Loreto Vietnam is an Australian INGO that focuses on capacity building in Vietnam by directly addressing Sustainable Development Goal #4: Quality Education. By facilitating equitable access to quality education through the building of classrooms, libraries, safe toilets, computer rooms and multipurpose rooms in schools that cannot otherwise afford such facilities, Loreto Vietnam exists to empower children in southern Vietnam’s most underprivileged contexts. Loreto Vietnam also distributes school packs (containing school uniforms, shoes, stationary sets, exercise books etc), educational resources, bicycles and helmets, as well as scholarships, to children identified by local education partners as critically in need.
Loreto Vietnam originally known as Loreto Vietnam Australia Program (LVAP), was formed in 1997 in Vietnam by Sister Trish Franklin, a charismatic and gifted educationalist from Australia, who felt strongly the challenge to respond to the needs of the disadvantaged children she saw in the community. Trish brought to the organisation the 400-year-old heritage and values of the larger worldwide community of the Catholic Loreto Order which seeks to focus on inclusiveness and working where the need is the greatest.
The Loreto Order (Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary) was formed in the 1600s by Mary Ward, a British woman who had experienced persecution due to her faith, and who herself was denied access to mainstream education due to her gender. Despite many challenges, Mary Ward subsequently began the Loreto order which has always recognized and articulated the importance of women as thinkers and contributors to society, and in Australia, has been inextricably linked to the education of girls. These links with Loreto Schools in Australia continue in their support of Loreto Vietnam’s educational projects.
The focus of the work of the organisation has evolved in the past 19 years, constantly responding to needs that Trish either identified or was asked to assist with. Loreto Vietnam’s initial work focused on street children, creating safe shelters for them and offering learning opportunities in partnership with local organisations. It has also focused on working with children with disabilities, improving their access to learning and enhancing their abilities and life opportunities. With increasing prosperity in HCMC, it became apparent that many of the needs of those in rural communities, particularly in the education sector, were not being met. Children were learning in, and with, substandard and inadequate facilities and resources, so Loreto Vietnam began supporting infrastructure development in 5 other provinces in the south of Vietnam, namely An Giang, Ca Mau, Tien Giang, Tra Vinh, and Phu Yen.