travellers making a difference in vietnam

blue dragon childrens foundation vietnamLast month, Jane Crouch, Intrepid’s Responsible Travel Manager, travelled to Vietnam to see first-hand the progress of the four Intrepid Foundation projects we support there. Each of the community projects are quite different, but all have in common a great enthusiasm and can sense they are tackling enormous tasks that are very important and meaningful…

“My first stop was KOTO’s new Saigon Training Centre, where 50 young people of disadvantaged backgrounds have embarked on a full-time training program in hospitality and life skills. After 10 years of great success in Hanoi, KOTO branched into Ho Chi Minh City in January, and by the end of this year will be opening a restaurant. The KOTO trainees are fully immersed, with practical and theory classes 5 days a week, a sports program on Saturdays (including an Aussie rules football clinic!) and fun activities on Sunday mornings like hip-hop classes.

Next visit was in Hoi An, where I caught up with CHIA – Children’s Hope In Action. They’re providing services to around 500 children a year – many with disabilities or other disadvantages. They’ve expanded their mandate to include some water, sanitation and housing support – which can help to prevent health issues – all part of their desire to help as many children as possible. It was great to hear that Intrepid traveller, Geoff Pook, through his involvement with the organisation ‘Just A Drop’, is helping to have a water supply and toilets installed at many of the local schools, that do not have these facilities that are essential for good health.

Third stop, was at the marvellous Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation base in Hanoi. Around 170 kids – some are street kids, some have disabilities or other disadvantage, are participating in one of their current Hanoi programs, including counselling, support to attend school and vocational training. I was shocked to learn that vulnerable children, sometimes as young as 10, are often trafficked from northern cities to the south of Vietnam, to work in the garment industry. They may become enslaved home workers, cutting out swathes of cloth, which is then taken into the factories for ‘legal’ workers to make up into garments. Blue Dragon are operating a fabulous ‘Stay in School’ program supporting the children that are vulnerable to trafficking, in the Bac Ninh and Hue regions.

Our fourth project is Cuc Phuong National Park’s Turtle Conservation Centre (TCC). They are currently holding about 1,200 turtles, representing 21 of Vietnam’s 25 native species. A big task for them is educating visitors about the threats to Vietnam’s turtles resulting from hunting and trade, and urging the public to help protect tortoises and freshwater turtles.

One of the great risks to the species is the turtle trade in Vietnam and elsewhere in south-east Asia. I noticed that turtle shell jewellery was quite openly available in market stalls and shops in Vietnam, despite bans on the trade. Please don’t ever purchase it, and do try to explain to locals where possible, why it should not be sold. Thanks to TCC, I think the prospects for turtles in the region are looking up!”

The Intrepid Foundation – travellers making a difference
Help support great grassroots organisations in Vietnam and around the world via the Intrepid Foundation, plus find out how your donation can be matched* by Intrepid Travel!

* Donations will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$5000 (or equivalent) per donor and a total of AU$400,000 each financial year.

* Photo Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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