Education
 Vietnam
Project #10810

Give disadvantaged Vietnamese youth secure jobs

by REACH
Vetted
REACH Hue students
REACH Hue students

REACH HQ recently visited our centres in central Vietnam: in Hoi An, Hue and Danang. For us, visiting our incredible team members and our students never gets old. Why, you may ask? 

Well for starters, REACH staff are some of the most passionate people you'll ever meet. They're kind and they're friendly, as you'd expect, but most importantly, they are driven by a desire to make the world a better place and to empower disadvantaged people in their community. 

As do all our centres, our teams in central Vietnam serve an important purpose in delivering practical training in the areas of spa therapy, hospitality, sales and marketing, and IT. Although you wouldn't guess it, the developed tourism hubs of Danang, Hue and Hoi An, whilst beautiful, are within striking distance of some of Vietnam's most disadvantaged communities, including those who earn their livelihoods from agriculture and aquaculture. 

But recent droughts and environmental scandals have put many farming and fishing communities out of work, leaving few options for the young people in those communities hoping to enter the workforce. REACH has been one of many organisations to help these young people gain the skills they need to build a long term and meaningful career in the region's fast-growing industries, like tourism and hospitality. 

Below, we've compiled our best and most inspiring student stories to show you how your donations are making a life-changing impact not just on our students, but their struggling families as well. None of this would be possible without the ongoing support of you - our donors - and to you we would like to say our biggest, heartfelt thanks. 

Nguyen Thi Trieu Anh - Danang, Housekeeping Graduate

Nguyen Thi Trieu Anh’s father left when she was just 12 years old, but she still remembers him. She remembers the countless times he got drunk and beat her and her younger brother. The abuse was so frequent that when he left, she finally felt safe.

But in her father’s absence, the family struggled. Being one of the poorest households in their hometown in Quang Binh Province, her 52-year old mother couldn’t afford to send her to school and incurred debts. “I worried about our family’s future,” recalls Anh.

Not long after, Anh found about REACH from her cousin’s friend who had studied housekeeping. At first, Anh was skeptical that anyone would provide tuition for free.  But with few other options to help herself and her family, she applied.

Looking back, Anh says her favourite memory of her experience with REACH was those first two weeks of life skills training. “There were a lot of students from different areas with different local voices,” said Anh. “We didn’t understand each other at first, but after the first two weeks, we became such a close-nit group.”

Anh’s teacher was from Hue and she found his teaching style easy to understand. “He empathized with my difficulties straight away and cared a lot for us. He often gave good advice and encouraged us. I considered him my second father and I often visit him back at the school,” she said.

After graduation, Anh’s teacher got her a job working at the Green Plaza Hotel in Danang. “At first, I found it extremely difficult, and I felt depressed at times. But my manager was so enthusiastic in guiding me and my colleagues were so kind to me. Now I feel very attached to this job, I want to improve my skills more.”

Anh now earns 4 million VND per month. She remembers using her first paycheck to buy clothes for her brother. And with more experience she is hoping to earn more money to help her younger brother go to school and support her mother.

Asked what would she would tell herself two years ago, when she was first considering studying at REACH, she said: “Go study at REACH Anh. REACH will welcome you, support you and give you the confidence to get a good job.

“I don’t know how to thank REACH. I will always be grateful.” 

Ngo Van Nhuong - Hoi An, Food & Beverage Graduate

Ngo Van Nhuong knows what it’s like to grow up in a crowded house. He, his two sisters, his younger brother, his mother and his father all live together in a small 20-square meter hut just outside Hoi An ancient town. His married sister has recently moved back in to look for work. There is only one bed so Nhuong, his father and his brother sleep on the floor.

Life could have turned out very differently for Nhuong. Many boys his age that drop out of school become aimless or involved in street crime. But after dropping out of school in 8th grade, he needed a job to support his family. He found work as a mason assistant and a gardener.

Nhuong says he never wanted to be a farmer like his parents. The family barely made enough money to eat and he wanted a career. His younger sister also hoped to go to university but the family didn’t have the money.

