After 3 months as an intern for the World Fair Trade Organization, Asia office based in Chiang Mai, I had the opportunity to join WFTO-Asia Executive Director, Christine Gent, on one of the work trips to Hanoi, Vietnam. I was very exited; nothing is so interesting as meeting the actual producers that we are supporting from the office as these are the producers behind the Fair Trade Organizations, the people crafting the beautiful handicrafts. From the 4th until the 10th of December we met with existing and potential member organizations, participated in meetings, workshops and two conferences. Here I gained more knowledge on Fair Trade in Vietnam, the membership application process and the the Guarantee System. The most meaningful part and the highlight was connecting with people that make the best out of life and earn a living by producing handicrafts.
Hold The Future
On Saturday the 5th of December we visited Hold the Future, a non-governmental organization that seeks to ensure young people with disabilities have an opportunity to live a rich and full life. The social enterprise offers health care facilities, rehabilitation and vocational training. The organization offers employment and accomodation to 320 disabled people in North Vietnam.
We were welcomed by Ms. Le Minh Hien, who established the Hold the Future Foundation in March 2002. Hold the Future is a member of the Vietnam Federation on Disabilities, Vietnam Asssociation of Business and Enterprise of People with Disabilities and member of the WFTO. Hold the Future’s aim is to sell handmade products through international Fair Trade channels in order to ensure stable, reliable income and working conditions for members now and in the future.
Imke and Mai. Mai works at Hold the Future for 2 years and is making boxes from recycled paper.
I met Hoan, a young woman also working at Hold the Future for 2 years, who was willing to show me around the centre. We used body language and a few English words to communicate. When I entered the various work units, the artisans welcomed me with a big smile and invited me to watch their work. It was impressive to watch how quick they were able to execute the intricate work. The products range from embroidery work, boxes from recycled paper, key chains and textiles. What touched me most was their openness and energy. Although their disability was often very visible, the focus was on their abilities and work.
Hold the Future has created a community, where people have the opportunity to live, respectably earn money, receive support and above all try to make the best out of life. When I visited their vegetable garden and rooms I was inspired by Hold the Future’s motto, ‘’It is just a part of the body that you have lost, not your heart and your mind.” I as a student in The Netherlands can make a difference and support these artisans beyond this visit by advocating for Fair Trade and buying Fair Trade products.
Upon leaving, Tran Pham My Hanh, a young student and volunteer at Hold the Future said: ‘’Thank you for supporting disabled people in Vietnam.’’ Again I was more motivated than ever to continue to support such Fair Trade initiatives and I was very happy that this internship has given me the opportunity to travel and meet the producers of the World Fair Trade Organization in Asia.
Nguyen van tuan and Luu thi Phuong thao working on embroidery.
Nguyen Thi Huong (40) is a teacher and works for 10 years at Hold the Future. Here she teaches students that have disabilities how to make different products, so that they are able to work independently on different projects after they have completed their course for 5 months.
Visiting the Fair
After going around and seeing the production process it was possible to visit the Fair where Hold the Future was selling their products.
Tran Pham my Hanh: ‘’Thank you for supporting disabled people in Vietnam’’
Tran Pham My Hanh (22) Student at Hanoi University in Foreign Trade Volunteering at Hold the Future, Hoan (25) works at Hold the Future and Bich Loc (20) student at Hanoi University in Accounting and Volunteer for Hold the Future.
Imke van Barneveld currently is based in Chiang Mai for her internship, as part of her studies in Fair Trade Management in The Netherlands.