VWAT Family Services

'Empowering our Community'

How Electricity Changed Their Lives

by Chieu Nguyen

Fifteen years ago, I had a chance to visit a remote rural area in the middle region of Vietnam. There were six villages located along the seaside. The villagers earned their living mainly by fishing. Men went to the sea very early in the morning while women stayed home, doing housewives’ jobs and taking care their kids. Many children skipped school when they were eight or ten. They had to stay home to help their families. Life here was hard and dark. No electricity, no clean water, absolutely nothing. People used kerosene lamps at night but the use of those were limited because they wanted to save fuel.

I thought I should do something to help. I knew somebody working at some international funding organizations, and that might be the first places to think about.

I couldn’t remember how many times I met and talked with those people, and how much time I spent on paper work and lobbying. But at last, fortunately, my proposal was accepted. The Luxemburg Government granted an amount of money to build a new electricity grid for those poor villages.

The area changed so fast. People didn’t have to live in the dark any longer. They could make ice for long fishing trips, and use powerful tools such as electric saws and planers to repair their fishing boats. Some households even set up their own business by investing in some workshops to repair fishing boats. Within two years, there were five workshops like that. They did wood processing works, repaired fishing boats, and even built up and sold new boats to the neighborhood areas. They created lots of jobs for the people there. Children were back to schools.

Three years later, one guy from Luxemburg was sent to us to evaluate our project. After reading my report carefully, he asked me to take him to the site.

Six hours driving to those villages was not so comfortable. But it didn’t make me tired as this guy was quite funny and we had many things to talk about. Then we spent three days there; it was just enough time for him to interview some people, take pictures, swim at the sea, grill and eat raw fishes and squids on a metal cover of a pressure lantern.

On the way back, I asked him about his opinion on the project’s outcomes. “Unbelievable!” he said, “you did a very good job.”

I gave him a thank for his comment, and he suggested that I wrote another proposal to extent this project to a second phase, applying for some more money for helping people in the neighborhood area. Suddenly, something seemed to be rising in his mind, so he asked me if there was anything that I didn’t include in my report.

“Yes, there was,” I said, “I forgot to tell you that the population growth rate was considerably decreasing in that area, and it was good.”

“Really?” he said surprisingly, “did they use electricity to do something with birth control?”

“Yes, they did,” I smiled, “you saw many families having TV, radio and cassette player in there, didn’t you? See! electricity brought them lots of things to enjoy. Without electricity, they had nothing to do at night, but love.”

Updated: April 26, 2014 — 4:10 pm
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