Giving back: six charities we supported in Vietnam this year



“Pray for the dead. And fight like hell for the living!” – Mother Jones

We’ve been back from Vietnam since the end of October and while we’re both settling into our normal lives at home, I’ve held off updating the blog a bit. Why? Well, we did so much over the course of the visit that it’s sometimes hard to actually sit yourself down and try to organise it all in your head.

I’ve decided to go with this piece first from our adventure just because we had a theme of “charity” surrounding our trip this time around and it did indeed play a big part of our experience. Here are six organisations we supported this year:


KOTO or Know One Teach One, is a hospitality training centre and social enterprise for disadvantaged young people in Vietnam. Founded by a Vietnamese-Australian man called Jimmy Pham, their goal is to end the cycle of poverty and empower youth to forge a better future for themselves and their families.

To date, KOTO has trained over 700 students in their centres in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, with 200 of them currently enrolled. Each time we’ve visited Vietnam we’ve headed to their restaurant and this year we decided to do a cookery course with them where we got to grips with some of the best Vietnamese street food!

HANOI: Omamori Spa

Run by BlindLink, an NGO that gives opportunities to the visually impaired, Omamori Spa is based in Hanoi. Professionally run and incredibly clean, it’s a brilliant experience. The masseuses are visually impaired but have an amazing sense of touch and you can feel the care that goes into the work that they do.

It was honestly the best massage I’ve ever had and was exceptional value. Our 90-minute massage called Zen in the Heart, which included a hot stone session was 450,000 dong (just €16.80).

HUE: Spiral Foundation Healing the Wounded Heart Shop

Staff at this shop basically generate their funds from rubbish and the profits go towards heart surgery for children in need. All the souvenirs are made by people with disabilities (mostly hearing impaired) and feature things like baskets made from newspaper and bags made from beer cans.

While prices in the shop are more expensive than usual, what the funding is going towards makes it worth it, plus you’re getting a piece that’s individual and handmade. I bought a necklace that was made from repurposed telephone wire and I adore it!

HOI AN: Reaching Out

This Fairtrade shop run by Reaching Out was founded in 2000 and empowers people with disabilities in Hoi An to learn skills and gain meaningful employment so that they can lead independent lives. Here you can buy stunning items made by artisan employees like silver jewellery, embroidered bedspreads, and traditional tea sets.

They also have an amazing tea house where staff is mute and so you must find other means of communicating. It’s a wonderful experience and also gives you time to reflect in silence.

HO CHI MINH CITY & MONGOLIA: Christina Noble Foundation

It’s hard to sum up in just a few paragraphs how much Irishwoman Christina Noble has given back to Vietnam. Her foundation is dedicated to serving children in need of emergency and long-term medical care, those who need education opportunities and training as well as children who are at risk of sexual exploitation. Christina came to Vietnam in 1989 and established the foundation in 1991 (incidentally the year I was born!). During those 26 years, CNCF has provided vital support to those in need.

Mom and I visited the centre and very taken by how hard the staff work, how impeccably clean the facility was and how loved the children were. Just six visitors are allowed in for their tours, so you need to contact them in advance if you plan on heading in.


32 children die from drowning in Vietnam every day. In Ho Chi Minh City we met with Anne-Marie Greene and her partner Ian Kelly, the founders of DUC, who through a one-for-one model business aims to combat this tragedy, as well as providing much-needed education for children.

For every schoolbag sold a school kit is purchased for a vulnerable child in Vietnam. For every sports bag sold, swimming lessons are provided for a child and the DUC Jr range focuses in on vaccines. The bags also provide employment as they are made in Vietnam.

Mom and I felt that Anne-Marie and Ian were passionate, warm and hardworking individuals who clearly had a lot of compassion. You can buy the bags online or from Arnotts.

All of the charities we visited impacted our experience, and honestly you do feel good when you’re supporting worthwhile causes. We’d ask you to consider giving back to Vietnam when you go visit.

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Hello! Úna-Minh is a journalist, social media consultant and virtual assistant who loves (you guessed it) TRAVEL. She also feels a bit strange writing in the third person so she'll stop that now. You can find out more about me and my Mammy in the about section of this blog!

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    Did you plan these visits in advance? They would be cool for myself to do more often, but the marketing budgets aren’t always massive so you don’t always ‘see’ them right? Hmmmm Got me thinking

    1. Everywhere we went we knew which ones we wanted to visit. For the Christina Noble Foundation you need to plan in advance because they only allow 6 in at a time. They’re also very strict with their rules (no photos to protect the children’s’ privacy) and you can’t hold children unless with prior permission. Also little things like no jewelry and dress modestly so as to not flaunt your wealth.

      Some of the facilities are open, so for example Reaching Out’s workshop is public and you can walk through and watch people at work making what they sell. Same with KOTO, it’s a training facility so you’re in the middle of it as they’re working.

  2. Adventure with the theme of “charity” surrounding our trip was amazing ideas. This is good both for ourselves and for the community. Eventhough Vietnam is developing, but part of its, especially in the far north mountainous areas of Vietnam, they are very poor and they need supports from anyone.

    You are doing the good job Una.

    1. Thank you! Glad that you liked this piece. I love being able to give back to people on my travels. We come from a place of real privilege here in the “western world” so it’s important to be aware.

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