STREETS, a US-based non-profit organization, celebrated its expansion into Ho Chi Minh City during a recent Gala event at the Sofitel Saigon Plaza.
The gala attracted many notable guests including chef and food expert Robert Danhi, better known in Vietnam as the host of TV series Taste of Vietnam's second season. Danhi said that it was a pleasure to take part in a charitable event designed to help underprivileged Vietnamese youths.
During the program, Thuy, one of STREETS’ female trainees was able to give a confident on-stage presentation on the preparation of a pomelo salad in English after just 18 months in the program.
According to the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, Vietnam had become home to 2.5 million 'special status' children in 2007; that population included roughly 13,000 street kids. In the same year, STREETS was formed in Hoi An with a simple, yet ambitious, goal: prepare vulnerable, orphaned and other disadvantaged young people for careers in hospitality.
After seven years, there are over 120 kids aged 16-22 have been had selected from streets all over Vietnam and inducted into the training program. During the program each trainee receives housing, food and basic financial support, active community and social support, and medical care.
The curriculum begins with an orientation on the nature of the hospitality industry and a basic skills overview, and then continues into the more complex areas of professional cooking and restaurant service, along with English language and life skills training.
"When we look at developing economies around the world, and particularly in this region, we know that one of the first sectors of the economy to take off is the hospitality and tourism sector. This creates demand, and specifically demand for more and better prepared human resources! We hope to fill the gap between out-of-school, under-privileged, unemployed youth and the increasing career opportunities that the growing tourism sector offers." said Neal F Bermas, founder and chairman of STREETS International.
Bermas also added that the hospitality and tourism have dramatically changed in Vietnam since 2007, due to the boom in 3-star to 5-star hotels, restaurants and resorts.
“Also, the quality of service and use of English has improved dramatically - this as a result of more years of experience and better management" he said.
In January 2011, 13 STREETS trainees graduated from their first class; 19 new trainees were admitted to the second class immediately afterward.
All of the program's graduates found work at 5-star resorts such as The Nam Hai (Quang Binh), the Hyatt Regency and the Intercontinental (Da Nang), the Anantara (Binh Thuan), after apprenticing at the STREETS Restaurant Cafe in Hoi An.
The Hoi An restaurant just doubled its capacity.