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Academic institution joins hands with NGO for social responsibilities

06:48 | 17/07/2020

The good relationship between an Australian academic institution with a Vietnamese NGO can bring positive changes for not only the organization itself but for the target beneficiaries as well.

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From capacity building for NGO...

academic institution joins hands with ngo for social responsibilities
Social workers from NGOs need more training so as to be able to work effectively with young people. Photo: RMIT Vietnam

According to Save the Children, 28.9% of Vietnamese children under the age of 16 are living in poverty, which can greatly impact on educational opportunities, safety, physical and mental health.

To strengthen mental health support in Ho Chi Minh City, RMIT University recently delivered staff and volunteer a mental health-care training course to not-for-profit organisation REACH with two key modules, including: "Basic help skill" and "Self-care and boundaries". The course aimed to develop and enhance the organisation’s capacity to address youth mental health issues.

REACH predominantly works with and empowers young people by providing vocational training programs for disadvantaged students.

"It can be seen that REACH is an integrated model of school and social center", said Ms. Nguyen Ngoc Hang, training coordinator of REACH. "Our students are the youth with disadvantaged living circumstances, which can create many pressures for them in life. Some of them even have to deal with stress and mental health issues".

Working with this special group needs a number of special skills; therefore, the teachers in REACH have to be equipped with not only knowledge, experience in this working area, but they have to know how to work effectively with the students in order to assist them to overcome difficulties.

"We are not only the teachers in a simple way but we have to work as mentors for these students as well", Ms. Nguyen T. Ngoc, F&B teacher said. "In fact, most of the youths treat us as their closest relatives. We are the ones they can come and ask for advice and helps when they face with obstacles in studying and their life".

academic institution joins hands with ngo for social responsibilities
RMIT University’s wellbeing department delivered mental health training to staff from not-for-profit organisation, REACH. Photo: RMIT Vietnam

RMIT University Senior Student Counsellor Lisa Bernstein said that the training gave participants an understanding of, and skills and strategies dealing with mental health for those regularly working directly with students.

“The training focused on developing an understanding of signs and symptoms of common health issues and supporting students in distress,” Ms. Bernstein said. “This included techniques and suggestions on how to cope with and assist students.

“Participants also learned and practiced ‘helping skills’, including listening and expressive skills.”

Throughout the training session, REACH Project Coordinator Nguyen Ngoc Hang said that participants discussed case studies that included students in stressful situations, and those facing difficult or disadvantaged circumstances.

“In addition to having in-depth technical knowledge and practical experience, we also need to understand students, and have skills to support them to overcome their disadvantaged backgrounds.”

Looking ahead, Ms Bernstein shared that RMIT University’s “next step is to schedule more sessions and support where possible with the aim to improve mental support for disadvantaged students in Vietnam”.

... To provide opportunities for disadvantaged young people with academic scholarships

academic institution joins hands with ngo for social responsibilities
Pham and Professor Rick Bennett, RMIT Vietnam Executive Dean at the MoU signing ceremony

In March 2020, a package of a full scholarship worth USD 54,440 from RMIT University Vietnam was awarded to REACH's disadvantaged youth. This offer was confirmed by an MoU signed between REACH and RMIT University Vietnam.

Per the MoU, REACH will promote the RMIT Scholarship among its alumni network. REACH is responsible for collecting applications, identifying and shortlisting applicants on behalf of RMIT Vietnam, and referring them to RMIT for the final decision.

The successful applicant will receive a massive package of benefits from the program. This includes a full English and Higher Education tuition fee, monthly living stipend, accommodation, a laptop, and home travel allowance. They will also benefit from the expertise and global experience of RMIT’s academic staff, high-quality facilities and infrastructure, and an industry-informed curriculum and strong industry connections.

In addition to these, the student will have opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities organised by student clubs and societies, and study abroad at one of RMIT’s 200 partner universities all over the world.

“The opportunity will significantly advance our student’s career pathway”, Tam Pham, REACH’s Executive Director, says. “For many disadvantaged students at REACH, this is definitely a life-changing opportunity that they could never have imagined before”.

“Our scholarship program aims to ensure that talented Vietnamese students have the opportunity to excel through an international standard of higher education”, said RMIT Vietnam Executive Dean, Professor Rick Bennett. “Since 2014, and with a closer focus on community impact, RMIT Vietnam has awarded 12 scholarships to students who are living under disadvantaged circumstances both physically and financially, with a total value of more than 19.5 billion VND”.

academic institution joins hands with ngo for social responsibilities
REACH's Executive Director, Tam Pham, at the MoU signing event with RMIT's staff. Photo: REACH

REACH is a Vietnamese nonprofit organization specializing in vocational training, career advice, and job placement services for disadvantaged Vietnamese youth. REACH has six locations around Vietnam and trains over 1000 young people annually. These students include young people who have grown up in poverty, who are living with disabilities, and victims of human trafficking among many others.

academic institution joins hands with ngo for social responsibilities
Students in a vocational training course funded by REACH
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Tony Nguyen

RMIT Vietnam, REACH