Inside Katy Perry's Trip To Vietnam

Katy Perry is an entertainer and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. The views expressed here are her own.

Last month, I traveled nearly 8,000 miles to Ninh Thuan Province, a rural region in Vietnam’s south central coast, and one of the most disadvantaged areas in the country.

The stunning coastline of Ninh Thuan Province is a stark contrast to the barren, hard-to-reach hillsides and dilapidated wooden homes inland, where most people live, enduring the daily struggles that come with extreme poverty. These struggles include lack of access to quality health care and education; food insecurity caused by climate change; lack of clean water and sanitation; and an overall absence of opportunities.

I spent four days in this region with UNICEF, meeting children and families affected by some of these struggles, and getting an insight into what is being done to tackle the inequities that some of the country’s most disadvantaged children face.

Ahead, my journal entries and some photos from the trip. You can also watch video highlights here.

For more on UNICEF's efforts to support and protect children in Vietnam, visit this link.
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Photo: Courtesy of UNICEF/UN020123/Quan.
Day 1
"My first stop was the Quang Son Special School, which gives children with disabilities the chance to gain a quality education. Around 30 children between 4 and 15 take part in lessons, including art, reading and writing, and sports. There are three dedicated teachers, two of whom are sisters who showed me around and let me sit in on one of the classes. I watched in awe as children with impaired hearing were communicating via sign language with other children in the school who, although their hearing was not impaired, had learned how to sign. The children taught me a few words, including ‘angel,’ something I was able to sign to the true angels in the room, the teachers, whose passion and patience was incredible."
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Photo: Courtesy of UNICEF/UN020352/Quan.
Day 1 (continued)
"The 30 kids I met at the Quang Son Special School are probably some of the fortunate few. There are some 1.3 million children with disabilities in Vietnam, and less than half of them are able to access school. I couldn’t help but wonder what these children’s lives would be like if the school wasn’t here for them. Who would they play with? How would they learn to communicate? What would they do all day while their families work in the fields? What would their futures be like?"
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Photo: Courtesy of UNICEF/UN020127/Quan.
Day 2
"I started my second day with an early wake-up call to travel to a rural health center that monitors children’s growth. They help look out for the signs of malnutrition and give nutritional support for malnourished children. I met 22-year-old Chamale Thi Ngich and her 2-and-a-half-year-old son Cuong. Ngich told me that her son became sick and stopped gaining weight. He got very weak and thin, and Ngich brought him to the center in March. Cuong weighed just 16.5 pounds, 10 pounds below the normal weight of a child his age."
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Photo: Courtesy of UNICEF/UN022976/Trong Quoc Nam.
Day 2 (continued)
"Since receiving the initial intensive care at the center, as well as weekly visits by healthcare workers to the family house, where he is given highly nutritious biscuits, Cuong gained three pounds in just over two months. His mother told me how active he has become since receiving the treatment, which is something I saw for myself as he jumped around playing. I hope he continues on the road to recovery."
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Photo: Courtesy of UNICEF/UN020370/Trong Quoc Nam.
Day 3
"My first stop on day three was the Phuoc Chinh public preschool. There are 127 children between the ages of 3 and 5 enrolled in the school. 98% of them are from the Raglai ethnic minority, one of over 50 ethnic minority groups in Vietnam. It was cuteness overload as I watched them laughing, playing, and learning together. This preschool teaches the Vietnamese language to children who usually only speak their local language at home. Learning Vietnamese is crucial for them to go to primary school. Overall, more than 95% of children complete primary school in Vietnam, yet only 70% of children from ethnic minorities manage to complete. This is unfair, and I hope someday soon, all children in Vietnam will have access to preschool and be given the tools they need to succeed."
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Photo: Courtesy of UNICEF/UN020370/Trong Quoc Nam.
Day 3 (continued)
"After a lot of playtime with the little ones, I met students from the Ngo Quyen Lower Secondary School. Around 90% of the school’s 200 students aged between 11 and 15 are Raglai. Many of the parents work as farmers, and their families have been stuck in cycles of poverty for generations. The children were intent on breaking these cycles and creating positive futures for themselves and their families. I met aspiring doctors and teachers. One girl reminded me of myself as a teenager — she told me she wanted to be a musician — as she belted out an amazing version of "Firework"! UNICEF is working in Vietnam to help turn these young people's dreams into realities by investing in the futures of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children — those with disabilities and those from ethnic minorities — to address the inequities that affect too many children across the country. UNICEF is also helping to break down stigmas and eliminate discrimination that many children experience."
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Photo: Courtesy of UNICEF/UN022958/Trong Quoc Nam.
"On my last day in Vietnam, I went to meet an 18-year-old young woman called Up who lives with her husband and their 3-month-old baby in a makeshift tent. Up and her husband work very hard to provide for themselves and their child. Up told me that both she and her husband wanted to go to school when they were young, but weren’t able to because they didn’t have birth certificates. As a result, like their parents, they ended up working as farmers.

"I asked Up if she would register her baby so she could go to school. I was devastated to hear that she wanted to, but because she couldn’t read or write, she wasn’t able to fill out the forms and couldn’t afford the registration costs. Thankfully, though, UNICEF contacted a local social worker to meet with the family and make sure that the child gets a birth certificate so that she can have better opportunities when she grows up. Quite simply, if your birth is not registered, you don’t exist. An unregistered child may not be allowed to enroll in school. An unregistered child may be unable to receive lifesaving healthcare services, such as immunizations. An unregistered child has little or no protection against trafficking and labor and child marriage. It doesn’t matter where you live — a birth certificate can make or break a future."
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Photo: Courtesy of UNICEF/UN020355/Trong Quoc Nam.
Day 4 (continued)
"I left Vietnam with so many memories. I was so grateful to the children who shared their days with me. I loved their spirit and resilience, and I know that with the right support, they can achieve their dreams. I was humbled to see the breadth of UNICEF's work to reach some of Vietnam's most vulnerable children with the care and support they need to break out of intergenerational cycles of poverty that have plagued their families for too long. We must work together to fight unfair [treatment] and give children an equal start in life."