Saigon South International School Students Run To Save Lives

Donors for Heartbeat Vietnam are various and have no age limit.

In November 2011, students from National Honor Society (Saigon South International School) created an amazing fund raising event called Laps for Love* to support heart surgery and one year medical treatment for a 6 month Vietnamese child.

This is the second time National Honor Society (NHS) funded Heartbeat Vietnam as last year, they saved two kids by similar activity. Being touched when visiting the two kids at the hospital, they dedicated to save more children by gathering friends and their sponsors for another Laps for Love.

To organize this one hour fundraising event, these students have worked hard for three months. In February 2012, they came to Tam Duc hospital to visit Viet, the boy saved by Laps for Love. Heartbeat Vietnam caught up with NHS students for an interview to know more about them and their changing lives laps.

HeartbeatVN: The fund raising was run by National Honor Society. Can you tell me about your club?

Sonya Eom (NHS President – Grade 12): The National Honor Society is based on the four pillars of leadership, scholarship, service and character. The NHS chapter of our school began in 2010 with only 11 students. Now we have 30 members and we are continuing to grow annually. All sophomores and juniors with a minimum GPA of 3.3 and must have had experience being of service and being a leader throughout their academic career. The members are selected by a group of faculty members. By becoming a member, s/he must maintain the 3.3 GPA, fulfill four hours of service per month and be a role model for the student body. As a group, we must also organize one service project and one cultural trip per semester. With this, the National Honor Society drives students to be active, well-rounded, of service and culturally aware.

HeartbeatVN: How did you come up with the idea of raising funds through Laps for Love?

Philip Pincus (Grade 12):In my old school we had two major fundraising events called Laps for Love and Hoops for Hearts. Those events were a great way to raise money and furthermore raise awareness for different charities in and around the country, and so I thought it would be a good idea to introduce it to our school and to begin a new tradition for the NHS. Eventually, we’ve found that Laps for Love is an excellent event to generate some funding for children in Vietnam who are in need for heart surgeries.

HeartbeatVN: Can you share us one memorable experience you have had during the funding?

Jo-an Chen (Grade 11): One memorable experience of the funding was watching everyone run and give their best efforts. As the person photographing the event, every moment of our event was worth being captured on camera, recorded and relived. The scene was almost beautiful – the perspiration, the motions of the runners, and the smiles on everyone’s faces. I felt honored at the time, to be able to observe such a memorable experience and to be able to document every moment of it.

HeartbeatVN: What is your biggest challenge to organize the funding?

Wei Syn Tan and Sonya Eom (Grade 12): We think that the biggest challenge was the marketing of Laps for Love. We had to advertise a lot and convince students that they should participate in Laps for Love to fund raise for Heartbeat Vietnam. We did try our best to spread the event’s message to our friends. We formed an advertising committee to create posters which were put in the hallways, bulletin boards, different classrooms, the library and the art room. The posters varied in design and size in order to attract the passersby. In addition, we created a Facebook events page with the necessary details, inviting our friends to attend. We wrote for the daily announcements which the students could access on the school website. We feel that our method of advertising was successful because approximately fifty students participated in the event for both last year and this year.

HeartbeatVN: What do you think about the funding?

Clara Ki (Grade 11): Although we didn’t raise millions of dollars, I think our funding was very successful. We raised all the money we could for the children and I hope that all the funds that we raised were appreciated by the supported child. I certainly expect us to raise more funds next year, maybe even enough to support more than one child as we did last year. Dream big to achieve big!

HeartbeatVN: What is your expectation when joining Laps for Love?

Sherry Kim (Grade 11): At first, I had expected organizing Laps for Love to be just another one of the things on my ‘to do’ list. Even the entire time we were organizing the event – from finding chaperones to making posters, Laps for Love was merely another event. However, when we actually visited the kids we were helping at the hospital, the event became personal. As soon as I walked into the hospital room and saw the child’s face break out in a wide grin, I realized that we had helped shape another person’s entire future. The actual feeling of achievement greatly surpassed my initial expectations of this activity.

HeartbeatVN: Did the funding and hospital visit meet your expectation?

