K Thi Loan gave birth to her first child when she was only 19 years old, as is common for Raglai ethnic minority women who live in the small, remote village in Ninh Thuan province, in central Vietnam, where she is from.
Like many in her community, she had dropped out of school in the 9th grade to get married. Soon after marriage, her husband suffered a motorbike accident that left him disabled and unable to work. She was forced to becomethe family’s sole provider. Loan foraged for wood and fruits and had to do arduous farm work to make ends meet. She could not imagine any other way to live; she had never left her small community or met any foreigners.
Loan was surprised when a woman from an NGO who worked in the nearby Nui Chua National Park told her about the STREETS’ program in Hoi An. Loan was eager to send in her application but had to wait until her son, only 10 months old at the time, grew older.
Even then, her mother and other members of the village objected to her decision to apply to study at STREETS because as Loan explained: “They did not believe a woman like me could achieve anything significant and they didn’t think it was acceptable to travel so far away.” However Loan’s husband understood her immense desire to study and supported her decision, agreeing to take care of their child while she was gone.
Although STREETS was reluctant to accept a mother with a young baby, Loan’s determination convinced them. Loan was incredibly nervous and sad to live so far from her young son and husband for the first time in her life, but she used the longing as motivation to concentrate on her studies. Initially she was very shy and uncertain about her abilities. But thanks to the comprehensive STREETS’ program and the mentorship from its teachers and staff, she says she was like “a seed given soil, water and light. I could fully grow up and became more confident.” Loan chose to study culinary arts and apprentice as a cook at STREETS.
After spending more than one year working at the STREETS Restaurant Café, Loan proudly secured a position with the Recreation and Entertainment Department at the acclaimed five star Amanoi Resort in central Vietnam. Her cheerful,outgoing and positive attitude and excellent English skills have made her the go-to team member to assist difficult or VIP guests.
She credits her professional use of language and manners that she learned from STREETS as allowing her to excel in the position.
Loan notes, “Joining STREETS changed my life in a lot in ways that I could only dream about and helped my community too.” Others from her small village have also applied and been accepted into the STREETS program and now other educational opportunities are also being considered for other young women in their community.