Saturday, April 19, 2014

Visit of Mr. Philip Clement, Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer (CMO) of AON Corporation to UNICEF supported programme in Viet Nam.

Ho Chi Minh City, 19 April 2014 - It was a typically busy day in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Viet Nam’s economic engine, with the city pulsing with its usual streams of cars and motorcycles. Amidst the traffic, a UNICEF team was travelling with a special guest to visit the much respected School of Hospitality for youth and children in difficult circumstances.

Aon Corporation CMO, Mr. Phillip Clement had taken time out from a private trip to the country to visit UNICEF-supported projects in the city, some of which are supported by Aon’s partner – the Manchester United. '

Mr. Clement taking photos with students of the School of Hospitality in HCMC

Located close to the city centre, the School of Hospitality has a large compound, divided into different areas to serve different vocational training purposes. The smell of freshly baked cookies welcomed Mr. Clement and the team to the first stop of the visit, a bakery which sells products made by students. Passing a line of steel ovens, students were seen putting melted chocolate into trays and wrapping final products as part of a chocolate workshop. To illustrate the range of skills students learn, a beverage skills class was busy at work in a garden where the school also plans to open a cafeteria for students to practice skills learnt and generate incomes for the school. 

Swan couple made of towels by students learning housekeeping skill gave the room a romantic atmosphere.

Mr. Clement visited the baking class and talked to the students

The path led to the “five star” area lined up by bushes of Lobster Claw (Heliconia rostrata) with beautiful red flowers. There were several rooms which were furnished like those of luxury hotels. The place was for the students who learnt housekeeping skill. When we got into the room, they were learning how to decorate a room for a honeymoon vacation. Heart shape by roses on the bed and swan couple made of towels gave the room a romantic atmosphere.

Established in 2003, the School of Hospitality has provided free vocational training for 600 adolescents and young people, often orphaned or street children, those living in the children’s shelters or from poor families. The school received financial support from English soccer giant Manchester United through UNICEF to provide vocational training together with counselling, life-skills training and legal aid for children in conflict with the law to help them reintegrate into the society.

Hospitality skills training in baking, cooking, housekeeping, food and beverage services is complemented by English and French language lessons. The school has made a difference over the past decade with the majority of students graduating to find stable jobs with healthy incomes.               
“We come from difficult circumstances, but are lucky enough to receive training at this school and learn skills to earn a living for ourselves and family. I will try my best in my new profession and help other students in career development,” said Hoang Thi Hieu, who is now working as a chef in a high profile restaurant.

While many children in the HCMC have benefited from the country’s rapid economic growth, numerous others have been left behind with prevalent issues such as poverty and poor access to social services leaving many to vulnerable lives on the street. To address these child vulnerabilities, UNICEF works in HCMC to protect children and ensure they receive timely support.

To learn more about the desperate situations of some children, the UNICEF team and Mr. Clement visited homes of some local children. In one case, a seven-year-old girl lives with her grandmother, aunt and brother in a tiny room which swallows up half of their income in rent. She does not go to school and her 14-year-old brother has dropped out from school to work and support the family. The team also met 15-year-old boy at a second home who had just dropped out from his last year in junior high school to work and support his family, struggling to make ends meet as a result of his sick mother being unable to work. Both families had migrated from other provinces and are not officially registered to live in the metropolis. This lack of certification shuts the door on access to basic social services like education and healthcare, while opens them to physical and emotional abuse.

UNICEF is working to support the Government in meeting children’s needs due to the country’s lack of a comprehensive child protection system. A key feature of the current community-based child protection model is the identification of needy children and provision of relevant preventive and protection services by local child protection committees and a network of community collaborators. In the case of the seven-year-old girl met by Mr. Clement and the team, local social workers will help her to go to school in the next school year, with registration at the school and financial assistance to provide books. The social workers will also persuade the boys to go back to school or enroll in free vocational training to meet family income needs.

“When you meet with children, they are so optimistic and so excited about life. You just want to make sure people can do the right things to help them. As a child grows into an adult these children have so much wonderful energy, they are intelligent and they love people. You hope people will continue to help and nurture such children so they can fulfill their potential,” said Mr. Clement.

The UNICEF-supported Safe House of Thao Dan Social Protection Organization, is another example of a safety net for such children providing shelter for children in need of special protection, such as child labourers, poor migrants, street children or those who are victims or at high risk of sexual abuse, exploitation, domestic violence or HIV/AIDS.

During the time of the visit seven boys were staying at the shelter and 20 others attending during the day. Besides providing food and accommodation, healthcare, recreational activities and psychosocial support, children learnt various life skills to protect themselves. Children are also referred to healthcare, legal aid, education, career orientation, vocational training and reintegration support when needed.

 “I really admire the work being done here. People really care and work against incredible odds with few resources, but still make a big difference. So, I feel very good to be part of it and to support it,” said Mr. Clement. 
A welcome dance by children in the Safe House of Thao Dan Social Protection Centre

By Nguyen Thi Thanh Huong

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