The day my mother learned that I had graduated from my training at STREETS in Hoi An, she was overjoyed because even in her wildest dreams she could not imagine that her thin, poor daughter would ever speak English fluently and have a good job,” Nguyen Thi Hieu says when describing the happiest moment of her life.
When most people hear about Hieu’s difficult childhood, they often have an emotional reaction. Liver cancer claimed Hieu’s father’s life when she was just 13 years old and his passing shattered their family.
The health of Hieu’s mother was too poor to hold a regular job and Hieu’s siblings were forced to leave home and find jobs in different provinces to simply feed themselves. Hieu found meager work assisting a local rice farmer with her food stall in the market.
Thanks to that woman’s generosity, Hieu returned to school and completed 9th grade while also “working very hard in the tiny stall kitchen to cook, wash dishes and serve food from 5am until 9pm every day.”
When Hieu joined the STREETS’ 18-month residential training program, she developed a sense of optimism because she could finally envision the path to a better life and brighter future. Despite a poverty-stricken past that would have discouraged many others, Hieu learned to set lofty goals. “Confidence, responsibility, punctuality and discipline are virtues that became habits in establishing my professionalism,”
Hieu shares regarding the most important life skill lessons she received during training. Hieu nourished this mature attitude by working for year and a half at the STREETS Restaurant Café after graduation.
She then successfully applied for a position as a Commis Chef in the pastry kitchen at a new Vinpearl Resort 15 miles outside of Hoi An. Her talents were quickly recognized and she was invited to be part of the opening team for a new Vinpearl property on Phu Quoc Island. Returning to the Hoi An Vinpearl with new skills and experiences, she was awarded a promotion to Senior Chef, including supervising all thepreparation for the popular Vietnamese sweet soups served at the resort.
Thanks to her English skills and experience organizing cooking classes during her time with STREETS, she also leads cooking demonstrations for local and international guests at Vinpearl. When Hieu visits her STREETS’ teachers, she loves to cook her favorite sweet soups for them. She never forgets how much she has grown since the cramped days and working in a dingy stall earning veritable scraps.
Thankfully, even at the darkest moments, her spirit was never broken, noting with pride, “Poor people are often consumed by negative thoughts and a belief that they cannot change their destiny. Thanks to STREETS, I’m proof that isn’t always true