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August 17th 2009
Published: August 25th 2009
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Although Day misses her son, she is extremely proud and happy with the opportunity that Son has been given.
Son is a delightful 18 year old who has been the recipient of a Lifestart Foundation Education scholarship for the past four and a half years. When I met Son I was saddened by his living conditions ; his house was very small, made of very basic materials and positioned in a most vulnerable area. At the time Son was in year 9 at high school and contemplating not continuing with his education. This was the result of two problems ; he was struggling with his school work and was worried about the ongoing expense of his studies.

The second concern was alleviated when I found a sponsor who has helped Son with his education costs since that time. The first problem was also alleviated with encouragement and extra tuition which in turn improved his confidence and grades. In addition to attending government school, Son has had extra tuition during the day and evenings at the Lifestart Foundation Free School. Son has been a conscientious English student and has blossomed with the benefit of the very small classes we provide.

All his life, Son has lived with his mother on the banks of the Thu Bon River in

This original house has now been replaced with a modest brick house. The new house offers a lot more protection from the elements.
Hoi An. It is a picturesque location when the river does not flood. Unfortunately, floods occur every year, some years worse than others. In a bad year, the flood will be one storey high! Son’s mother, Day, is an extremely hard working fisherwoman, evident from her cracked and calloused hands. Day was anxious to tell me that even though they had little in the way of possessions, she had no debt and what they had, she provided via her fishing. She has worked long hours in an effort to provide for Son. He is a devoted son and for many years it has just been the two of them. A younger sibling died at a very young age and dad,who is unwell,has been hospitalized for many years.

With the help of a very kind sponsor, Lifestart Foundation had a new boat built for Son and Day. As a result of this help, Day was able to scrimp and save enough money over several years to build a stronger house of bricks, leaving them less vulnerable during the annual floods. Their new house has a small mezzanine level which enables them to escape the flood with their few possessions

Son and Day in their new boat built by their Lifestart Foundation sponsor. The boats are hand built and last about 10 years.
and remain safe until the flood subsides.

I am really proud to be able to report that Son successfully completed Year 12 in April of this year. To think that a few years ago he was on the verge of dropping out of school and in turn would have had very limited opportunities. Now he can look to the future with optimism and confidence.

Like Son, Vinh lives on the banks of the Thu Bon River as well, with his mother and four siblings. His father died a few years ago and his mother is also an extremely hard working woman. Her story is the same for many women in Vietnam ; work is from dawn to dusk, seven days per week, for very little salary. No holidays, benefits or flexi-time here!

Vinh also successfully completed year 12 in April after being on a Lifestart Foundation Education scholarship for the past four and a half years. Without this education scholarship, Vinh’s family would not have been able to afford for him to continue with his education beyond year 9. He is very proudly the first in his family to complete secondary school. Vinh has

A very happy and proud young man.
also attended extra studies and has been part of the Lifestart Foundation Free School along with Son.

I had a meeting with both Vinh and Son at the completion of their year 12 studies to congratulate them on their achievment and to discuss their future options, a discussion that five years ago none of us would have thought we would be having. It had been brought to my attention that a new exciting opportunity was about to be launched in Hoi An. A social enterprise called Streets International………

STREETS INTERNATIONAL ("STREETS") is a not-for-profit, sustainable, social enterprise initiative for street kids and other disadvantaged youth. It is an innovative program model that builds on the experience gleaned from successful grassroots charities such as Koto and Hoa Sua in Hanoi, Vietnam; Makphet in Vientiane, Laos; and CafeChavalos in Granada, Nicaragua. In Hanoi, for example, the highly regarded, sustainable and self-supporting Koto reports a remarkable 100 percent job placement rate for its graduates. Combining restaurant operations with education, training, housing and lifestyle support , STREETS has the potential to dramatically change the lives of the impoverished young adults it serves.

Hospitality and food industry educators and businesspeople,

This photo was taken when I first met Dao, she is pictured out front of the coffee shop she was working in.
along with international development experts, have come together to launch and replicate this sustainable model. Incorporated in June 2007 as a US-based 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, STREETS provides the initiative, experience and financial support to offer a future to greater numbers of disadvantaged youth throughout SE Asia and other developing countries.

This is a project with a big vision. It is replicable, scalable, and self-sustaining. STREETS plans to open initial program sites in Vietnam and the Philippines in 2009. Each of these important locations will form the foundation for future growth everywhere. The central focus at these sites will be the success of the trainees. At the same time, the objectives for sustainability and replication will be realized.

The trainees in the internationally credentialed training program will receive education in culinary arts, hospitality service and management, as well as life skills and "hospitality English." The 18-month curriculum starts with orientation and basic skill training, then continues into the more complex areas of professional cooking and restaurant operations. At the same time, the trainee's education transitions from observation in the restaurant's kitchen and dining room, to increasingly independent interning in the various job functions.

Most importantly, during the

This picture was taken at the restaurant where Dao trained as a cook. It was a step in the right direction but not the final destination.
18 months, each trainee is provided with housing, active community based support, and medical care. Designated "house parents," and all other STREETS staff are available and integrally involved as supportive and mentoring members of the overall STREETS community. The housing accommodations are based on a model of supervised, small semi-autonomous groups, further increasing the trainees' sense of community and responsibility.

