Every year, EMpower Board Directors in Hong Kong set aside time to visit grantee partners. This year in November, three Directors, including Marie Rosencrantz, Aleem Jivraj and Ben Hall, along with Jacqueline Chen, Development and Engagement Manager, traveled to Hanoi.
The group visited EMpower grantee partner REACH, and met with Ms. Pham Thi Thanh Tam, Founder and Executive Director. REACH offers young people the opportunity to gain employable skills and secure better paying jobs, enabling them to break the minimum wage ceiling and have an opportunity for upward mobility. It is estimated that 75% of youth in Vietnam are engaged informal employment, and much of the work is characterized by low quality, underemployment, insecurity and safety hazards.
Tam shared with us the story of REACH in the early years of 2004-2008, and how it grew to become a household name in Vietnam today. REACH currently operates 10 training sites within Vietnam, reskilling 1,200 young people every year. It offers 9 vocational training courses ranging from housekeeping to program coding, each with a duration of 3 to 6 months. REACH has outstanding results with an average job placement rate of 83%, in part achievable due to their solid partnerships with industry players who scope the curriculum development and provide job offers to graduates of the vocational training courses.
While REACH has been successful in scaling up their model, its continual expansion is also dependent on securing larger and longer-term funding. EMpower has been working with REACH to build an alternative revenue stream, providing support and direction in piloting a Bento delivery business in Hanoi (Japanese lunch boxes). Initial results are encouraging. With EMpower’s funding, REACH is putting in place the software (building up skills and techniques of Japanese cuisine, recipe, integrating sales, marketing and web design etc.) and hardware (modifications in kitchen infrastructure) to operationalize their business plan. The program has trained 37 students in kitchen and Japanese cuisine cooking skills. 43 web and graphic design students participated in the development and design of Koi Bento communications and marketing materials.
As the EMpower group witnessed, REACH is a shining example of how long-term partnership that combines funding with technical support around capacity-building can support an organization as it grows and scales its program.
The group also visited grantee partner KOTO (Know One, Teach One), a leading organization in providing hospitality training to at-risk youth. At the KOTO Van Mieu Training Restaurant, they met Ms. Thao Nguyen, the General Manager of KOTO. A graduate of the first class of trainees of KOTO’s 18-month apprenticeship training certified by Boxhill Institute in Australia, Ms. Nguyen was the youngest graduate at 16 years old then. In the 18 years since, she has built a wealth of experience in the hospitality sector, graduated with her MBA, set up her own business and has returned to KOTO to helm the organization. Ms. Nguyen’s story is a shining example of KOTO Founder Jimmy Phan’s vision and philosophy for the organization that knowledge is meant to be shared, with the goal of having former participants “pay it forward” and help change the lives of younger youth. With EMpower support, KOTO has trained more than 400 young people in hospitality training, opening opportunities for skilled jobs.
The final grantee partner visit was to Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation to meet Founder Mr Michael Brosowski. He shared how EMpower’s support had enabled the organization to expand its work on trafficking rescue and prevention. He told the story of how he came to found Blue Dragon, sharing that it started with him having an afternoon cup of tea along the street and spotting a boy who was selling flowers. Every time the boy made a sale, he ran to two women who took the money. He later spoke to the boy and found that the boy had been trafficked and wanted desperately to go home. “The fight against human trafficking is worth doing because human lives are so important.” To date, 688 victims of human trafficking have been directly rescued by Blue Dragon.
It was an extremely rewarding visit to see the strong results all three organizations are achieving. We are proud to support their life-changing work in Hanoi!
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