Australia honors KOTO founder for helping Vietnamese street youths

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A Vietnamese-Australian has been named to the 2013 Australian Honors List for his support of street and disadvantaged children in Vietnam by founding a hospitality vocational project known as KOTO.

Jimmy Viet Tuan Pham, based in New South Wales, was appointed by the Government House as a Member in the General Division of the Order of Australia on January 26.

The list, established by Queen of Australia Elizabeth II in 1975 to recognize Australian citizens and others for their achievements or meritorious service, said the 41-year-old has made "significant service to the community, particularly children in Vietnam, through KOTO International."

Pham said in a KOTO press release that his award highlights the plight of street and disadvantaged youth, including the importance of engaging in work which helps people lift themselves out of poverty and live with dignity.

KOTO, short for "Know One Teach One," has been running for 14 years and has graduated more than 400 street and disadvantaged youths it has recruited into its programs. The students study general life skills, English language and restaurant hospitality in order to work in KOTO-sponsored or other restaurants in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Pham left for Sydney as a child with his mother and siblings and studied hospitality in college. In 1996 he returned to Vietnam for the first time, on a temporary assignment as a tour operator.

The visit led to his decision to help disadvantaged Vietnamese.

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He said that since he had the good fortune of having grown up in Australia, he felt a sense of obligation to help those who have not had the same opportunities.

The World Economic Forum in 2011 also recognized him a Young Global Leader for his role in lifting hundreds of Vietnamese youth out of poverty.

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