Thinh Nguyen: The Founder of Better Life Vietnam
I am passionate about human rights. This was the realization I had my final year of university while taking a course in International Human Rights Law. I had always felt empathy for those less fortunate, particularly children. This is a natural feeling I suppose, but while sitting in class, I began to view the situation from a different perspective: access to education, healthcare and a decent standard of living aren’t just privileges, I realized, but rights that all children have from the moment they are born. To deny them these things is to deny them their rights. Sitting in that class, I realized that I wanted to do something to help the young and underprivileged enjoy those basic human rights many don’t have.
Fortunately, I wasn’t alone in my ambitions.
While in Hanoi, I became acquainted with the Walter Family. Realizing we shared many of the same passions and goals, we joined hands to create the Better Life Vietnam Initiative in the spring of 2010. Our aim is to achieve reliable access to education, healthcare, food, and clean water for all those living in Vietnam.
Since 2010, the Better Life Vietnam project has implemented several initiatives, primarily education-based, to improve the lives of Vietnam’s underprivileged and disabled youth. Throughout the year, volunteers are invited to come teach English--a key skill for future success--to students throughout the regions of Vietnam. We also provide scholarship packages to students to help them continue their education past primary school and build and stock free classroom libraries for rural schools. The Better Employment Opportunities project works to provide vocational training and stable jobs for disabled youth in Vietnam--one of society’s most marginalized groups.
My vision is a better life in Vietnam, a better life in Laos, a better life in Africa, and eventually a better life throughout this whole world.
Sounds big, right? It is, and at first, like many others, I thought I was too small to dream so big. But then I found a worldwide network of support.
Better Life Vietnam is a United Nations-affiliated organization. What that means is that the UN believes in the work we do and helps connect the organization with like-minded individuals via their UN online volunteering platform. I expected to connect with volunteers, but the enthusiasm and talent I have found has blown me away.
From the beginning I wanted BLV to be a place for like-minded individuals to work together to improve the lives of underprivileged children and youth. I wanted it to be a platform where all volunteers could make friends, learn from one another, and share our experiences.
I believe that we can all learn from each other, regardless of our age or level of experience. I know that no one person has all the answers. And not just one person has great ideas. That’s why BLV volunteers aren’t just volunteers--they are team members. Rather than being allocated tasks, each one is involved in developing the organization and expand our projects. Each member is encouraged to contribute ideas, pose questions, and find answers.
One evening after a late meeting, I told our Financial Team Lead not to work too hard and have a rest. Her response? “I’m not working. I’m having fun.” That’s the attitude I want each and every one of our more than 100 volunteer members to have. These members reside in countries around the world; they come from different cultures, different backgrounds, different worlds. But they all work together as a team. Their efforts and talent make a direct impact, and they serve as ambassadors for the BLV initiative in their home communities. Our motto is “Once a BLVer, forever a BLVer”.
Since 2010, BLV has been making a small, but steady, impact in the Vietnamese community. But this is just the beginning. We have a long way to go to “get to the top of the mountain”, to enact powerful, lasting change, but I have the utmost faith that we will.
This is a blog dedicated to the stories of a project with great ambitions, stories of how small acts create change. These are the stories, not just of the underprivileged and young in Vietnam, but also the stories of this amazing group of individuals who, while they may span nearly every corner of the globe, are all united in at least one way: a belief in the mission of Better Life Vietnam.
Better Life Vietnam isn’t just a non-profit, but a global movement.
Coeurs de Papier is a project of Better Life Vietnam, a non-profit that works to improve the educational and employment opportunities for underprivileged and disabled youth. Help support lives to excel.