Chris Clarke says.

The group also saw some economic development activities where World Vision helps set up income generating activities, micro finance schemes and savings groups.

Miss Muir says she was impressed that the recipients were not just given handouts but were taught how to use what they'd been given to sustain their incomes.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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