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July 9, at Ceporer, Hoc Mon District, the ‘My Story' contest started, thanks to efforts from both CHUM's mentors and mentees. The event concluded a meaningful year for CHUM, a year that was filled with activities and precious memories between CHUM's mentors-mentees, and mentors-mentors.  

It was also an occasion for sharing stories, about changes, in this year for everyone.

The first activity was ‘Message in a bottle’. Mentees and their mentors would decorate bottles to their likings, then write down words of gratitude to put in the bottle for someone. Everyone would open his/her message in a bottle at the end of the day, read, and keep those messages as if they were a beautiful memory.

Next up was the day's central activity: ‘My Story'. Each mentee would get to tell a story, expressing his/herself. CHUM was pleasantly surprised by their creativity and effort, their innocence and purity, their ability to move and inspire.

Little Ngoc Han sang ‘Mẹ yêu (Dear Mom)’, an old song, well loved by the generation of kids one or two decades ago. Ngoc Han was a little shaky at first, but she managed to finish her performance well. Asked how she knew the song and what she hoped to convey, Ngoc Han shyly said, ‘Because I love my mom…’

And there was little Nhu Y who wanted to become a famous artist. She surprised CHUM with drawings of unique compositions of people, all coloured in a very eye-catching manner. Her entry for the contest conveyed her wish to be an artist in the future. She shared that ‘In my opinion, bereft of an artist's colours, this world be rather boring and dull.’

Or little Tuan who narrated the story of Tam Cam — the Vietnamese Cinderella. Even though Tuan missed out a few details or events here and there, with acting support from the mentors, he regained confidence and finished his story satisfactorily. Tuan's story brought everyone who attended laughters with the ways he voiced the stepmother and the stepsister's dialogues for two mentors to act along. The judging panel commented that the laughters he brought came so naturally with the tinges/flavours of his innocence and creativity. Concluding his entry, Tuan shared his reason for choosing the folktale, ‘Tam is so nice and gentle. I want to be like her, for I am still such a hothead. My friends also say this.’

Khai Han’s entry impressed the judging panel in a whole new way. Instead of retelling a story, Khai Han retold a delicious recipe. She prepared a meal herself and shared with everyone what a balanced meal looked like, which greens brought health and tasted good, and how one could make flowers from food. The judging panel noted her meal for its effort and tastiness!

Finally, we had our winner, who also won the favourite entry prize: Anh Binh. Anh Binh picked a unique topic, more undisguised and mature than everyone else at Ceporer. His topic was ‘personal changes'. He told about the events at home, happy ones and unpleasant ones, all provoked thoughts in him. He began to care for his mom, his younger siblings more. He realised his responsibilities as he looked to the past and the future. Occasionally he paused, to suppress the emotions that had been threatening to surge to his eyes, and to remember and continue with his personal story. Though they were just glimpses into his life, they were enough for one to imagine how difficult he had had it at times and how it helped him to mature. As the judging panel concluded, Anh Binh's story was raw and moving, coming from his heart, from how he felt and how he lived. In the two years that Anh Binh had been with CHUM, we had seen him grow. We trust that Anh Binh would thrive and become a good person in the years to come.

There were many other entries, each left the members of CHUM feeling and thinking a different way. The contest showed us how special and talented, how wonderful and ambitious our little ones were.

The contest concluded with laughters and tears, with goodbyes punctuated by gentle sobs when our mentees and mentors parted ways after an entire year of being together. On behalf of our mentors, CHUM would like to wish our little mentees happiness and strength for the journeys that lay ahead, and that one day they will all achieve their dreams.

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