Australian-Vietnamese devotes her time to street kids

Street children attending a class with an Australian volunteer in Ho Chi Minh City

Tran Thi Yen is a Vietnamese girl who was raised in Australia. There she earned a university degree and had a good job, but something was missing from her life.

She is now a volunteer in Ho Chi Minh City helping disadvantaged children and feeling more fulfilled than ever.

For over half a year now, Yen has been working diligently at “15 May School”.

This is a non-profit school and shelter for street kids in District 1.

They provide primary and secondary education to over 250 children free of charge, as well as providing shelter for more than 30 children with no one else to care for them.

Each day Yen walks for ten minutes from her flat to the school to have positive interactions with the kids by running educational programs.

The rest of her time is spent seeking scholarships and other resources for the children.

Much of that time is spent online communicating with people interested in volunteering time or resources to assist the children of 15 May School.

“There’s so much to do,” Yen said.

“But I find it interesting working with teachers, volunteers and the children. It helps me realize how lucky I am.”

Yen mentioned a girl named Thang with admiration and sympathy.

“Thang was born in a small village in Ha Tinh Province,” Yen said.

“She left her village at 15 and went with a sister to Saigon to look for work. She had no education and worked as a waitress at a cafe for a small wage.

Thang wound up being brought to 15 May School where she has been educated until now.

She often says she dreams of being able to make enough money when she grows up to built her own school for poor children. I hope her dream comes true.”

Yen told us that she had learned about the work of 15 May School when she paid a visit to Vietnam two years ago while she was still at university.

She was impressed by the work of the teachers there and admired the impact they had on the lives of the disadvantaged children.

After visiting Vietnam Yen returned to Australia and completed her university degree in Art Design.

Afterwards, she entered the working world and became a young professional.

However, the desire to do something loftier with her time kept bringing back the image of the disadvantaged children in Vietnam to her mind.

Finally, she made the decision to follow her dreams.

Yen quit her job and became involved with the Australian Youth Ambassadors for Development (AYAD) program.

She is one of many young people in the AYAD program working in Vietnam.

Yen became a member when she was introduced by another volunteer.

She took a training course in Vietnamese culture, medical care, and working skills through the organization to prepare her for what she would do when she came to Vietnam.

Yen returned to Vietnam to devote her time to the disadvantaged children of her motherland.

She doesn’t make the money she would climbing the corporate ladder in Australia, but she is fulfilled in her work.

The corporate world may offer money, but working with street kids offers compassion which is a more valuable asset to Yen.


There are now 23 young Australians working as AYAD program volunteers in Vietnam. The AYAD program is fully funded by the Australian Government’s overseas aid agency, AusAID.

Launched in August 1998, the AYAD program goal is to strengthen mutual understanding between Australia and the countries of the Asia Pacific region by making a positive contribution to development.

The program does this through four main objectives:

1. To provide opportunities for young Australians to contribute to Australia’s overseas aid program and to gain personal and professional experience in developing countries.
2. To build the capacity of individuals, organizations and communities in partner countries through sharing skills and knowledge.
3. To foster partnerships between organizations and communities in Australia and those in developing countries.
4. To raise public awareness of development issues and the Australian aid program in the Australian community.

For more information about AusAID, please go to

Reported by Thien Long


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