Le burst out of the café as I walked by, taking me completely by surprise.
I’ve known Le since she was a school girl. Her younger years were incredibly difficult, growing up with her mother in a decaying house on the outskirts of her village. Blue Dragon started helping because we recognized that Le was very bright, but in serious danger of dropping out of school.
In many ways Le’s story is typical of girls around the world who live in poverty. As each year goes by, education increasingly becomes a luxury; when families must consistently choose between eating and sending their daughters to school, there comes a breaking point when education is eventually seen as having too high an opportunity cost.
The thinking is that daughters will eventually marry into another family anyway. Investing heavily into their long-term future, when day to day existence is a struggle, is a huge decision for families to make.
But Le’s mother wanted her daughter to get an education. She saw the future in Le’s eyes. So when Blue Dragon came along with an offer of help, both mother and daughter embraced the chance.
Le flourished. Every year she reached new heights: great results at school, then entry into a tourism college, and on graduation she quickly landed a job with an international travel company.
Everything was going great.
And then: COVID-19.
Around the world, the tourism sector folded almost overnight. Hotels, travel companies, and all the businesses in their supply chains shut down. Many are gone permanently. And with a new outbreak of coronavirus in Vietnam it seems the travel industry here will have to wait even longer before starting to recover.
Le was facing some dark days. Suddenly unemployed, all of her successes were now behind her.
So what did she do? Le opened a café!
Knowing that she had time on her side, and with some savings in the bank, Le has found a tiny hole in the wall for rent where she can start experimenting as a café owner.
She has just a few customers, because of the deep lull in tourism, so she spends each day learning and practicing, perfecting her skills and her drinks.
In the face of great hardship, Le has found her way to bounce back. Her optimism is inspiring – and as throughout her whole life, she’s willing to do the hard work to make sure she succeeds. Seeing her so proud of her little café, and so determined to make the most of a terrible situation, reminds me that there is always a reason to hope.
The days ahead may look dark, but if you really look closely, there’s some light up ahead. We’ll reach it if we just keep going.
Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation rescues kids in crisis.