Vietnam Time

5/14/2018 9:36:29 AM

KOTO, where cocoons turn into butterflies

(VNF) - KOTO stands for Know One, Teach One. Learning should be passed on; knowledge is meant to be shared. This is the essential idea of KOTO’s Vietnamese-Australian founder, Jimmy Pham. 

Holistic education for disadvantaged youth

The KOTO concept was established in 1999 as a small sandwich shop in Hanoi. Nowadays, it has become a training center for 200 students (100 in Hanoi and 100 in HCMC) all working towards internationally accredited qualifications in hospitality.

Every KOTO trainee has a story, whether they have lived on the streets, been abandoned by their families or are living in absolute poverty, life has not been easy for them.

Only 25 students are accepted every 6 months, yet the list of applications far exceeds that. Tristan Dwyer, a former trainer of KOTO, says the programme is “all about changing people’s lives” and they aim to provide a “nurturing environment where trainees are given the opportunity to be confident and happy”.

In addition to offering hospitality skills training, KOTO also provides its trainees with accommodation, medication, English lessons, sports and life skills training such as how to budget their allowance, teamwork and personal hygiene.

Before their graduation, every KOTO's trainee is required to have a final assessment where they come as a group, designing menu, costing, and running the whole kitchen themselves like a professional restaurant with time and budget constraints. Part of the judge panel will be external stakeholders of KOTO, who are invited to join the party and assess the quality of the food/drinks and service.

Trong hình ảnh có thể có: 16 người, mọi người đang cười, mọi người đang đứng và trong nhà

Class 29th trainees' final assessment before graduation (source: KOTO)

Every summer, KOTO organizes a so-called Dream Trip for the new batch of trainees to the central region of Vietnam, where they gain first-hand experience with the hospitality and tourism industry while enjoying a vacation with their ‘second family’.

(This year, KOTO is aiming at raising VND 20,000,000 (US$ 1,000) to sponsor a sightseeing tour for a group of 100 trainess in the historic Hue citadel and Hoi An ancient town.)

In nearly 20 years, KOTO has become the cosy nest where many disadvantaged youth strive toward their 'from-cocoon-to-butterfly' dream.

Some have flied to greater sky, and some have flied back to their 'second family', to help their younger 'brothers and sisters' spread their wings.

Huong Dang, an alumnus of KOTO, is one of them.

Due to poverty, Huong had to leave school at the age of 12 and later spending her childhood in Hanoi, where she sold sticky rice for a living and study at night at an informal education school.

Huong’s life changed since she became a member of KOTO in 2006. In 2012, Huong received a scholarship via KOTO and Box Hill Institute to study in Melbourne and became the first and only Vietnamese student to receive two awards for Victorian International Student of the Year and the Premier Award in 2013. Huong completed her Master of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Swinburne University of Technology in 2016.

She afterwards returned to the foundation after completing a masters of entrepreneurship and innovation to help other disadvantaged youth.

Huong's decision follows the philosophy of KOTO's CEO, Jimmy Pham, who states that: “If you're in a position where you can help someone less fortunate, then you should help them; and the greatest thanks you can receive is seeing that person doing the same thing for someone else.”

Huong, has been working as an International Partnership and Engagement Manager for her alma mater for one year and has been made great contribution to KOTO's development.

“I studied in KOTO in 2006 and graduated in 2007. I went to work at a five-star hotel in Hanoi and I came back to KOTO as part of my returning the favour to the organisation that changed my life,” she said.

In March, Huong was honoured in top 5 of nominees for the Australian Business Award.

Expanding business, increasing partners with a kind purpose

KOTO has been expanding its business to fund for training and provide adequate facility for their students to gain real-life experiences in hospitality works. In early 2018, a small yet modern coffee shop opened in the KOTO training centre, sponsored by DER Touristik Foundation in collaboration with ECPAT (End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes).

The plan is for each KOTO class to run the coffee shop every three months. Not only will this provide great teamwork and management skills, it will be the place for the trainees to become a good barista.

The inviting green, hip space also a wonderful for trainees to relax after a hard day of studying and for staff to indulge after a long days work. 

Trong hình ảnh có thể có: 7 người, mọi người đang ngồi, bàn và trong nhà

  KOTO Saigon welcomed guests from International Study Programs (Czech), a close partner of NGOs in the world and Vietnam (ISP). (source: KOTO)

In March 2018, KOTO was sponsored by Carnegie Global to participate at Asia-Pacific Association International Education (APAIE) in Singapore together with 2,000 delegates and 97 universities/organizations across the world. 

In the same month, KOTO training centre welcomed honoured guests including professors, students and staffs from Florida International University and South Carolina University (US), who were strongly impressed by KOTO's model and the values it has brought to Vietnamese society in nearly two decades.

The exchange and visit are part of KOTO's proactive movement to seek opportunity to be partnered and share its operation model, especially with other interested individuals/organizations in the world.

KOTO CEO: Big Boss, Big Brother, Big Heart

Jimmy Pham (R) accompanies Hieu, a KOTO alumnus, to the airport for his study trip in Australia (source: KOTO)

In early May, Nguyen Minh Hieu, an alumnus of KOTO in HCM.City was granted a scholarship to study in Tafe New South Wale, Australia's leading provider of vocational education and training. For someone who used to sell bread on the street, the opportunity is absolutely a dream that comes true.

The one who accompanied Hieu on the way to the airport was no one else, but Jimmy Pham, the ‘Big Boss’ and also the ‘Big Brother’ in the KOTO family. 

Jimmy is admired for his strong sense of responsibilities. As the founder and leader of KOTO, he not only takes account of ensuring a nourishing education and living environment for the trainees, but also pays immense attention to finding opportunities for his ‘sisters and brothers’ in career development and the pursuit of higher education after graduation.

Besides encouraging the young people to pick up English, Jimmy meticulously maps out IELTS learning path for them, teaching them about relevant soft skills. He does everything he can to make sure that after leaving KOTO, all members will be able to fly into the working world with poise and confidence.

Prior to the graduate's overseas trip, Jimmy always make time to visit their family, no matter where they live, whether it is Nha Trang, Ha Tinh or Lao Cai. It is the occasion for Jimmy to brief the trainees' parents on their journey ahead, since to most of them, that might be their first air travel, which will bring them to a new horizon.

And no matter where KOTO's members are, they will never be alone, as from the distance, brother Jimmy's love and care, will always be with them./.

  ( Phi Yen )
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