How to empower women in Vietnam: Day with Hagar

Jacqueline Lee is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout Southeast Asia. Her “Postcard” from the visit in Vietnam:

On the morning of April 11, I visited Hagar International’s office in Hanoi, Vietnam hosted by Kelly, Program Development Manager, and staff. The day started off with visiting Hagar’s main office and meeting staff. We sat down to discuss the staff’s backgrounds, current work, and challenges.  I learned about the impact of Hagar, the spearheading of Hagar’s case management and social work within the field for future social workers, and goals for Hagar.

Because social work is such a new field in Vietnam, Hagar staff is working with local universities to bridge the gap between class theory and work.  At Hagar, survivors receive intensive training for 4-6 weeks, personal development, art therapy, and life skills.  The next part of their time with Hagar involves job skills, career training, and goal setting. One of Hagar’s jobs skills partners is Joma Café. Joma works with Hagar by providing a rotating training program in hospitality helping develop these women’s financial and self-independence.

Life Skills with Hagar

Life Skills with Hagar (Photo approved and provided by Hagar, taken by one of their photographers)

I asked the staff to share the most rewarding part of working at Hagar. One said working with the women, and when the survivor shares that it is the first time someone listens to her.  Another said that Hagar is a place people can be and can  cultivate themselves – where one can be authentic. Working there makes them feel proud – where each person feels like they are making a difference.  Another staff member said being part of a learning organization. It’s not just about the numbers, but about each individual client. Hagar’s goal is to run its own shelters.

Next we went to visit Joma Café, where Hagar survivors are able to receive on-the-job training in hospitality, and met some of the empowered women. I met with 2 women – one who had been with Hagar for about 1 year and half and another who was with Hagar for about 10 months.  Let’s say their names are Sara and Mary (to protect their identities).

Vocational Training with Hagar

Vocational Training with Hagar (Photo approved and provided by Hagar, taken by one of their photographers)

I asked them both why Joma and hospitality?  Sara said she thought it was popular, easy to get a job and opportunity, and to meet people. Mary said she liked cooking. Before she cooked at the shelter and was good at it. I then asked if they would like to continue at Joma, and Mary said she hoped to work in her hometown to open a small business. Sara said she wanted to stay with Joma to increase experience and English. I then asked if they weren’t with Hagar and Joma where would they be?  Mary said it would have been difficult to find a job because she lacked skill sets.  Sara said before she wasn’t able to learn life skills, vocational training, and not able to be recruited. It would have been way more challenging. Without support like this from Hagar, they don’t know where their future would be. Finally, I asked if they had any questions for me, and both shrugged. Then Mary stopped, looked at me and said “I never thought I would have an opportunity like this. I want to thank GlobalGiving.”

Through protection, personal well-being, economic empowerment, and social capital women are able to not only survive trafficking but be empowered in their lives to move forward, create a positive and thriving life, and not be a victim.

“If only heads could bounce”- my day with AIP Foundation and Helmet Safety in Vietnam

“Every year over 12,00 people die on roads and 30,000 are seriously injured..most of these cases could have been prevented by simply wearing a helmet…Wear a helmet. There are no excuses.” – 2007 Public Service Announcement by Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, Vietnam Helmet Wearing Coalition, and National Traffic Safety Committee.

This was a public service announcement by Asia Injury Prevention Foundation in 2007 to spread awareness about the life-saving impact of wearing helmets. Instead of 12,000, now 11,000 people die per year on roads. Created by Greig Craft, AIP Foundation (501c3) was established to compat epidemic levels of road traffic fatalities and inuries in developing countries. On Friday, Apri 6, I was able to spend the morning with Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, meet staff, and see their programs in action.

Before reading on …watch THIS to get a glimpse of what traffic is like in Vietnam. This video gives a great insite into WHY helmet safety is so important.

Traffic in Frenetic HCMC, Vietnam from Rob Whitworth on Vimeo.

Aaron, Development Coordinator, and Hong, Program Coordinator accompanied me to a school in District 9, Ho Chi Minh City, where the students participate in the “Click On Safety” project, “Safe Routes to School “ program,  as well as are recipients of “Helmets For Kids”.

Immediately on arrival, I was greeted by the principal and vice-principal. They accompanied us to a classroom where the teacher was about to start “ClickOn Safety”, an e-learning program teaching road safety for 1st grade students. This program is in pilot phase. The kids were excited, engaged, and interacting with the e-learning program – playing educational games, answering questions, and cheering when getting questions right.

While observing the class, I noticed  all of the children had their uniforms, backpacks, and HELMETS which were strapped to the sides of their desks thanks to AIP Foundation. In 2011, 6,680 helmets were donated in Vietnam, 2,542 in Cambodia, and 260 in Thailand through Helmets for Kids. Since the program started in 2000, around 500,000 helmets have been donated.

Kids in class with helmets at their sides

Kids in class with helmets at their sides

After, we sat down with the principal and vice principal. They explained that they have been working with AIP for 2 years. At the beginning, students did not like the helmets because they were not attractive, but after they were made colorful, the kids began to like them. Before the helmets, they had an incident of a father of a student dying and only 20% of the student population wore helmets. Now 80-90% of the students wear helmets to school, and there are still a few traffic accidents but that number has decreased and the injuries are not as serious as before.

AIP now has a university team doing research on how to better engage families and parents in the helmet safety program.

Promoting helmet safety at the school

Promoting helmet safety at the schools

How does AIP Foundation choose its schools? First the Department of Education provides of list of schools where a majority of the parents are laborers, poor, and or government workers. Then AIP hosts interviews and surveys the schools to find out the number of students that are currently wearing helmets and number of accidents. Finally, AIP launches the programs involving teachers, school staff, and of course the students.

Next, I witnessed the “Traffic Corner” being used by one of the physical fitness classes outside.  The “traffic corner” is a portion of the playground or courtyard turned into a mini-interactive 4-way traffic stop complete with crosswalks and working lights. Kids are able to practice safe ways of crossing the streets and reading stop lights.

Finally, I was able to sit with Executive Director, Mirjam, and Development Coordinator, Aaron, to learn about all of the projects, public awareness campaigns, successes, and challenges of AIP Foundation.  AIP Foundation was able to accelerate approval of the Vietnam Helmet Law and because of this, helmet wearing has increased 10% to 98% by adults. AIP Foundation now works with the mass media to create awareness campaigns about how wearing a helmet can save lives.

I was able to learn more about Protec, a non-profit arm of AIP Foundation that is increasing quality and standard in the helmet industry in Vietnam. Protec helmets are the “world’s first “tropical” motorcycle helmet designed…low cost, lightweight…appropriate for warm climates” via AIP brochure. Protec is a social business that reinvests all profits back into AIP Foundation to help create self-sustainability as well as hire disabled workers to provide opportunities for the disadvantaged.

Protec helmets - improving quality and standard

Protec helmets – improving quality and standard
With my very own Protec Helmet

It is unfathomable to understand the importance of helmet-wearing unless one has been to Vietnam and driven through traffic on a motorbike. Motorbikes are the main means of transportation for people in Vietnam. The law currently only requires adults and children over 6 to wear helmets, but many kids older than 6 still do not wear helmets and the law is not effectively enforced. This was similar to my experience in Cambodia, where I saw a majority of children AND adults not wearing helmets. I now own my very own helmet for the remainder of my time in Southeast Asia with GlobalGiving – and it’s a Protec helmet.

To give a helmet go here: http://www.globalgiving.org/4954

To support the campaigns go here: http://www.globalgiving.org/7585