In a new series on Vietcetera, we profile NGOs (non-governmental organizations) operating in Vietnam. The first that we speak with is Xuân, managed by Yoko who has lived in Vietnam for the past five years. We get the scoop on why she’s here and what sort of work her organization does in Vietnam.
What encouraged you to move to Vietnam?
I was finishing my studies in Australia with little will to go back to France. My dream was to live several years in different countries around the world. After Australia, Vietnam became an interesting option. I had visited Vietnam previously at 18 years old, when I first encountered Xuân on a mission in a shelter for disadvantaged children. I later met Chanh Tran Tien, the founder of Xuân. Chanh has other businesses in real estate/hospitality and needed somebody to head up the organization. I’ve been with them ever since. Xuân is growing based on the Pencils for Promise sustainability model. It’s helped change the way people look at these sorts of organizations. That’s why we’re a for-purpose organization, not a non-profit, etc.
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What’s your most memorable experience working or living in Vietnam?
Given the nature of our work, we’re doing something that is quite sensitive. International aid in Vietnam, everything is controlled and closely monitored. It would be impossible to operate here if we did not have a local partner to work with.
For example, we recently launched a new project in the Mekong Delta. I initially traveled alone and made little progress. When we spoke with other NGOs, they were able to make introductions to the right people. It was only thanks to them that we got in touch with local partners on the ground.
How did Xuân get started?
Our founder Chanh Tran Tien met a young girl named Xuan in 1992: our story here. The original team that kickstarted the project still remains with Xuân today.
Growing up in France, what shaped your Vietnamese identity?
I grew up in the countryside, where my sister and I were the only foreigners or “different” to the rest of the community. I was proud of my Asianness though. It was only when I came to Vietnam, that I realized that I was not as Vietnamese as I thought. I’m Vietnamese-French. It was actually quite shocking to realize that I was not so Vietnamese. My family is close and we love Vietnamese food. We’re very French otherwise.
Are there any fundraising challenges as an organization operating in Vietnam?
We are a French organization with 100% of funds fundraised in France. Individual families will often sponsor one individual student or sometimes entire schools. Vietnam today is more middle-income. And many French don’t see it as a priority as other countries. Why would a growing nation like Vietnam need charitable donations?
We also fundraise internally within Vietnam now. The process and audience is more developed now to support fundraising within Vietnam. It’s typically not within Vietnamese culture to donate to organizations.
Xuân is a for purpose organization. We empower the forgotten children of Vietnam, victims of poverty and help them build a bright future. Since 1992, we have been running various projects from shelters to scholarships. This year, we celebrate our 25th year anniversary improving the lives of the children. We also take the occasion to launch a new initiative, WASH.
WASH (standing for: “Water, Sanitation and Hygiene”) is our new project to reshape the learning environment of disadvantaged children and to help transform their lives. We aim to support support thousands of children in Kon Tum and the the Mekong Delta. We bring water and toilets to poor and remote schools.
About the Golden Throne
The Golden Throne is a campaign to mobilize people all around the world to learn about our mission. The media aspect of the campaign, in particular the video, will help draw attention by offering people a unique opportunity to discover the reality of millions of rural students in Vietnam.