Nhuong said he learned about REACH when his friend posted something on Facebook. “I remember what he said. It was something like: ‘Learning at REACH is so funny and memorable. I didn’t know what REACH was or what he was talking about but it sounded interesting,” he said.

He says the first time he learned to make drinks as a REACH Food & Beverage student opened his eyes to bartending as a career. “I was so curious when I learned to make drinks for first time. I tried a lot of different cocktails.

“But my most memorable experiences were my internship at Riverside, the first 4-star resort in Hoi An, and some outdoor trips with new friends.”

Fast-forward a few months and now Nhuong is a qualified, full-time bartender working at Valentino Bar in Hoi An’s tourist centre. He says around 70% are foreign clientele, which has helped him improve his English a lot.

“I didn’t know any English before I came to REACH, but now I can talk pretty well with foreign customers, especially the girls,” he says with a laugh. He has also become more confident behind the bar, and says he is known for making excellent Whiskey Sours.

Nhuong now brings home VND3.5 million per month, VND2 million of which goes to his family. He says he intends to work at Valentino for another six months before applying for a job at a 5-star hotel. In five years, he would like to open his own bar.

Looking back, Nhuong can’t believe the turn around in his life. “REACH was my start. I didn’t know any English or what a cocktail was, but they taught me those things. Before, I felt lost and had no ambitions, which worried my parents. They thought I would do drugs or not have a career.

“Now, my mother is so happy with me. I have goals now and a good job, so they don’t worry for me anymore.”

 

Anh at her workplace, the Green Plaza Hotel Danang
Anh at her workplace, the Green Plaza Hotel Danang
Nhuong at home in Hoi An
Nhuong at home in Hoi An
REACH Hue F&B students practice taking orders
REACH Hue F&B students practice taking orders
REACH grads working at Sunrise Resort
REACH grads working at Sunrise Resort
Cuong with his mother Xuan at his graduation
Cuong with his mother Xuan at his graduation

Last year was definitely a year of achievement. And we hope to reach even further in 2016.

While Vietnam’s economy continues to grow, so too does the challenge to help the thousands of young people who are being left behind. These youth are living in difficult circumstances, without decent employment and without access to the opportunities available in Vietnam’s rapidly changing job market.

Our vision at REACH is to bridge this gap and provide all young people in Vietnam with the opportunities and support they need to reach their full potential. In the last 12 months, we provided 1145 students with free vocational training and helped 943 gain suitable employment. 

We continued to exceed our annual goal of helping 80% of youth achieve employment, with 83% getting a job within 6 months of graduating. But we also achieved an important milestone, providing training to more than 12,000 youth in need (12,573 to be exact) since we opened our doors in 2004.

Every REACH student has a different story to tell. We hope that these inspirational stories can help you understand more about our students: their backgrounds, the challenges they face and their hopes for the future.

Cuong’s Journey  

Before coming to REACH, Quang – who is a member of Vietnam’s Muong ethnic minority - lived with hisfamily in the poor mountainous districts of Thanh Hoa province. When his father passed away, he left home in search of paid work to support his family, moving to Binh Duong province in southern Vietnam.

Working for three years under harsh conditions, Cuong found himself no closer to achieving his dream of becoming a chef. That was until he randomly came across an article on REACH on Facebook. He immediately left Binh Duong and travelled to Hanoi to apply for REACH's Youth Career Initiative (YCI) cooking class. Months later, and much his surprise, Cuong was a cooking trainee at the Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel.

“I changed so much over six months, from having no experience in cooking to being able to hold a knife, prepare food and communicate more confidently,” Cuong said at his graduation ceremony, held at the InterContinental Hanoi in February.

"I'm so proud of Cuong - he's worked so hard and he is achieving his dream," said Cuong's mother Pham Thi Xuan, who travelled from Thanh Hoa to attend his graduation in the traditional Muong costume. 

