Bright So­lu­tions of­fers vul­ner­a­ble women an op­por­tu­nity to lift them­selves out of poverty

Bright So­lu­tions of­fers vul­ner­a­ble women an op­por­tu­nity to lift them­selves out of poverty

Oi Vietnam - - Contents - Text by Aliesha Duf­fin Im­ages by Ngoc Tran

“IT WAS A CALL ON my heart to come to Viet­nam,” says Fiona Bri­ers, found­ing di­rec­tor of NGO Bright So­lu­tions (www. bright­so­lu­tionsviet­ “[Viet­nam] is pro­gress­ing rapidly, and giv­ing many young peo­ple brighter fu­tures. Through ac­cess to higher level ed­u­ca­tion, English ac­qui­si­tion, in­ter­na­tional stud­ies and bet­ter busi­ness prospects, Viet­nam is ad­vanc­ing. How­ever, the ma­jor­ity of the pop­u­la­tion can­not ac­cess these op­tions due to lack of or in­com­plete years of school­ing, lim­ited skills and in­abil­ity to train or re­train, miss­ing gaps in their child­hoods, and so on.” She be­lieves Bright So­lu­tions can give ac­cess to these op­tions and pos­i­tively im­pact the lives of un­der­priv­i­leged women in Viet­nam.

Fiona’s pas­sion for Viet­nam and im­prov­ing the lives of marginal­ized women here in Ho Chi Minh City is ev­i­dent upon meet­ing her. In 2007, she came to the coun­try for the first time as a tourist. She spent time talk­ing to one of the young tour guides who ex­pressed the dif­fi­cul­ties lo­cal women face try­ing to get good jobs to be able to sup­port their fam­i­lies. “I felt clearly it was a coun­try to which I could con­trib­ute,” she says, when asked what in­spired her to start Bright So­lu­tions. “My heart and pas­sion is to serve and em­power the poor. To do what I can with the skills and ex­pe­ri­ences I have to en­rich the lives of oth­ers. My be­lief is that the poverty cy­cle is of­ten gen­er­a­tional due to tragic or dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances and a lack of ed­u­ca­tion.”

Bright So­lu­tions helps women to suc­cess­fully man­age their own fu­tures and fi­nances by train­ing them in sewing and hand­i­craft skills. The train­ing con­sists of prac­ti­cal, management and life skills. The women are put through pro­grams that help them to con­tin­u­ally in­crease their skills and ex­per­tise and in­cludes a strong em­pha­sis on finance management.

Fiona’s drive, cou­pled with her back­ground in ed­u­ca­tion and hu­man management, helped to form Bright So­lu­tions. “I cre­ated a vo­ca­tional train­ing pro­gram to in­vest in gen­uine re­la­tion­ships of en­cour­age­ment and ac­cep­tance with all of my em­ploy­ees so that con­fi­dence and iden­tity are re­stored to women who come from vul­ner­a­ble back­grounds.” Ev­ery po­ten­tial em­ployee is in­ter­viewed to see if they would be a suit­able can­di­date for the pro­gram. They come with a so­cial worker to meet Fiona and then af­ter the meet­ing both women will de­cide whether or not Bright So­lu­tions is the right fit. To be­gin

with, the wo­man will only need to com­mit to one month. She does not need any prior skills, she just needs to be will­ing to take the first step. This ini­tial step is a cru­cial one; it forms the en­vi­ron­ment where they will be en­cour­aged and nur­tured to­wards in­de­pen­dence.

Miss In­de­pen­dence

“I didn’t know how to save or couldn’t do so in the past but have now fol­lowed Bright So­lu­tions train­ing,” says Nghia* who works at Bright So­lu­tions.

For these women, Bright So­lu­tions opens the door to for­mal work en­vi­ron­ments, with the flex­i­bil­ity to com­plete their work from home when nec­es­sary. For most, their time with Bright So­lu­tions will be their first for­mal job. “Nga* didn't have money to pay school fees for her son on time. Once work­ing at Bright So­lu­tions she could pay for her son at school on time so her son feels good now, he stud­ies very well, he is so proud of his mother be­cause his mother could work in an in­ter­na­tional en­vi­ron­ment," says Hanh, one of the women’s so­cial work­ers.

Most of the women em­ployed at Bright So­lu­tions are hired through re­fer­rals from En­fants et Devel­oppe­ment (a

French non-profit or­ga­ni­za­tion) work­ing with and as­sist­ing the reg­is­tered poor in Dis­trict 8. “Net­work­ing with NGOs to source em­ploy­ees is a vi­tal link as they are di­rectly in­volved with those most in need,” says Fiona.

Thu* has been with Bright So­lu­tions for three-and-a-half years and dur­ing this time she has been trans­formed from a very ner­vous, sub­mis­sive and shy young grand­mother, fear­ful of not meet­ing ex­pec­ta­tions, into a bub­bly skilled front­line man­ager. "I used to keep silent at home and in my pre­vi­ous job. Now I feel more com­fort­able to talk to co­work­ers. Noth­ing wor­ries me as much as be­fore," says Thu. Many of the women who work for Bright So­lu­tions were un­able to com­plete pri­mary school be­cause of dif­fi­cult cir­cum­stances, but through the pro­fi­ciency and con­fi­dence they have earned, some have con­tin­ued their main­stream ed­u­ca­tion at night school or sought new study op­tions. Oth­ers are able to be­come em­ploy­able by hav­ing a sta­ble work his­tory while rein­te­gra­tion into the com­mu­nity is achiev­able for some. Each wo­man that passes through Bright So­lu­tions has their own goals that they are try­ing to achieve.

Fiona’s ul­ti­mate goal for her com­pany is to re­main self-sus­tain­able and run as a lo­cal Viet­namese en­tity, and to grow in size to em­brace more and more women from dis­ad­van­taged back­grounds. “I would love those who know the vi­sion of the com­pany and who have come through Bright So­lu­tions with train­ing, management and ex­pe­ri­ence to be the ones who ul­ti­mately be­come the lead­er­ship team. Hope­fully this is not un­reach­able!”

*Names have been changed.

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