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Our Second Random Act of Kindness

Our Second Random Act of Kindness

I haven't met her, but by all acounts Trish Franklin is a cross between Mary Poppins and Professor McGonagall: practical, generous, good-spirited, and candid. There are no stories of her travelling by means of umbrella or broomstick - but then again no one has asked.

Based in Hoi Chi Minh city where she heads up an orphanage for blind and disabled children, Trish – or Sister Patricia Franklin AO as she's formally known – is something of a legend.

Originally from Ballarat, this 'modest, unassuming nun' (and vocal Carlton supporter) has been helping children in south-east Asia for nearly thirty years and has earned some of Australia's highest accolades whilst doing so. She set up the Loreto for Vietnam Australia Project (LVAP) herself in 1997 to offer service and educational opportunities to disadvantaged and disabled children. In practice, this means building and maintaining orphanages, kindergartens and special schools in rural and urban Vietnam.

“Not many children in Vietnam have a full day of learning,” Trish says, and this is one of the big problems that LVAP aims to address. She's dubbed it 'shift learning' - children only attending school for a few hours a day because they need to spend part of the day working to support the family, or because classrooms are too overcrowded, or school is too far away.

Recently, LVAP's focus has been on children in isolated rural areas where the distance between home and school is the biggest problem. Sometimes school is a four or five hour walk away on precarious roads, and monsoonal weather can make it even worse.

Ever pragmatic, Trish created a 'Wheels for Education' program which provides new bikes to children in isolated areas in Year 4 upwards. The bikes can then be utilised by the rest of the family on the weekends, who might then use it to take their goods to the market or use it as the family mode of transport. Dink, anyone?

Sorry Thanks I Love You has just provided another shiny new two-wheeler to the LVAP fleet and plans to provide a whole peloton over the course of the year.

“Sustainability is the outright vision of the Loreto Program – that Education Departments and local communities can carry on, maintain and uphold themselves,” Trish has said. In the absence of broomsticks, bikes seem like a very practical step towards sustainability in rural Vietnam.

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