Aug 14, 2020

My Father's Dream

Mai Quynh Dao, a hairdressing alumni at REACH
Mai Quynh Dao, a hairdressing alumni at REACH

Vietnamese fathers use the term “con gái ruou” [wine daugher] to talk about their beloved daughter. It sounds unhealthy, but, in the past, wine used to be very precious. 

Mai was a “con gái ruou”, especially as she was the only girl in a family of three children.  

“My father was very sweet”, says Mai. “He spent as much time as he could to talk with us, to make friends with us”.

When Mai was a child, she didn’t like school very much. Pursuing Higher education had never been an option for her. Mai didn’t know what her dream nor a pathway for her future was. But her father knew what she was for.  

For the longest time, he had seen how Mai was passionate and talented at hairdressing. She very often offered neighborhood kids free haircuts and makeup. While Mai thought this was simply a hobby, her father believed it was an opportunity. 

“If you like to do hairdressing, you should learn to do it as well as a professional. That will help you succeed,” Mai remembers her father saying. 

Mai’s father urged her to learn to be a real hairdresser.

However, the idea of becoming a hairdresser was delayed when her younger brother got in an accident and suffered brain damage. The medications and treatments for a long time didn't make financial matters any easier on the family. Shortly after that, Mai’s father got sick and died. 

After Mai’s father passed away, Mai had to work harder. She engaged in a number of manual jobs in markets and restaurants to earn a living. None of them helped her provide a stable income to support her family. 

Despite struggling with earning a living, Mai never forgot her father's words, and kept looking for ways to realize his vision. In an effort to get involved in hair training, she got a part-time job at a hair salon. It was near the restaurant where Mai worked, so she walked there to work during every break.

Even though she put in a lot of effort and took a lot of initiative, Mai was never given any responsibilities beyond washing hair. 

“I never had a chance to try something different”, Mai says. “They never instructed me how to do it, or let me do it on my own”.

One year later, Mai found REACH where she accelerated her professional skills. 

Starting the training later than her classmates, Mai lacked confidence at first. But with the support of her teacher, and her determination, Mai caught up with her classmates within a week. 

REACH brought her a completely new and exciting experience. She was able to practice hairdressing skills that she had never done before.

“I was very nervous when I dyed hair for my classmate for the first time. I did it following the recipe that I was taught, but I was still not sure if I did it right”, Mai recalls about an unforgettable moment. “But her hair turned out looking perfect, and I cried in happiness”.

Mai was placed in Hong Duyen salon after graduation where she took the next step on her pathway to becoming a hairdresser. Working in a professional salon, Mai gained a lot more skills in an incredibly short time.

Mai is now the owner of a hair salon in her hometown. With Mai’s support, her brother took a training course in men’s hairdressing, and is currently working at Mai’s salon. They have plans to expand their business in the future.

Despite It being a long time, Mai still remembers her father and their shared dream.

“I wish my father could see how great I did, and how successful I am now,” Mai says softly.

We believe that if Mai's father was still alive, he would be very proud of her, like we are. With our commitment to supporting disadvantaged youth, seeing our students’ succeed is the best reward we could ask for.

This is the reason for and the mission of REACH.

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May 13, 2020

We've overcome COVID-19 and we are back!

Students are back to school
Students are back to school

REACH welcomed 335 students back to its training centers early last week.

Following the direction of the government, REACH closed all schools for nearly 2 months from 10th March to the 3rd of May. This measure was to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Vietnam. 

The social distancing directive (lockdown) was enacted by the government just a few days before the new batch of students was due to start. 

Foreseeing the lockdown, REACH was well prepared for it. Our teachers used this time to review the training curriculum, and adjusted it to make it more appropriate to new training methods. English teachers also worked together to record videos of their lectures.  

It is quite challenging to do vocational training via online, said Food & Beverage teacher.“But we had no better option in this situation. We need to motivate students, and keep them up to date with their training.”

