When my husband died in the year 2000 the family set up a charity in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, in his memory. He himself had found it difficult to gain higher education and he took a keen interest in the work that our daughter was doing in ho chi Minh City.
'Vuon Len', which means 'making the effort to succeed in spite of adversity', was opened in June 2002 with the aim of providing free skills training to young people who have no means of finding the necessary fees for skills training.
Each course lasts for 6 months and equips normally ten trainees with the skills they need to be able to find work in hairdressing salons and to make extra money as freelance manicurists. The apprentices complete their course with a good understanding of how a salon should be run. They invariably leave 'Vuon Len' better-groomed than when they arrived, exhilarated by all they have achieved and with tangible hopes for their futures. Most of the former apprentices are now settled in stable hairdressing jobs, a number of simple salons have been set up, both in the city suburbs and the countryside, thanks to the skills learnt at 'Vuon Len', and there has been a very significant trickle-down effect with former trainees teaching their relatives and friends.
Today I thought I would share with you the latest e-mail from my daughter, Sheila, which tells you how difficult it can be to keep small charities going. She wrote,
"Just this week we've had the bombshell that ₤800 has to be paid by the end of May, ₤400 immediately, for a compulsory Environment Protection Certificate, which has suddenly become obligatory for all state-approved premises first, to be extended to other premises later, without which the premises will be forced to close. These sudden demands for money are typical and this time it seems to be to help pay for the massive cost of replacing all the city's waste water pipes with larger ones to try to solve the flooding problem ( the photo was the other day ). They are currently doing the pipes in front of my house. They work from 8pm to 5am so it's very difficult to sleep, and for months there have been terrible traffic jams as everyone tries to get past the roadworks all over the place.
The environment certification is a long process which has to be begun immediately to meet the deadline before the forced closure in case of failure to comply. Environment inspectors will keep coming to do tests on the waste water. Yesterday was the deadline for the first payment and I managed to find enough as it is very difficult to envisage closure when there are young people counting on VL for their futures, eager to study and who understand nothing about environment certificates.
But it's so difficult to keep it going."
So we have been very grateful for the support of the Tanner Trust and, in the beginning, the Chic Salon in Jersey. If you are interested to read more about Vuon Len, please go to www.vuonlen.org.uk where you can see photos and case histories of the apprentices who have been trained.