On Friday 30 October, VDC held a celebration of the importance of VET teachers in helping to change lives.

The first speaker was Huong Dang who zoomed in from Hanoi, Vietnam to share her very moving story of her education journey.

Huong was born in a small village in Vietnam and always wanted to become a teacher herself. However, family illness and poverty meant that she had to leave home aged 12 and travel to Hanoi to find work as a babysitter, selling food on the street, anything to support herself and her younger siblings.

Although life was difficult, Huong never lost sight of her ambition for an education and she found her way to Know One Teach One (KOTO), a social enterprise and charity located in Vietnam. There she trained in hospitality, worked hard and her determination paid off when and was lucky enough to be sponsored to come to Melbourne to study at Box Hill TAFE.

It wasn’t luck that got her through, she worked hard and made every moment count.  During her time in Melbourne she was awarded several accolades, including Victorian International VET Student of the Year and the Premier’s award for Victorian International Student of the Year.

After completing her course at Box Hill and through unyielding determination, she gained scholarships and raised money to return to Australia to study a Masters in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Swinburne University.  She was an outstanding student and had a drive to give back to KOTO and help others to follow her path. The course helped her to see how social enterprises can apply innovations and creativity to tackle social problems through business.

Huong has returned to Vietnam and is the director of Marketing and Partnerships Engagement at KOTO.  She has also founded and is managing director of HopeBox Vietnam — a social enterprise focusing on helping women who are victims of gender-based violence.

Huong has a clear message about the importance of education to change people’s lives. The saying that ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ rings true.  Having a role model who has lived through being a homeless street kid, and through help from KOTO, the opportunity of education and hard work has achieved great things means others are inspired to follow in her footsteps.

Huong also gave a special mention to the VET teacher who helped her so much along the way – Rosemary Fisher, who was at Box Hill, but is now at Swinburne University.

Everyone has special teachers in their lives who inspire students to achieve their potential. The World Teachers’ Day event was a celebration of all of them.

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