Expat Teacher Host Children's Story Night for Thao Dien Community

This weekend, bring your curious child and head to Banh Mi Cochinchine in Thao Dien (HCMC) to enjoy language exchange night with "Fairy Godmothers" Samatha and Alice!
February 11, 2022 | 09:17

Facing and overcoming challenges amid the long lockdowns in HCMC together makes many families cherish more precious moments in our community.

That's why Alice, a Vietnamese entrepreneur, the owner of Banh mi Cochinchine, created a English-learning space every weekend night at her bakery shop. She partnered up with Saigon-based English teacher Samantha, an Australian woman. The energy this duo gives is off the chart. Together, they offered not only English lessons but a much-needed boost of confidence for youngsters.

Learning Made Fun! with Children's Story Night with Expat Teacher
Photo: Banh Mi Cochinchine

The most magical children party in town

Have you heard of Children's Story Night with Samantha in HCMC's Thao Dien district? Every weekend night, you will find the talented teacher with pretty pink fairy wings behind her back, sitting in circle with children to play and learn.

Learning Made Fun! with Children's Story Night with Expat Teacher
Photo: Banh Mi Cochinchine

Samantha and Alice worked in perfect rhythm since the very beginning. They both wanted the same thing for the lovely children, which is a fun space to properly interact in English.

“We met through a mutual friend. They heard that Alice was looking for a children entertainer, so they put me in touch (with Alice). Honestly it was so magical and wonderful to spend time teaching, interacting, and playing with children again. That is my number one passion in life. I feel very inspired by Alice’s ideas and ready to do it," said Samantha.

Let like the familiar playground of your friendly neighborhood – Children's Story Night – has been operated for about 3 months.

The teacher said: "Since I do not know the children who is coming, it’s good to have a lot of different games and activities."

Parents who sent their children to play at Banh mi Cochinchine are very impressed by the well-prepared, well-organized program. Better yet, they have time for catch up on socializing with other parents, something they had missed dearly during lockdowns.

Learning Made Fun! with Children's Story Night with Expat Teacher
For Samantha (middle) , this is also precious experience for her since she adores children and missed her job as a school teacher. Unfortunately, the virus put life on hold for a really long time. It has been 4 years since Sam managed to go back (to Australia).”Photo: Banh Mi Cochinchine

Samantha expressed her thoughts on what this program means for participants, saying: “Parents who bring their children would watch them, or just socialize with friends or fellow parents there while their children are playing. For children, with almost 10 months of no school, I can see that they are just desperate to socialize and relax. They need stimulation after being at home for so long,".

With 7 years of teaching experience, Samantha shared her favorite tips to working with children is to over-prepare. Since there are some newcomers and there are also kids that come often for 3 to 4 weeks in the roll, the workload sometimes got the enthusiastic teacher feeling fired up.

Learning Made Fun! with Children's Story Night with Expat Teacher
Photo: Banh Mi Cochinchine

“We have a 1-hour session but I would prepare 3 hours’ worth of games. It is a mix (of children). It’s always wonderful to see a child join one week and then next week they come back with a friend. We try to create a relax atmosphere for the children by giving them a lot of choices, attracting them with bright colors.”

The program has everything: From art and craft, painting to fairytales reading. Both Alice and Samantha feel rewarded to be continuously supported by the community.

So far they received only positive feedbacks. Their most commonly asked question from parents is are able to make any profit from the free program. Alice's answer is: "Yes, we balance everything and yes, the entire program is free."

Community first, business second

Learning Made Fun! with Children's Story Night with Expat Teacher
Photo: Banh Mi Cochinchine

This language exchange activity is founded by Alice, a Vietnamese expat returning from Singapore. Her business - Banh Mi Cochinchine – a healthy fusion restaurant, is also the venue where Story Night takes place.

Before returning to Vietnam, Alice was a university student in Singapore, majoring in Law. She also established her first business aboard, by running accommodation for international students in Singapore.

As for Banh mi Cochinchine, Alice wanted to bring out the uniqueness of Eastern and Western cuisine in the heart of Saigon, so in mid-2021, she decided to give this business idea a go.

While running her business, she always prioritizes the community benefits and try to find innovative ways to encourage the love for English learning among children. This motivated Alice to create Children's Story Night.

“I first advertised (for the Story night) with flyers I designed and distribute to local and expat parents in the neighborhood but the problem is that it is such a new format, it is hard for my staff to explain to parents. When parents ask questions, the staff did not know how to answer. So after 2 days, I decided to hand out the flyers myself, I also publicized in complex events in Thao Dien, answering anyone who has questions, explaining to them properly. This happened in the first 2-3 weeks.”

Alice shared that there was no need for a lot of advertising later on because word-of-mouth travels fast. People started to recommend their friends and neighbors, etc.

With an unlikely mix of kids, both local and expat, some adults were skeptical at first about Alice's program.

One of the biggest challenges is to come up with suitable programs for both boys and girls, for different ages. The parents are confused, they wondered if this is some English school or talent academy gimmick, and if we are required to sell them some kind of service.”

Learning Made Fun! with Children's Story Night with Expat Teacher

Roughly 5-10 children will come every weekend night to join the class, which is just as Samantha and Alice wanted. Photo: Banh Mi Cochinchine

"The key point is that we want to do something for the community, create a unique experience. It is also the key point of my business," said Alice.

“Parents are pleased to see Samantha pay attention and interact with every single kid. Since she loves children so much, 1 hour is not enough. Our time is usually one hour and more. Children always ask their parents if they can come every night of the week. That's how much the kids love it," said Alice.

For Sam, this is exactly what is great about her class.

"All children are different, some are too shy to join a big group, some are intimidated by the big group. Nevertheless, we invite them all the sit on a mat together. There is no form of evaluation, as long as they achieve their personal goals, that is a great thing.”

Big plans for nurturing young talents

Learning Made Fun! with Children's Story Night with Expat Teacher
Photo: Banh Mi Cochinchine

At the moment, the passionate entrepreneur is seeking for collaborating with talent academies to realize this dream.

We are looking for an English-speaking puppet entertainer to become our puppet partner for a weekly Sunday 6-7PM show.”

Taking advantage of her network in Singapore, she also is planning an ambitious project with a Singaporean robotic school.

This project will support kids in learning new skills and improving their English by working with volunteers from Singapore. Her project partner is supported by Singapore Management University so this one-of-a-lifetime opportunity will be given for free-of-charge.

According to the young businesswoman, the workshop is the start of a long-term project including other talent development workshops for children living in Vietnam. The next one, which she hopes to make this year, will be about much more than just English learning. It will be about making the best childhood experience and letting kids explore their unique identities and hidden talents.

Thanks to these passionate women, many children wanting to discover the world in their own ways can have a space to explore their innate potentials, and open new doors of opportunities while enjoying a playful atmosphere of fun learning.

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