By Tran Van Thang, CWS Vietnam Project Officer.
In my recent activity monitoring visit to the Phuc Than commune kindergarten in northern Vietnam, I had a chance to inspect the school’s clean, smoke-free kitchen – thanks to a new stove, which a great improvement on the dirty, inefficient and polluting old stove. It was good to verify that the district Education Department has kept its promise to pay for the stove since shared responsibility with local government is a key part of CWS work in Vietnam. After we checked out the stove and agreed with the visiting education department officer that it was well built, the best part of my visit was in talking with the man who built the stove.
Hung is 33 and of Thai ethnicity. He lives in Than Uyen, which is near Phuc Than, with his wife and children. Earlier, when CWS staff met Hung, who has years of experience building houses, we thought he would be a good candidate to learn a new skill, which was the case … eventually!
Hung told me how he learned to build stoves with his friend, Giang, when they took the invitation to join a CWS-led information and practical training workshop last fall. The workshop was being held in another commune’s school, more than one hour away by motorbike. But Hung was motivated to learn something new, so he made the effort. What Hung learned first was that building fuel efficient, non-polluting stoves is completely different than house building and requires specific technical knowledge and skills. So, once he was in the workshop, and despite listening carefully to instructions and examining the construction drawings closely, Hung still did not fully understand how to build the stove. But, as so often happens in life, doing is better than just seeing, and everything changed for Hung when he had the hands-on experience of building two stoves in the school where the workshop was held. With the trainer talking, observing and joining him at each step, Hung learned quickly and today he is confident and proud to show us his handiwork. With new knowledge and skills, Hung now has a new opportunity to build stoves for families and schools; and, he is happy for the chance to earn an even better living for his family.
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