Hien's journey to find her passion

From selling sweets on the street as a child to managing a popular cafe, Hien’s journey to find her passion is remarkable.

The boat house. The school. The streets.

Growing up on Hanoi’s Red River in a floating house, life for Hien and her two brothers was hard. Through the winter they struggled to stay warm. In the summer, it was sweltering hot. During times of heavy rain, it felt as though their house would be washed away.

Like many young girls born into poverty, Hien didn’t spend her childhood reading, learning and playing with friends. From the age of 10, she’d go to school in the morning. Then in the afternoon, Hien sold sweets on Hanoi’s streets. Her family needed her to help support them.

It seemed like there were few opportunities to escape this cycle.

Things changed for Hien at 15 when she met Blue Dragon and we began offering her support.

The exploration

When she joined Blue Dragon, Hien was enthusiastic and eager to explore and learn all that she could. For the first time in her life she had access to all manner of activities, and she threw herself into as many of them as possible.

From circus performing and singing to drawing, life skills workshops and career exploration, Hien embraced all of the new experiences on offer.

Hien was a smart kid with a warm heart. Without the strain of having to earn money to help her family, she thrived. She was free to focus on her personal learning and growth. Not only as an individual but also as a supportive leader amonger her peers.

However, this newfound freedom brought with it an unexpected challenge. Hien had never had so many options!

The path

Having grown up in an unstable environment, in a family without any formal education, Hien had a strong desire to develop valuable long-term skills. She craved diversity but still wanted a stable career path. She wanted to learn but preferred on-the-job training to being confined to a classroom.

Through a series of career consultations with Blue Dragon, Hien considered her options. The food and beverage industry emerged as the perfect fit. Hien could apply her love of trying new things, learning lifelong skills and interacting with people.

Armed with this newfound direction, Hien sought experience and began working at a cafe. Hien quickly impressed with her ability to learn, serve customers and ask bold questions which others would not. After only three months, she was promoted to supervisor.

The leader

After six months, Hien was keen to find a workplace where she would have more chances to practise her English. She took a bold step to begin an apprenticeship at a cafe in an area of Hanoi popular with people from all over the world.

Hien’s eagerness to learn and positive attitude, once again, shone through. Her natural leadership skills, honed through years of encouraging and mentoring fellow kids at Blue Dragon, saw Hien promoted to cafe manager.

However, although Hien had demonstrated her natural leadership qualities mentoring children, leading a team in a professional environment presented a fresh challenge for her.

“I had a difficult childhood. Now I’m really motivated to be a person who helps others, especially people from a disadvantaged background like mine.

I try to create a healthy and friendly environment. I like to be a supportive leader, giving advice to my staff on how to solve problems or getting involved when they need help.”

Hien’s encouraging leadership style, willingness to jump in to solve problems, and open personality and social skills have earned her the respect of her staff.

Nearly four years into her journey as cafe manager, Hien reflects on her achievements with pride. “I have a stronger sense of responsibility now and my problem-solving skills have grown a lot. I have also gained a great network of friends and I feel much more confident interacting with others.”

Following in Hien’s Footsteps

For Hien, this story is not simply about finding a job; it’s about discovering a passion and route out of poverty.

Blue Dragon works to help children develop fully as they grow, through providing a broad range of experiences and opportunities. Hien’s journey is the perfect demonstration of what children born into difficult circumstances can achieve: when they’re free to explore and learn, they can accomplish great things. Hien didn’t need a handout or charity, she simply needed a chance to apply her extraordinary capabilities.

“Don’t be afraid to try, and don’t fear failure. It’s never too late to do something new. Learning is a lifelong journey, and it’s the key to achieving your dreams.”

Once upon time, Hien barely thought about the next day. As a child, she sold sweets on the streets just to get by. In her teens, the future seemed daunting. Now Hien has found her passion. She is thriving at work, leading and inspiring a team.

Hien’s story is far from over. One day she dreams of running her own business, and it’s quite clear that anything is possible for this young woman who started out selling sweets on the street.

20 years down. Many more to come!

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