The following is a postcard from Charissa Murphy, GlobalGiving's In-the-Field Representative in Southeast Asia, about her recent visit to Reach in Vietnam.
Winding down the stairwell from Reach's Hanoi staff offices and program headquarters, we stopped along the way to visit each of the five courses held at the headquarters. I wasn't sure entirely what to expect at first, but I was taken by how actively engaged each of the students were. As I walked into each of the separate instruction rooms, I thought to myself, "Wow, they are so eager to learn!" The model is setup this way, selecting only students who will be enthusiastic and committed to their personal development within the program and in the job placement process following the program.
After learning about how the organization operates and witnessing the engagement of its students, it was clear why the job placement success goals and rate of 80% or higher are being achieved with Reach's students in the first month after the courses. Not only were the students enthusiastic, but the instructors encouraged interactive activities, critical thinking, and hands-on learning to facilitate their knowledge growth. Coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, including poverty, domestic violence, sex trafficking, and similar, Reach is truly providing them with the opportunity to positively change their lives.
Aside from greeting me warmly by standing up and clapping for me (I don't get this celebrity-like treatment in the States, so I smiled in gratitude for feeling so important!), the following is what I observed that the students were doing in each training room when I entered unannounced.
Sales and Marketing: Holding large easel board paper, two students were presenting the perceptions that their separate groups produced on what a sales person should look like. As one of them shared the illustration with me, he stated that the sales person was well-dressed, smiling, and young. Visualizing themselves working in sales is part of the process to help them make it a reality. I imagine that they are also learning about stereotypes and perceptions too, and it was rewarding to see how engaged the students were in thinking about their ideals for their own sales persona.
Hospitality (Food and Beverage): This course was split into two classrooms for the day to reduce the student-to-teacher ratio. The students are in the early part of the course, which covers English language, and the program feels that it is more effective for the students to be in smaller classes for greater individual attention. I actually accidentally walked into one of these classes when I first arrived, and the teacher was practicing numbers with the students, having them individually state the numbers that she showed to them on cards. When we returned again to the class, I noticed that the walls were lined with various food and beverage related images and their English words for the students to practice daily. The partnership with luxury hotel lines really enhances this program, and I was able to explore many pictures humbly displayed that helped me see the hands-on learning experience and growth that the students receive.
Web/Graphic Design: I could feel the students' interest as they actively watched a projector screen ahead of them. When I walked into the Graphic Design class, the instructor was going through technical web and computer details to explain basic setup. This was only the first week of the class. Every eye was focused and writing notes, and I felt bad for the interruption because the full class was very engaged.
Nail Design: This room was FULL of color! It wasn't just nail colors, though. Each of the students wore vibrant safety and cleanliness clothing, as well as their own bright smiles! Preparing the students for a very practical job, it seemed that they were very talented based on the work I saw they each produced from the past week alone. I could tell that a strong model was behind the process that each of them followed, ensuring a clean and safe environment.
Hairdressing: My mom is a hairdresser, so I am naturally always interested in learning about different hair techniques in different settings and countries. 60% of the students in the class were or still are commercial sex workers, so this setting was quite different as I envisioned the tremendous life change they were hoping to achieve. There were various different stations setup in the room such as washing and shampooing, blow drying and styling, and curling. Since the new session recently started, the students had not yet started working with chemicals, but they would in upcoming weeks. I was told that on specific days such as exam days they invite other students from Reach or members of the local community to receive hair styles or cuts for free. It was great to know that they allow the students to share their accomplishments with fellow students and the surrounding community.
This also applied for the other classes too, though. Each of the classes interacts with the other Reach students, staff, and alumni. For instance, the web design course helps create the alumni magazine, consisting of stories and information from some of the 10,510 students who have gone through Reach. Reach follows-up with the alumni for six months after graduation, providing strong support in the first month for successful job placement, and it also connects with the alumni through social media and its print publications.
I'm so grateful that I was able to meet with the Reach team, as well as many of its current students. I look forward to hearing continued success stories as Reach helps the disadvantaged in Vietnam create more healthy, enjoyable lives.
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