1 July 2013 – 2 July 2013
The Changemakers have had a roaring start, in our first 48 hours we have had four visits including the Australian Embassy, an NGO called East Meets West, the Vietnamese Microfinance Working Group and a social enterprise called KOTO.
My first impressions of Vietnam have been of a vibrant and chaotic country, but what has struck me most has been hope and energy. Vietnam has undergone an extensive and intense renovation “doi moi” in the past thirty years. Thanks to political and economic reforms the status of poverty in Vietnam has been significantly improved. From one of the poorest countries in the World, Vietnam has become a lower middle income country. However, Vietnam still has many tasks ahead, poverty, corruption and labour deficiencies continue to exist. Nevertheless the dedicated groups that we have visited in our first two days are not shying away from this challenge.
KOTO (Know One, Teach One) was particularly inspiring. This social enterprise is a not-for-profit vocational training program that changes the lives of Vietnam’s disadvantaged youth on the street. The program provides accommodation, meals, allowance and most importantly training to disadvantaged youth. Over two years the students learn hospitality skills, english and “life skills”. In turn, the students are the staff at the restaurant KOTO (where we enjoyed delicious contemporary Vietnamese food) and all profits are invested back into the project for the good of the trainees.
Aside from gaining a social and economic overview of this country we have also absorbed the constant and slightly overwhelming array of sights, smells and sounds. Some of the memorable moments include fresh spring rolls and pho, massages and manicures, markets, temples and somehow coping with the extreme heat.
We are definitely looking forward to 10 more days of changemaking!