My Trip to Hue
Hi, I’m Belinda; I’m 15 years old, studying in Cheltenham Ladies College in the UK. This summer I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Vietnam with Clinked as their summer intern. In our two-day trip in Hue, we were packed with an intense schedule, and within that short period of time, I’ve not only learned about their culture but I was also able to meet the children in The Happy Project. This experience was truly eye opening and I hope I would be able to visit the children in Phu Hiep again! Below are some things we did in Hue:
On the 21st of August 2014, I arrived Da Nang to meet with one of Clinked’s co-founders, Junko Yoda. Straight away we set off to Hue, which was 2 hours away from the city. When we arrived Hue, Aya Takayashi, one of the three founders of Phu Hiep, whom has also been working with the children in The Happy project for 7 years came to welcome us along with her two assistants Mi and Mi. Phu Hiep is an organization launched in 2010 by a group of Japanese designers with the hope and vision of giving young children a bright future. Within the organization, there are Phu Hiep accessories, and their accessories are all hand made by artisans who started off as one of the children in The Happy Project. These talented artisans lack opportunities to study and work in respectable and safe environments due to poverty. For the past years, Phu Hieps aim is to help these children find a job free from violence, poverty and human trafficking, allowing them to live a better life. Please see: http://www.phu-hiep.com/ for more information.
After settling in, Aya took us to a lovely restaurant near by our hotel and treated us to lunch. As we stepped into the restaurant, we were greeted by warm welcomes and a number of local Vietnamese dishes, such as: cha gio (pork spring rolls) and Tom Sot Chua Ngot (sweet and sour prawns). Even though I felt like a stuffed Christmas turkey after, the food was no doubt delicious!
The weather in Hue was very hot and humid, especially in the afternoon with temperatures 37C to 39C and humidity of over 90%. It is very common for people to take afternoon naps during their lunch break and resume working after 4 pm. Because of this, it wasn’t until 5pm that we had to meet with Aya again to visit the community, so my mom and I decided to explore Hue for a bit. We came across a local market where they sold food, Non la (palm leaf conical hat), clothing and other small goods. Later in the afternoon, Aya and her assistants brought us to the community in district number 49. We met 13 girls and 1 boy, all ranging from ages 8-22. Out of the 13 girls, three became staff members of Phu Hiep while the rest of the girls are still in The Happy Project. The Happy project is a 3-year program of Phu Hiep, created by 3 Japanese ladies where they provide a decent education system and life skill workshops for under privileged children. Through this project, these children will have a better chance to learn about basic life skills that can be applied in the outside world. They also try to provide a steady job for the children, hoping they will be able to support themselves and learn to be independent in the near future.
When I walked in the community, the children greeted me with their over ecstatic energy and with the help of our translators (Mi and Mi), we were able to introduce ourselves briefly to them. As we started to get to know each other better, the language barrier suddenly disappeared. The girls and I were able to communicate and even play a game together! It was truly amazing to see how bright these girls are and it hurts me inside to see how unfortunate they are not to be given the same education I receive living in a developed country.
Besides all the fun we had, the girls had a session of life skill workshop. There they practiced making accessories with different kinds of materials on different kinds of accessories. Some girls were faster and were able to make 5 pieces in a few minutes while others took more time. I sat there in amazement, time passed by very quickly and soon we had to leave the community. As I was stepping out of the classroom, Mui and Tam, two of the girls tapped me on my elbow and handed me a present. It was a small piece of a green toy shaped like a peach. The present may not be known as anything “fancy” in our society, but I can imagine it meaning the world to them. The thought of kindness touched my heart and now the present is next to me, on my desk. This thoughtful gift is a constant reminder of them and the happiness they brought me during my visit in Hue. It will also be a reminder to me how fortunate I am to be able to go to school and receive a proper education.
The next day, we headed down to Phu Hieps’ shop early in the morning. Once we arrived we saw No, Lung and Be, the three staff, making phu hieps’ accessories. Because these pieces were so beautiful, we couldn’t resist the temptation and ended up buying a few for our family and friends. After our mini shopping spree, we were able to talk to No, Lung and Be. I personally wanted to know more about them and their life stories, so we started asking questions and this is what I’ve gathered.
No, 22 and Lung, 18 are sisters. They’re living in a family of 8; they have a younger sister and 3 brothers. Their father is working as a driver and their mother is working part time at the market, when she is not working, she is a full time mother. Lung is currently 5 months pregnant and is expecting a baby girl. Her due date is in November. Lung said a man in the community brought No and Lung to Aya whom introduced the sisters to the Happy Project. With the help of Aya, Lung joined the project when she was 11 but her sister, No, joined when she was 20 after returning from Ho Chi Minh. Throughout our conversation, I couldn’t help but notice No was rather quiet, she didn’t say much, not like her sister Lung. Instead her eyes were watery and her hands were tightened into fists. It wasn’t until later Aya told us she was a victim herself, she worked in a factory in Sai Kung and had gone through a rather rough time before returning home in Hue. On the bright side, No is considered to be very lucky, to have been returned to her family in Hue. Many children (especially girls) who were sent away never came back and will most likely remain separated from their family forever.
Be, the third staff in Phu Hiep, now 20 years old living in a family of 7, with 3 brothers and one nephew. Her father is currently working in gold mines, often in the northern parts of Vietnam, meaning that she rarely sees him. As for her mother, she picks rubbish on the streets. Be joined the program when she was 12 and it was her first time being exposed to a proper education, or any education due to her family issues beforehand. We asked her what was the program like for her when she first joined, were there any difficulties and so on. She told us it was difficult at the beginning and she had trouble at the workshop, but after months and months of practice, she finally excelled. Now she loves it, and she really enjoys being part of the team at Phu Hiep.
There was one question I especially wanted to ask and it was dangling in my mind the whole time. What was the key to success in their program (since they were the only 3 girls who became staff out of 15 children who joined the first program 7 years ago)? It took them a while to think of an answer, but after a while of chitchat, they all agreed the most important quality was patience. Patience was their key to success. They believed if they had enough patience to learn throughout their journey, they would finally get somewhere. And as a result, they now work in a much better and safer environment with bigger opportunities awaiting them ahead.
During my trip to Hue, I’ve learnt so much that it is almost impossible to write it all down. One thing I realized was that all children deserve an equal opportunity to learn. These children I met are just as smart as everyone else if they are given a chance to learn, I believe they will have a very bright future. I wish them the best of luck and I hope, with the help of Clinked, we could offer them the support they need. Lastly, I would like to take this chance to thank Junko for taking the time to bring me to Hue and for giving me this great opportunity to be part of Clinked.