Here’s a story about how to hitch your wagon to a star and never let go (against all odds).
Huong was born in a small village in Vietnam, but her dreams were anything but small. She left home aged 12 and travelled to the buzzing city of Hanoi to work so that she can, one fine day, pursue her goal of getting an education. It was a tough start to what was to become a story of resilience and hope.
Her success wasn’t due to luck. By all means. It was blood, sweat and tears all the way. Against some considerable odds, Huong fought tooth-and-nail to navigate her way to a degree from Box Hill Institute in Melbourne, Australia, one from Swinburne University and an impressive professional career with Know One Teach One (KOTO), a social enterprise and charity located in Vietnam, Asia. She was present every step of the way to take that lucky opening that not many get the chance to. Huong certainly has a story to tell and there are many lessons we can all learn from it.
We managed to catch Huong in between her trips throughout Europe, just a couple of hours before hopping on the next train to London Gatwick airport. This time, she was checking in for Amsterdam. Working as the director of Marketing and Partnerships Engagement at KOTO as well as the founder and managing director of HopeBox—a social enterprise focusing on numerous social projects in Vietnam—fitting in Huong’s schedule any time soon would have been close to impossible. The clock was ticking. Still, she looked more relaxed than ever. She was ready to share her story. The question was, were we ready for a life lesson?
With a box of hope, that’s how everything began
We started our informal chat talking about what she’s been up to lately, slowly going down memory lane. HopeBox quickly came into view: an initiative that she currently oversees 24/7 alongside a team of enthusiasts. The goal of the project is to provide jobs to women who come from a domestic violence background. This initiative began years ago and was materialised in 2017: “I feel that this year was just the right time to launch it.”
With Huong, everything comes down to helping this and the next generations at the same time. She puts it much better than we ever will. “I firmly believe in the power of education, which is key to change kids’ lives in order to inspire them to take leadership in the future.”
Despite the fact that Huong’s story never followed a straight line, she never goes off track. She believed (and still does) in the laws of the universe and how everything ties in together. “Since I can remember, I was an advocate of the idea that things happen for a reason but, at the same time, we need to work hard to get where we want to be, where we want to go. You can’t simply demand and order the universe to provide you with things. You can’t simply rely on a dream. Life is more about having dreams and working hard to make them happen. If they don’t materialise, you have to accept it and move on and, why not, make other things happen.”
“Nothing is more powerful than seeing a once disadvantaged person come back and tell the next generation of KOTO trainees ‘I know what it’s like to be sitting where you are sitting, but look at me now’. Through education and opportunities, Huong has become by far one of the leaders in the area of social enterprise movements in Vietnam.” [Jimmy Pham, Founder and Executive Chairman of KOTO, Vietnam]
Persistent and ambitious, she really wanted to get her high school diploma while studying at KOTO, therefore asked Jimmy Pham (the founder of KOTO) for a chance to study at both schools. He said yes. “And I did it”, Huong says with a humongous smile on her face. “I graduated in late 2017 from high school and from KOTO. It was so hard allocating time for all the exams. Nonetheless, it was by far the best time of my life.”