Student Stories

Nguyen Thi Ngoc Yen

From the moment you meet Yen, you can instantly tell she is very responsible for a person her age. Being a carer for her elderly parents has meant she has always known the importance of looking after family. Her 60-year old mother cannot stand for more than five minutes due to Sciatica. Her father, 64, is an unemployed fisherman, recently affected by the widely publicized dead fish epidemic plaguing central Vietnam.

The family is now on uncertain ground. Her father has since struggled to find stable work. He earns VND20,000-30,000 (USD$1-1.50) doing odd jobs, including dish washing at nearby restaurants, but they only call him when they need him and the money is not enough. Yen’s older brother, who dropped out of school early and got married, also lives with the family, but neither he nor his wife have a job, and they also recently had a baby.

Income is low and the family regularly worries about food. A lot of hope rests on Yen’s shoulders. She finished high school but couldn’t afford to go to university. But it was her friends that encouraged her to study at REACH.

“A lot of our neighbours are in a similar situation and they are also studying at REACH,” said Yen.

After graduating from REACH’s Food and Beverage class, Yen was sent to work at a Japanese restaurant named NARUTO. Working as a waitress, she earned VND3.5 million, comprising her base salary of VND2.7 million and extra money from the venue’s 10% service charge.

Things were looking up, but after only a short time working there, Yen was forced to quit the job because she was suffering from a calcium deficiency, which meant she couldn’t ride to work. She had to recover at home for a month.

Soon after, her REACH facilitator introduced her to a restaurant nearby called Cam Thanh. When we interviewed her, she was excited to start the following week.

“I’m excited to go back and work, get more experience and earn money for the family. Studying at REACH really prepared me but they also made it fun to learn with English volunteers and go camping with friends.”

Moving forward, Yen hopes to introduce REACH to other youth in a similar situation to hers. “I want to introduce disadvantaged youth like me to REACH. My high school classmates who studied at REACH also have stable jobs now. There are a lot more out there like me.” 

Other students

  • Ngo Van Nhuong

    Ngo Van Nhuong knows what it’s like to grow up in a crowded house. He, his two sisters, his younger brother, his mother and his father all live together in a small 20-square meter hut just outside Hoi An ancient town. His married sister’s home is far away but she has moved back in to look for work. There is only one bed so Nhuong, his father and his brother sleep on the floor.
  • Nguyen Thi Trieu Anh

    Nguyen Thi Trieu Anh’s father left when she was just 12 years old, but she still remembers him. She remembers the countless times he got drunk and beat her and her younger brother. The abuse was so frequent that when he left, she finally felt safe.
  • Nguyen Phan Thuy Linh

    Even though it’s been five years, Linh still finds it difficult to talk about her father’s leaving. She hasn’t heard from him since but she knows from the other villagers that he has a new wife and family.
  • Nguyen Huu Manh

    What do you think about a dot in the middle of a blank page? Without any hesitation, some people might say “It is just a black dot!”, or “simply nothing”. But for Manh, “No matter how ugly that black dot is, it is the starting point to continue drawing the picture of your life.”
  • Pham Van Cuong

    Cuong is 22, and comes from the Muong, a ethnic minority group in Vietnam. His family lives in Ngoc Lac, one of the poor mountainous districts in Thanh Hoa province. His family is under preferential treatment.