Amy B Chen (Grade 12): No, but yes. Unfortunately, monetary-wise, the amount of money we raised in our fund this year did not meet our expectations if we were to use last year’s funds as our standards. This is because we raised slightly more last year, reaching a total of approximately 2662USD, than we did this year. So it is a pity that we raised less this year as it had prohibited us from donating more cash in order to fund more children’s heart surgeries. But besides some issues we had with students not handing in their donations on time, everything else from setting up for Laps for Love to planning this event was pretty much the same as last year- within our expectations- and happened smoothly this year, as well. As for the hospital visit, it was more than satisfying to the point of exceeding our expectations because the experience was immensely heartwarming.

HeartbeatVN: In your opinion, what is the most rewarding part of joining this activity?

Lisa Kim (Grade 11):During the event itself, everyone was tried and exhausted from doing the preparations, hosting the event, and tidying up afterwards on a Saturday afternoon. However, after we realized that we could save a child and shape his/her life through our hard work, we all felt this strong feeling of achievement. Especially when we saw the child’s face break into a wide grin, and the child’s mother thanking us again and again, I actually regretted feeling tired and frustrated because there was so much work. It was very rewarding to realize that I actually did something to save the child who was sitting right in front of me. And that something, was only a few hours of hard work.

Mai Vi Dang (Grade 12):It was a really wonderful experience to have visited the child and the family at Tam Duc Hospital. He was such a small and delicate baby; didn’t cry for a single second and smiled at us for the whole time. Fortunately, it was a very good recovery and he has been doing very well since the surgery. It was very touching to hear the mother explaining their circumstances and difficult it was for their family to finally found the organization. While organizing the event Laps for Love, it never really occurred to us that we would be saving lives! Understanding the baby’s critical medical condition and their financial circumstance made what we have done a lot more meaningful.

HeartbeatVN: What else you can advise Heartbeat to organize similar charity activities for you?

Sang Yeon Lee (Grade 12): Other than merely participating in fund-raising events for Heartbeat Vietnam and visiting the child who received the heart surgery with our money, we can also participate in events that can further raise awareness of patients waiting for the surgery. Even though I also participated in the fund-raising event last year, I was not so clear about the situation in Vietnam. However, I understood the situation more clearly when we visited this year as there was some explanation about it. Therefore, raising awareness of the situation of Vietnamese patients waiting for the heart surgeries would be helpful.

HeartbeatVN: Who would you like to say thank to after such a meaningful event?

Jane Lee (Grade 12): This very meaningful event could be only possible because there were countless people willing to help the NHS to organize it. First of all, there were several teachers who happily agreed to help us with counting the number of laps for each runner during the event. Thanks to their effort to count accurately, Laps for Love was a big success. Second, the PTA, Parent Teacher Association, provided us with Revive to distribute to the runners of Laps for Love and soft drinks to sell to the participants and spectators. With their support, NHS could express our appreciation towards the thirsty runners. Last but not least, without the maintenance’s help to set up the Middle School Gym, we wouldn’t be able to hold this meaningful event. Although Laps for Love was created and is primarily organized by National Honor Society, there were so many people and groups behind the scene that were extremely significant in making this event possible. Thank you so much!

*Laps for Love is an annual fund raising event organized by National Honor Society (SSIS). Middle and high school students of SSIS find sponsors to sponsor them to run for laps at the event. The money that each student raise is based on the number of laps that they run around the middle school gym. Looking at the four core values of SSIS: Academic Excellence, Sense of Self, Dedicated Service, Balance in Life, and Respect for all, the school focuses further on helping other people and respecting every one of our lives/ cultures. This Laps for Love event really helps them to shout out their four core values by practical meaningful action, rather than merely learning them inside school.
Liem Pham, a Grade 12 Vietnamese student, shared: 
“Most importantly, we got to see that we can make a real difference to a person’s life with what we are doing and the all the hard work we’ve done has really paid off.”As the NHS Advisor, Ms. MacArthur said: “NHS students are really motivated by having the opportunity to meet the babies whose lives they can help.”