In our “On The Seas” series, we catch up with Overseas Vietnamese, or Việt Kiều, whose roots are connected to their current country of residence and whose identities and perspectives were shaped by the country they came from.
When we think of Overseas Vietnamese, we tend to picture America, France, Germany or other countries with large Vietnamese communities. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, Denmark doesn't immediately come to mind as part of that narrative. And yet, according to Denmark born and raised Loan Tran who we interviewed for “On the Seas”, the Nordic country’s Vietnamese community is as vibrant and active as in places with a much larger diaspora.
Loan is chairperson of the Danish Vietnamese Association’s shelter collection, supporting the Little Rose Warm Shelter, a Vietnam-based non-profit organization supporting girls who are at risk of abuse or trafficking. She is a ball of energy radiating warmth and generosity of spirit – qualities she attributes to the values she grew up with in her homeland. We ask to hear her story.
Why did you get involved with The Little Rose Shelter? What is your goal?
One of the values I learned from my family is the importance of giving. I have been volunteering part time for over 10 years and find so much joy in it. Just before I moved to Vietnam, I became a member of Danish Vietnamese Association that is supporting multiple charity organizations in Vietnam; Little Rose Warm Shelter being one of them.
Little Rose Warm Shelter is a home for 20 underprivileged girls from across Vietnam coming from extremely poor families who cannot afford to send them to school. Some of the girls are at risk of sexual abuse. The mission of this NGO is to transform lives by providing care, education and empowerment to underprivileged girls in Vietnam.
Over the past 28 years Little Rose Warm Shelter has housed over 1,000 girls. Our success stories include our girls who through the love, care and empowerment received at the shelter became strong, independent young women. Some graduated from university, some got stable jobs, while others started their own nail or hair salons or tailor businesses.
In 2017, the LRWS established a small bakery as part of the shelter with the dual purpose of creating a new vocational training opportunity for the older girls as well as a source of sustainable income for the shelter from the sales of the cakes.
Since establishment, nine girls have been trained as bakers. To date, we received more than 300 cake orders, many of them from repeat customers, and the girls have produced more than 1,000 chocolate eclairs and over 5,000 customized cookies.
After getting more involved as a volunteer here, I became so attached to this cause that I decided to become the chairperson of the Danish Vietnamese Association’s shelter collection, with the aim of focusing solely on Little Rose Warm Shelter.
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What is the Vietnamese community like back in Denmark? What was your life like growing up as a Vietnamese-Dane?
It’s quite large actually! There are over 15,000 Vietnamese people living in Denmark right now so the restaurants are plenty and we celebrate the same traditional events.
I’ve always been proud to be a Vietnamese in Denmark because we are recognized for being hardworking, diligent people who are known for their good academic achievements.
Thanks to my parents, who themselves grew up in poverty and would tirelessly remind my brother and I of our good fortune, I have always felt very lucky to be able to enjoy all the privileges of living here, especially free high-quality education. Our parents effectively made sure we studied hard and didn't take anything for granted. Living in Denmark instilled in me such values as trust, integrity, transparency and equality.
What brought you to Vietnam? Tell us more about your work the past few years.
After graduating from university, I worked for a couple of years for Singapore Airlines in Denmark, which inspired me to travel and eventually led to a job in Vietnam where I planned to stay for two years. I was very fortunate to work for a Danish-owned medical equipment company. A company with an important mission, great leadership and talented and loving people.
During my 6.5 years there I got to try different positions in leadership and management – my role was focused on turnaround and developing teams – I helped with that in different cities in Vietnam and Cambodia while moving around five times in those 6.5 years. That was hard but super great work and life experience.
How has your work with the orphanage shaped your perspectives and identity as a Dane living in Vietnam?
Growing up with all the privileges, especially the good education in Denmark, and given that my parents didn't have any of the opportunities I had, I feel a bigger urge to contribute to Little Rose.
Living in Vietnam and getting involved with this cause has definitely changed my perspectives on life – I feel more grateful, blessed and motivated to work harder to be able to make a bigger difference in the girls’ lives.
What can others do to contribute or volunteer to your cause?
Recently the Covid-19 pandemic touched all of us socially, financially and emotionally… the fragile part of our society in particular. As a consequence of the pandemic, Little Rose Warm Shelter is in danger of closing after 28 years in operation because we lost a number of regular donors on whose support we’ve come to rely.
Having lost approximately $10,000 USD in donations, the very existence of the shelter is now under threat. For us to continue to operate, it is vital to find new donors so we can carry on with our mission to provide food, education, care as well as putting a roof over the heads of these wonderful young women.
We therefore ask for your kind help with cash donations and food items. You can also help by ordering cakes from Little Rose Bakery. Additionally, we are looking for a committed volunteer for the Little Rose Bakery who has a background in pastry or baking and preferably experience with operations of a bakery.
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