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Q&A with Trong: how a cooking school is changing lives

| Words by Zoe Crane | ,

Meet Trong, a 19-year-old from a local orphanage with a bright future. He is now training to be a chef so that his little sister can continue her education.

Nineteen-year-old Nguyen Van Trong is a student at Streets International, an organisation and restaurant providing training and accommodation for disadvantaged children. Trong has led many of the market tours that our small group tour guests experience in Hoi An. These tours give a great local insight to our travellers, and also allow the students to practice their English and gain course credits.

We interviewed Trong to find out more about him and his life at Streets International.

Trong in trainingTrong in training talking about local produce with a traveller

Can you tell me about your family?

There are three people in my family: my grandmother, my younger sister and me.

Who has been the most influential person in your life?

My younger sister is the most important person in my life. I really love her. She is all my life. Every day I try to study well to have a good job in the future and I can take care of my younger sister and help her to go to school.

How did you find out about Streets and why did you apply?

Before I came to Streets, I was a child at an orphanage. At that time I graduated from high school but I don’t have enough money to continue my studying and I heard about Streets from my friends so I apply to be a trainee at Streets.

If you were not in Streets' program right now, what do you think you would be doing instead?

I think that if I was not in Streets now, I am just a worker in a small factory with low salary. Also, I can help myself as well as my family.

Can you tell me how the Streets International program works?

Streets has a training centre where trainees study there. Streets also has two big houses, one for girls, and the other for boys. Besides that, Streets has one restaurant where trainees can practice their skills four times a week.

  • At training centre, they teach me about English such as pronunciation, writing, speaking and listening. We also learn on the computer.
  • At the restaurant, we practice to become a server or a cook and trainees can learn more and have experience.

What is the best thing about being part of the Streets International program?

Streets gives me skills to step into my life and a good future.

Streets International, VietnamThe kitchen at Streets international where students learn to cook

What is the most important thing you learn being part of Streets International program?

The most important thing about being part of Streets International program is learning English. Before I came to Streets, I did not know how to write word “hello”, but the teachers there are very good. They showed me how to study English, how to talk to the foreigners. Day by day I speak English fluently.

Do you think doing the program has changed you at all?

Yes, during the time I live at Streets, they give me a chance to have a good job in the future. Beside that they teach me how to become a good person. For example, before I came here, I was very stubborn but when I came to Streets I knew how to behave with other people and especially I become a more responsible person.

What is one of your most vivid memories?

My best vivid memory is the first time I did the market tour. I was very happy because when I was small I really admired the tour-guide who can speak English with foreigners. I wished that one day I can talk to foreigners.

Can you tell me something funny that has happened while you have been there?

During the course I study there, there were a lot of funny things happened but the best funny memory was when my close friend practiced how to take order with the guest. His name is Nghe. At that time there was an old man coming to our restaurant to have dinner. That old man nearly finished his meal and Nghe came to the old man and said that: “What would you like for “a desert”?” The old man smiled and said “I would like some shady trees and water!”

What do you think you will do when you leave?

I will find a stable job in a big restaurant near my house. I will be a cook. I will give money to help my sister continue to study.

What do you think you will be doing in 10 years’ time?

I wish that I will be a famous chef in 10 years.

If you could say something to everybody reading this story, what would it be?

Love your life although there are some problem that happen with you. Overcome it and a good future will open for you.

Thanks so much to Trong for taking the time to talk to us about his life, and to Streets International for all the great work they are doing in Vietnam.