Ultimately, the graduate's greatest achievement is the empowerment that comes with the self-reliance they have achieved. STREETS' objective will be to ensure that they are educated and well equipped to succeed in life and meet the demands of their new careers in hospitality.

Interested to learn more about Streets International? click here www.streetsinternational.org

After meeting with the founder of Streets, Mr Neal Bermas, I was very impressed with this project and of course the opportunity that it would provide for many young people with challenging lives. Neal asked if I had any young people I could recommend to be part of the interview process for a traineeship with Streets. During my discussions with Vinh and Son, they had both expressed a strong desire to train in the hospitality /tourism industry. This opportunity sounded perfect. Not only

Vinh, pictured at the entrance to Street's 17 Le Loi Street, Hoi An. The start of a new life.
would they receive top class training and accreditation from New York, they would both be able to live and train in their home town.

First things first though, they needed to have a formal interview and Neal was only selecting 16 trainee’s in the first round. Many young people were interviewed for these positions but I am thrilled to say that three of our Lifestart Foundation young people were offered a traineeship in the first round of placements at Streets International. They were Vinh and Son and our third successful applicant is Dao.

Dao has also been part of Lifestart for the past three and a half years. She comes from the countryside, a long way from Hoi An. Her mother died when she was one year old, leaving seven children. Her father remarried.

I first met Dao when she was working in a seedy coffee shop in Hoi An. She had come to Hoi An at age fourteen in search of work and this was the only job that she had been able to get. Dao was working seven days per week from 6.00 am until 10.00 pm and slept on the floor of the coffee

A very happy Dao is pictured refining her waitressing skills at Street's.
shop at night. All of this for a little over one dollar per day. It was the usual story, long, long hours, low pay and terrible working conditions. After being accepted into the Lifestart Foundation Jobstart Program, Dao joined the Lifestart Foundation night school and also commenced training as a cook. This was a job she enjoyed but it wasn't long before she was looking to advance herself. When I heard about Streets International, Dao immediately sprang to mind. I had no hesitation in recommending Dao for a traineeship as well.

I am proud as proud to say that all three have now commenced their traineeships at Street's. When we embark on these journeys together it certainly takes a leap of faith from us all. Somehow, if the kids can hang in there with me as much as me with them, then all sorts of marvellous things have a way of happening.

Lifestart Foundation is hoping to expand the amount of full education scholarships that we grant each year. If Son and Vinh's stories inspire you to help a young disadvantaged person to have the opportunity to realize their full potential please donate to Lifestart Foundation Education

A wonderful new beginning and opportunity.
projects. This can be done either via our website or by emailing Karen at lifestartfoundation@mail.com

I return to Vietnam in September, just in time for the commencement of the new school year in Vietnam.

Thank you to those supporters and sponsors who have donated to the Lifestart Foundation Education and Jobstart Programs, I hope that Vinh, Son and Dao's stories provide an excellent example of how your support can impact on a young life.

Lifestart Foundation does not have paid administration staff, hence we are not able to match individual sponsors with recipients. If we were to have paid administration staff then this would impact on the amount of people that we would be able to help. I hope that these blogs will serve as testimony to the work we are doing and that in turn gives a good example of how your donated money is maximized and spent.

If you are planning a trip to Vietnam, please be sure to visit Street's Restaurant and say hello to Vinh, Son and Dao. You will be warmly welcomed and the food is fabulous! Streets is located at 17 Le Loi Street, Hoi An. Visitors are also most welcome to visit the Lifestart Foundation Workshop, Viettown 127 Phan Chu Trinh Street, Hoi An. It is open 7 days a week and again, you will be given a very warm welcome.
Anyone who meets our Lifestart kids will agree that they are a wonderful group of young people. Despite the harsh adversity of their young lives, they always grateful, have a ready smile and are genuinely happy.

Lots of Love from

Enjoying the blogs?? Forward them on or subscribe those who you think would be interested in Lifestart Foundation's work.......it's free!



127 Phan Chu Trinh Street,

Hoi An, Vietnam.


Tragically and suddenly Nguyen, one of our young disabled boys has recently passed away. Thank you to all of our sponsors who contributed to the monthly costs of his full time carer and food over the past year. His was the hardest and most heartbreaking story I have written, I know that his plight touched many of you. Thank you for making this last year of his life as comfortable as possible.
We were able to help him live with a degree of dignity and he spent the past year knowing that people cared.


25th August 2009

Hey Karen, I loved the service and food at STREETS! I highly recommend it to any one in Hoi An. I also recommend your son, Sinh, class on caligraphy. three of us took his class and loved it. He is a natural teacher who made us feel quite accomplished. No easy feat. I also loved working with Ms Phong buying books in Da Nang. Not only a terrific worker but so diligent!!!
26th August 2009

What a wonderful future awaits for these 3
Having been to Hoi An myself as part of the Cycle Vietnam trip in November 2009, I can attest to the wonderful work that Karen and the Lifestart Foundation are doing. It was such a thrill to meet the people who have had their lives bettered by being sponsored by Lifestart and being given the education they need. If anyone is thinking of supporting in any way at all, I say go for it and maybe one day make a trip to Hoi An (the Venice of Vietnam) and see the things that have been accomplished firsthand for yourself. So many inspiring stories and people to meet. Well done Karen to you and all your loyal friends, family, helpers and volunteers.

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