Fortunately, the virtual classes were more successful than we had expected. Students showed their interests in the lectures, taking notes, and raising questions for discussion.

We were taught essential theoretical knowledge via online classes. The teacher was very enthusiastic and accessible”, said a cooking student. “We all looked forward to the school opening so we could practice these skills”.

“It felt like a real class. We were given assignments by the teacher, and surprisingly, all of us finished them”, agreed a video editing student. “The online classes connected us, and made it easier when we met in person at school”.

That said, students and teachers faced some difficulties with technology. Some students said they had to spend hours in the garden to be able to get an internet connection, while others were using very old mobile devices lent to them by their friends. 

The government lifted the lockdown at exactly the right time when students had almost finished theoretical lessons.

They couldn’t be more excited about being able to meet their teachers and friends and enjoy in-person training.

“It is amazing and exciting. I am finally able to practice cutting vegetables and food flipping skills”, said the cooking student. “After the first week at school, I now do food flipping professionally with both right and left hands”.

“It was very cool to meet my virtual friends and my teacher in person,” commented the video editing student. “The school's computers are much faster. It makes my study much more efficient.”

The COVID-19 crisis has been significantly affecting all facets of life at REACH. We have seen a number of our graduates either lose their jobs and income. This means our training and job placement for our graduates will be challenging in the upcoming months.  However, we know disadvantaged youth need our support at this moment more than ever.

While the pandemic is unprecedented, and not controllable in the near future, we still need to move forward.

“Vietnam is controlling the pandemic pretty well and the domestic economy is recovering”, said Chief Operations Officer at REACH.“The disease will be handled at some point, and we need to be prepared for when the global economy, and demand for our students, bounce back.”

Despite persisting with our mission, REACH is also taking preventative measures to protect students following the recommendations of the government. These include disinfecting the whole school, asking students and teachers to wash their hands more often, and monitoring their temperatures.

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Feb 20, 2020

REACH Alumni come back to give back

In the lead up to Tet REACH alumni have taken to the streets of Hai Duong to pick up rubbish and feed those less fortunate to further enhance REACH’s model as a socially responsible NGO.

The exercise, organised by REACH center in Hai Duong, saw alumni from both Ha Noi and Hai Duong come together further strengthening their bonds and providing them with an invaluable networking opportunity.

It’s been a great way to finish my year,” said La Nguyen, who graduated from REACH in July 2019. “It has been a while since I last saw my friends.”

In attendance were 55 members of REACH Hai Duong Alumni Club, and 20 students and alumni of REACH Ha Noi.

The Hai Duong Youth Union, a local organization and a long term recruitment partner, also played a key role. They helped organize the event and participated alongside the REACH alumni cleaning the local military cemetery and the nearby streets.

Thien Nhan Tam Charity Club, another recruitment partner of REACH, assisted students and alumni to make Chung cakes. These cakes were then delivered to less fortunate people with the hope it would be the start of a warm and delightful Tet festival.  

“It was tiring,” said Long Nguyen, a web-coding class student, “but we felt elated at being able to help the community that much.”

Not only did the alumni give back on the streets and in the underprivileged villages of Hai Duong but they also had a great time together afterwards. They laughed and shared stories about their work and lives after REACH in a team building session run by REACH staff.

Overall, the alumni that attended the event had a fantastic experience.

Hai Duong center manager, Bien Pham, could not have been more ecstatic about the outcome.

“In the bitter cold of Lunar New Year, I felt cheerful watching the alumni network grow stronger and stronger. This does not only align with our mission but also serves as a solid foundation for recruitment in the years ahead… Our alumni are undoubtedly real evidence that REACH can, and is, transforming lives”.

At REACH, we pride ourselves not just on the quality of our vocational training but also on the ongoing commitment of our alumni to create a better Vietnam. We firmly believe that personal development is not just about knowledge or skill, but it is also about connecting, forging long lasting friendships, and creating a solid support network.

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