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.


Instilling Confidence and Courage: Day with Senhoa

On the morning of March 23, I was able to spend the day with Senhoa visiting projects and learning about the achievements, challenges, and staff.

After filling out numerous security and background check documentation months in advance, the day of the site visit finally arrived. Bright and early Debra, Senhoa’s Country Director, and I met to visit the Lotus Kids Club first. The Kids Club focuses on education, prevention and community-building and is located in an impoverished Khmer and Vietnamese village where the residents mainly work as rubbish and recycle collectors making an average of $1.25 per day.

Village Senhoa Lotus Kids Club works with

Vietnamese and Khmer Community that Lotus Kids Club supports

When we arrived I could hear the laughter of the children. Walking through the gate I was welcomed by one of the staff, and kids were happily playing, reading, and creating everything from sand mounds to drawings. The club served as a sort of preschool to not only give the kids an opportunity to be…. well… kids, but also to prepare them for public school. There the children receive snacks to address malnutrition issues and quarterly medical examinations. Families are incentivized to send their kids to this during the day (instead of sending the young children to earn extra income for the family) through a food program.

After speaking with the staff and observing the program with kids screaming laughing and playing, Debra and I were off to the Jewelry Program. The jewelry program is utilizing a taught skillset to instill confidence. Supplemented with a life skills class, this program takes confidence from jewelry making and applies them to the rest of life, as well as rebuilding the ability of learning and solution finding. I arrived and was able to observe a class on goal setting, meet staff, and then observe some of the students practicing making loops with the jewelry program. They come after or before work and school and earn a stipend creating beautiful pieces (some made with Swarovski Crystal). I definitely fell in love with a few of the gorgeous designs. The girls were not only practicing, learning, and laughing… I saw them help and teach each other when one or the other was struggling.

Coco Rocha in Senhoa Jewelry shot by Nigel Barker.

Sample of Senhoa jewelry by Coco Rocha

(Source: Senhoa Project Updates; “Coco Rocha in Senhoa Jewelry shot by Nigel Barker”)

Finally, Debra and I visited the Lotus House – a transitional house for the girls to stay in during reintegration.  During the girls’ time here they can come and go as they please but it allows them to focus on a priority of learning and life training. Residents receive incentives for keeping themselves and space clean as well as using good language. The space was clean, safe, and comfy.

Country Director, Debra, and Me at Lotus House

Debra (Country Director) and Me at the Lotus House

Senhoa works collaboratively with other NGO’s and not only interacts with the community but receives feedback to move forward and adjust current projects. Senhoa is promoting awareness for human trafficking issues with celebrity networks via their Coco Rocha co-designed jewelry featured in fashion shows and events. I was very impressed with the requirements for safety of the girls, confidentiality like photo restrictions, and background check before my visit. I enjoyed my day meeting the staff and Debra from Sehoa, learning more about their programs, and experiencing the impact first hand.

GlobalGiving InTheField Representative | Texas

Jacqueline is an InTheField Traveler with GlobalGiving and is now making her way across Southeast Asia. Jacqueline has lived all around the U.S., Central America, backpacked along Australia’s eastern coast while volunteering for the National Park Service, western Europe, and traveled around the world. You can also follow her via Twitter.

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