Now, Cuong says he is looking forward to working in more challenging environments so that he can refine his cooking skills. "I have a job now. This program has helped me to develop, take care of myself and support my family better.”

Cuong, we take our hats off to you.

Cuong with his fellow REACH graduates
Cuong with his fellow REACH graduates
Cuong gets his diploma from the Hilton Hanoi GM
Cuong gets his diploma from the Hilton Hanoi GM
A Web&Graphic Design graduate at her workplace
A Web&Graphic Design graduate at her workplace

At REACH, our approach to helping disadvantaged youth follows a simple formula: three months of intensive vocational training followed by six months of job placement support.

And the results speak for themselves.

In 2015, 1117 students successfully graduated from our specialised vocational training courses: hospitality, web & graphic design, sales & marketing, hairdressing and spa & beauty therapy.

However, more important than what we teach our students in their three months with us is how they use their newfound skills and knowledge to find meaningful employment and improve their quality of life.

In 2015, our students seized the opportunities presented before them, with more than 85% of students finding stable employment within six months of graduation, well above our target of 80%.

We have plenty more in store for our students in 2016 and so, in the spirit of the New Year, we would like to share with you the stories of REACH students that have inspired us and will hopefully inspire you too.

These incredible stories illustrate the disadvantaged circumstances many of our students face, their journey through the REACH program and their life after graduation.

Thuyet

Thuyet was born into a farming family of five children in a rural district of Thua Thien Hue Province. Like her siblings, she dropped out of school after finishing primary school and at the age of 13, she began her first job as a maid 16 km away from home.

For Thuyet, it was a particularly difficult time in her life.

"I would cry seeing other children go to school and spend time with their family while I had to work,” said Thuyet. “Every night I dreamt of being a normal school girl and then I would wake up in the morning disappointed.”

But after three years working as a maid, Thuyet began searching for a new job. She soon started her second job as a shop seller but was promptly fired for her lack of education. She desperately applied at other shops but none would hire her.

It was then that she learned about a nearby REACH vocational training center through a friend.

"I worried that I wouldn’t be accepted because of my educational background,” she said. “However, after talking to the teacher, I knew I’d have a chance and for the first time I had hope.”

The following week, Thuyet received her acceptance letter from REACH, offering her three months of free vocational training in the Beauty and Spa Therapy course.

Following graduation, Thuyet was introduced by her teacher to a small spa. She worked hard and was eager to put her newfound knowledge and skills into practice.

After only a month, Thuyet was asked to apply for a job at the Eldora Hotel – a 4-star hotel in Hue city. She was offered a full-time job with a starting salary of $200 per month – her hard work had finally paid off.

"When I found out, the first person I called was my teacher at REACH,” said Thuyet. “I couldn’t believe it, I was crying. She changed my life.”

Now, Thuyet says her only remaining wish is to meet the donors who funded her time at REACH. “I want to thank them for making my dream comes true."

Khang

At the age of 23, Khang decided he wanted to study web and graphic design. For Khang, who was living with a physical disability, his study options were limited. But given a chance to choose a different career path, Khanh wouldn’t choose anything else.

At just 15 Khanh underwent surgery for a brain tumour. The surgery, however, was so complex that it caused hemiplegia. Paralysed on one side of his body, Khang had stopped schooling for a year to recover at home.

Although Khang was soon able to walk again, he trembled and couldn’t move his left hand. In spite of this, Khang - like any other child his age - was eager to get back to school and see his friends.

But bad luck struck again when Khang had to undergo brain surgery a second time, and the medical costs left his family broke. The income from the family farm and his father’s construction work was not enough to feed the family.

Khang later dropped out of school before finishing grade 11.

It wasn’t long, however, before Khanh was packing up his life in the country and starting a new life in Hanoi as a student at REACH. He knew the challenges would be great and that the road to finding a job would not be easy.

“All I wanted was to get a job after I graduated,” said Khanh. “This is a simple dream but it was my biggest dream.”

But more than achieving his own dream of finding a job, Khanh also wanted to show his parents that he could be financially independent and responsible.

