A total of 17 catalysts (mostly “seasoned” with a few newbies and 3.5 month old baby Kaiani !) participated in the Hanoi initiative over the extended Easter weekend break. The primary focus of the Hanoi initiative was to see, first-hand, how micro-financing extended to farming communities was executed, administered and monitored to ensure its success and sustainability.
The partner of choice for this specific initiative was Bloom Microventures, an established non-profit social business charity providing micro-credit to entrepreneurs living below the poverty line in developing countries using a unique model that harnesses the power of responsible tourism with microcredit to alleviate poverty. It was this idea of sustainable tourism with a strong social enterprise focus, in an area that TCRP has not ventured into before that made this a hugely appealing endeavour. Simply put, by partnering with Bloom Microventures, TCRP Catalysts were invited for a day trip to visit the rural farming communities about 70km west of Hanoi. During our visit, we visited two farming communes in Hoa Binh and Phu Minh meeting with direct beneficiaries. This gave us the opportunity to directly engage ourselves with them so as to gain more in-depth understanding of their personal circumstances, challenges and aspirations. Partnering with the commune-level Women’s Union, one of the most active mass organisations in rural Vietnam, Bloom Microventures is able to reach out to borrowers and foster a close relationship with the borrowers throughout the program to ensure they fulfil their plans and dreams. Typically micro loans of USD$100 are extended with interest and are required to be re-paid over a one year tenure.
Training School for Disadvantaged Youths
The major interactive activity of the visit was Catalysts participating in planting Cassava (the humble tapioca) on a hilly and scenic farmland in Hoa Binh. Micro-credit obtained by these farmers are primarily used for purchasing fertilisers. Due to time constraints and to cover more ground, Catalysts were split into two groups and visited separate beneficiaries. One group visited a 26 year old woman farmer who had sought micro-financing to diversify into rearing geese (and eventually pigs) to expand her income stream rather than relying on Cassava farming. Another group visited a farmer in Phu Minh province where micro-financing was applied to fish farming. Catalysts also had the pleasure of engaging in local activities typical in the commune, for example making glutinous rice dumplings, weaving shrimp catching baskets, as well as participate in local recreational pursuits such as pond fishing and kite flying. Just spending the few hours in these communes gave us all a very good sense of what the lives of these farmers are like on a daily basis.
The benefit of interacting closely and very personally with the chosen beneficiaries was that it put a face to a cause and being able to fully understand their plight and to have the intrinsic satisfaction of knowing that the little that we bring to the table goes a long way to alleviating poverty and hopefully in the longer run help break the poverty cycle which many of these folks are entrapped in. Where USD$100 may not go very far in cosmopolitan Singapore, the same amount can be life changing for struggling farmer trying to etch out a living. The insights into “micro-financing in action” gleaned from this trip in addition to the experiential learning gained has made TCRP Hanoi a valid success and should inspire TCRP further in future worthy causes.With the funds raised for TCRP Hanoi, we are confident that every dollar extended through micro-credit will have a multiplier effect in alleviating poverty one farmer at a time in rural farming communities in developing countries such as Vietnam.
After a full day, visiting and interacting with the local communities of Hoa Binh and Phu Minh provinces, the group travelled another 2 hours into idyllic and picturesque Mai Chao Valley for the nights rest in “home stay” set-ups. Mai Chau valley, made up of little villages, is home to over 50 ethnic minority groups most of whom are immigrant Thais who moved in more than 100 years ago. The next day’s activity was primarily a trek over the mountains, forests and lush padi terraces nestled in this valley community. Again vistas of agrarian landscape and activities and overt poverty could be gleaned from every which way you turn. Life in these little villages exuded a certain charm and contentment long lost and forgotten in global enclaves such as Singapore. It also seemed as if we needed to travel back in time in order to travel into the future with a purpose to enable better lives for these marginalised communities. Indeed, “If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives” – Robert South
Overall , the snappy 2 day visit into rural Hanoi was refreshing for both mind and soul and we are confident TCRP Catalysts are now adequately primed for the next TCRP adventure!
– Vince Yip, TCRP Catalyst
Tan Yung Khan
Neo Oon Chinn
Teo Pok Zin
Baby Kaiani Su
Edwin Lee (Videographer)
Xjilien Tan (Photographer)
Vince Yip (Photographer)
" My amazing one week in amazing Hanoi has been nothing short of an