Nguyen Thi Ngoc, 32, has two daughters, ages 12 and 6. Like other migrants, she moved to Hanoi from a rural province, Bac Giang. There she met her husband, a taxi driver. Ngoc works several jobs to earn her living. In the daytime she works as a tailor and in evenings she rents toys for children at Ly Thai To Park, near Hoan Kiem Lake in central Hanoi.
But Ngoc is driven by bigger dreams, and joined the NEW ME! project to start making them a reality. “I learned all the basic skills I need to start a small business. It is interesting that I learned also new forms of business, for example using Facebook to sell goods. I have my own Facebook account and have used it for long time but I never thought that I can run my own business with Facebook. I also learned to record all of my expenses to save money. It is very useful. It helps me a lot to see clearly what expenses are spent right and what spending is not in the budget. And from that, I can save money. I asked my husband to do the same for our family’s expenses together with me.”
Before, like many other migrants to Hanoi, Ngoc was afraid to communicate with police officers. She felt very vulnerable as she migrated from the countryside to Hanoi. She felt like she was living at the margins of Hanoi life. After participating in trainings provided by NEW ME!, she says she has become much more confident. “My communications skills are improved and this helps a lot because I can communicate smoothly with customers and also local authorities. Before I was very tense whenever I have to talk to officers but now I feel confident. I know how to start and run the conversation. I know that if I explain clearly then things will be OK and that they are here to support people like us.”
Together with 17 other participants, Ngoc was trained on business and communications skills. She and other participants gathered and decided to organise a group to collect second-hand clothes, renew them and sell them back to people with low income, such as other migrants like themselves. Ngoc is in charge of renewing and organising the clothes that come in, then cleaning and ironing them before they go up for sale. With her many years of experience working as a tailor, Ngoc is very skilled at these tasks. She is also the one who decides the prices for the clothes.
Ngoc and her teammates are looking for a shop where they can stay open selling clothes for the whole day. “Only when we find a shop to sell clothes all day long, then our incomes can be improved. The current location at our ward’s community house only allows us to sell during weekends, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., but customers come mainly after 6 p.m., after working hours as they have to work during weekends as well. We need to have our own shop so that customers can pass by anytime they like.”
Can NEW ME! be a success? Ngoc is optimistic about the future of the project. She is eager to focus all her energy on NEW ME! and to stop juggling several different jobs at once, and she expects the project will help her grow her income enough to let her do just that. When the group finds their own shop, she will not only participate in making the clothes new, she also will join the selling process. She emphasises that for NEW ME! to succeed, they need a strong will from the participants of the project.
“To be successful, we need to put our heart into the business. I trust that, with NEW ME!, my income will be improved. The most important thing now is that in the long term, we have to run it regularly and run it independently without the support of the project.”
Ngoc and other people in her group are supported by the project NEW ME! (“New skills and knowledge for the improved livelihood security of Hanoi’s waste-collectors”), implemented by CARE International in Vietnam and the Institute for Development and Community Health (LIGHT) which has run from February to July 2016. NEW ME! is a five-month pilot project that supports a collective of 17 female migrants who are waste collectors and street vendors in Hanoi through training on starting businesses, marketing skills, and financial management skills. NEW ME! supports the targeted women to use these new skills to develop business plans for the trade of used goods, and by facilitating “pop-up” markets for the sale of second-hand goods. NEW ME! also provides a valuable opportunity for these marginalised women to come together to share experiences and support one another. The project name, NEW ME!, came from discussions with these female migrants, who shared their dreams and aspirations for transforming themselves to achieve a new and better future.
The project is funded by the Asia Group Foundation.