Three months later, Khang graduated from REACH as a fully qualified graphic designer and landed his first full-time job at Esoftflow, a reknowned graphic design company in Hanoi.

He hopes that his story can show other students from disadvantaged backgrounds that they too can achieve their goals. “We need to take full responsibility for whatever we do,” said Khanh. “So said, so done.”

Thuyet prepares meal at home
Thuyet prepares meal at home
Hairdressing training
Hairdressing training
These boats are where many migrant families live
These boats are where many migrant families live

This is the story of Hang Nguyen, Youth Career Initiative Coordinator at REACH.

During 2 years working at REACH, I have visited many students’ families. They all have different difficult circumstances, creating a long-lasting impression in my mind. What I remember the most would be the time when I carried out student mobilization event at a slum area in An Xa commune, near Long Bien Bridge.

The place locates by Red River.  This is the habitat of many migrants.  People here live in sentry-boxes, small boats, or temporary houses. In rainy season, when the water level goes up, those houses are flooded.  In those houses, there is mostly no furniture. People living by the river use the water for their daily life activities such as taking a bath or washing clothes.

To reach the area, I had to walk through a corn field. I felt unsafe because the area was built on by alluvia soil from the river. Therefore, the ground was soft and I would get stuck in the sand.  Here and there were garbage dumps, creating stingy smell during summer time.

I met Ms.Ngot, the president of club for migrants in the area. She says that many kids here do not have a birth certificates or ID cards. They grow up like wide grass and have never attended schools. This area is also a hot spot of social evils such as drug addicts or violence.

Ms. Ngot helped me gather people to attend communication session on REACH’s free vocational training program. We expected that there would be some youth, our targeted group, showing up. However, there were only small children and elderly people. Because it was day time, all of the young people here were away to earn a living.

They worked in junction markets, being sellers or porters. Their earning is small, which is just enough to live by the day. For those youth, their life is a continuous reel of work. As soon as they stop it, they would have to skip meals for the next day. Therefore, asking  those youth to invest three months to join a vocational training program like REACH’s is a challenging job, even if the program is free and will give them much better job opportunities.

The visit was a long time ago. Until now, thinking about it still gives me goose bumps.  I have visited many places and met many people, who are living in poverty. But it is hard to believe that there are still people struggling with surviving through day in a place as Long Bien slum area, which is just 2 kilometers away from the center of Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.

Garbage dumps along walking path
Garbage dumps along walking path
Meeting with elderly people in the area
Meeting with elderly people in the area
Inside a temporary house
Inside a temporary house
Students practice body massage
Students practice body massage

Starting in November 2014, REACH’s very first Beauty Spa and Makeup class has graduated from our new Beauty Spa and Makeup facility in Hue. 

The first class, consisting of 13 female and 5 male students from disadvantaged backgrounds started the course in November 2014 and studied for over three months. Over the course of these 3 months, students were provided technical training in Beauty Spa and Makeup as well as life and job readiness skills. Students also undertook English classes that were provided by the REACH English teachers.  

Students graduating from this course can generally expect to work in hotel spas, beauty salons and wedding studios. Of the 18 students enrolled in our first class, 17 have already found jobs and are earning an average salary of ~3 million dong (US$140) per month. Furthermore, 8 of these students are working at 4 and 5 star hotels including the Imperal, Eldora and Anna Mandara.

Linh, one of the students graduating from the course said “I like studying here because the training helps me become more confident. I have learnt many life skills, enabling me to communicate better and have the necessary skills to adapt myself to the working environment. Moreover, the program gives me better awareness about my career and my life. Most importantly, I am equipped with professional skills and am supported in finding a suitable job”.

Personal makeup
Personal makeup
 

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Organization Information

REACH

Location: Hanoi, Hanoi City - Vietnam
Website: http:/​/​www.reach.org.vn
Project Leader:
Mai Pham
Hanoi, Vietnam
$29,964 raised of $60,000 goal
 
316 donations
$30,036 to go
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