Volunteering to give love for a lifetime

October 23, 2022 - 09:00
Hoàng Hoa Trung and his co-workers have supported over 60,000 children, including hundreds of children in Cambodia and Kenya. Thanh Nga chats with him.
CHILD'S PLAY: Hoàng Hoa Trung and children in Nậm Pồ District, Điện Biên Province. — Photo courtesy of Trung

Hoàng Hoa Trung has just been awarded the ASEAN Plus Youth Volunteer Award 2022. The 33-year-old started volunteering at 17 and intends to stick with this work for the rest of his life. His aspiration is not only to help children in Việt Nam but around the world. He and his co-workers have supported over 60,000 children, including hundreds of children in Cambodia and Kenya. Thanh Nga chats with him.

Inner Sanctum: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

My name is Hoàng Hoa Trung but people often call me Trung 'Đồng Nát' (Trung Scrap Metal) because I want to raise money to build a school with all sorts of things, even trash that people left. I like non-waste, and I always want to optimise my work.

I'm the founder of the Nuôi Em (Meals for Children) project to give free lunches to more than 60,000 pupils in mountainous areas. I am also the founder of the Power of 2000 Project, which has built more than 350 schools, bridges, houses and boarding areas for pupils.

In 2020, I received the award of Outstanding Young Face of Việt Nam. I was included on the list of 30 people under 30 with outstanding influence and achievements in 2020 by Forbes Vietnam. I also received a Certificate of Merit from the Prime Minister.

GIVING BACK: The Meals for Children Project has given more than 60,000 pupils free lunches in mountainous areas. — Photo baoquangnam.vn

Inner Sanctum: Meals for Children has reached 19 provinces nationwide. Is there anything special in your way of expanding the project?

We create a model and then select long-term and enthusiastic volunteer teams operating in the same field in that province to orient, transfer and multiply the project to young people in that locality. The love and responsibility for the children born and raised in the province will help the project develop strongly and sustainably.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The Meals for Children Project is implemented in Cambodia. — Photo courtesy of Trung

Inner Sanctum: In 2022, 'Meals for Children' expanded to Cambodia and Africa. Many people say that the project has not yet helped all Vietnamese people but has instead reached overseas. What do you say responding to this?

We are based on the needs of the benefactors. If they want to implement it in Cambodia, we will do it. The project is replicated in and helps Africa. We have researched and tried to do it in Kenya. We built one school there with three rooms of nearly 300sq.m at a cost of more than VNĐ800 million (about US$40,000).

We joke that if we don't fulfil our wish, then it will just turn into luxury handbags and perfume, so we must do it. It is both good for education and can help children in need. Children are children wherever they are. Another important thought is that overseas Vietnamese can get to know us through this activity. Việt Nam still needs more resources because there are currently hundreds of thousands of pupils in mountainous areas suffering from hunger, affecting their studies.

FOREIGN AID: The Meals for Children Project is underway in Kenya. — Photo courtesy of Trung

Inner Sanctum: How many staff do you have?

The main staff is about 10 people; the rest are hundreds of volunteers across the country, as well as applying auxiliary technology so that the human resource increases sustainably. We also decided to cooperate in building schools with the National Volunteer Centre of the Hồ Chí Minh Communist Youth Union, which helped us have four more full-time employees. In 2022, we will carry out nearly 200 works.

Inner Sanctum: What has been the key to helping your projects raise nearly VNĐ300 billion over the past 16 years?

The biggest sums we have had are in the last three years, up to more than VNĐ120 billion by this year. To achieve this, we only focus on optimising the project and doing well at the model's core, but not on communication and professionalism because we are forced to choose from available resources. Three things need to be mentioned: model, formula and the power project.

NEW EDUCATION: A school being built in Sơn La Province by Hoàng Hoa Trung and his team. — Photo courtesy of Trung

The good formula is a quick way to help donors understand the project, model and transparency, especially at the current time. For example, the 'Meals for Children' has a formula of 1 pupil forstered by 1 person with VNĐ150,000/month x 9 months. The formula of the Power Project 2000 is VNĐ2,000 per person per day for 1 year.

RIVER CROSSING: Hoàng Hoa Trung and his teammates overcome many difficulties to implement their projects in mountainous areas. — Photo courtesy of Trung

The question of power is an extremely important skill for growth, orientation and human resource management. From a team building a school a year, it has become a team building nearly 200 projects a year and now it is increasing. That question is "How to build more than one school each year?"

Inner Sanctum: What’s your next plan?

In 2023, we aim to eliminate all temporary schools in the mountainous areas and continue to promote green construction and environmental protection. ‘Meals for Children’ will complete models in its ecosystem such as the “Rights to Learn” project giving second-hand laptops to ethnic students; the “Rights to Teach” projects to install wind and solar power facilities for teachers; “Each pupil plants two trees" project helps the villages have more fruit trees, shade, improve the air conditions.

On foreign projects, we will find local teams willing to replicate the project in Southeast Asia or Africa to help with education by replicating the model of ‘Meals for Children’ or Power 2000.

In the long term, we will combine more models, volunteer teams and cooperate with local authorities to carry out more projects in terms of agriculture, healthcare and information to the benefit of needy children. VNS

TOUGH JOURNEY: Hoàng Hoa Trung and his friends often travelled to mountainous schools to learn of the difficulties facing teachers and students in remote areas. — Photo courtesy of Trung