Empowerment of disadvantaged youth through entrepreneurship: Life project for youth
Life project 4 youth is a non-profit organization which aims to empower disadvantaged young people. They help the social and professional integration of youth in situations of extreme vulnerability and exclusion like young mothers, ex-prisoners, street children, and victims of violence or trafficking… The organization runs project life centers which aims to help the young people to get back to a normal life and to develop a professional project.
The organization started its activities in 2009 with the opening of the first center in Philippines. Now, 9 centers are opened in Philippines (5 centers) in Vietnam (2 centers) and in Indonesia (2 Centers). We visited the new center of Hanoi, Vietnam. The organization started its activities in Vietnam 2 Years ago and more specifically in Hanoi 4 months ago. A first volunteer arrived in Hanoi in August 2014, to meet potential partners to find the good place for the center, to meet the young people and discuss with them.
The center in Hanoi focuses on the young women and young mothers in difficulties. The center can welcome up to 15 people. The criteria to be admitted in the center is to be between 17 and 24 years old, to be in situation of extreme exclusion and – most importantly – to be motivated to integrate at the center and to improve your life.
The process of integration:
- Meeting with the candidate
- Home visit
- One week of discovery at the center
- If the candidate wants to stay at the center, he has to write a short motivation letter (with the help of the other youth)
The young adults follow an 18-month program entirely taught in English: the first year is at the center and the last 6 months is an internship in a company. The program at the center is divided in 3 steps: Autonomy, Responsibility and Management. Each step takes around 4 months, but young adults who have more difficulties can take more time to finish. The originality of this project is that each center has to develop a micro-economic activity, e.g. the Life Project in Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) set up a bakery.
During their year at the center, the youth spend half of their time working on this activity. The idea is to allow them to discover the business world, but also to help them to figure out which profession they want to do. The youth will try several activities and position of a business. 30% of their times, the participants attend different trainings (like English classes, IT classes, communication classes or accounting), some of which are provided for free by the partner companies. The remaining 20% of the time is dedicated to the development of the life project of each student (professional and private).Another main strength of this approach is that throughout the Professional Training for Entrepreneurs, the young adults receive a weekly allowance, “Life Project Money,” which enables them to be autonomous and responsible, help their families, and save for the first steps of their social and professional integration.One of the most important aspects is that students gain self-confidence and autonomy thanks to this program. The center plays an important role in the young people’s lives, and even after the end of the program, they stay in touch with it via the ‘Star Club’ (one is active in the Philippines, and one will be created soon in Vietnam).
On average, 75 % of the participants find a proper job, 10% continue pursue further studies and 5% start their own business. 10 % of the participants drop off before the end of the program, due to various difficulties.
The other specificity of the organization is that they are no employees, the organization works only with national and international volunteers – often with 2-year contracts. By doing so, 97% of the budget is directed to the field and it is hoped that each center can be sustainable after 3 years of economic activity. However, after 5 years in Philippines, there still are centers, which are not financially sustainable. At the end of the day, education and re-integration of the student is more important.
- NGO Registration In Vietnam, they had difficulties to be registered as a NGO and to have all the papers to set up their center.
- The language It is a challenge for the international volunteers to learn Vietnamese to be more integrated in the local life. It is also a challenge for the Youth to follow the entire program in English. This situation can lead to communication problems at the beginning. But the results are spectacular and really appreciated by the companies
- To meet the young people in a situation of extreme poverty and exclusion The appearances play an important role in Vietnam, so is often difficult to see who is in extreme poverty or exclusion, and who is not. One needs to take his time to understand the situation of each candidate. The candidates also need time before trusting the organization enough to open up and tell the truth about their situation.
- The high rents Renting is also a challenge, especially in Hanoi. The budget for the rent is not high and it can be a challenge to find a house big enough to welcome all the students in the neighborhood. The organization is never the owner of the center, it only rents the building, to be able respond quickly and move along with the population, as the cities expand.
Their objectives for the future are to have 5 centers in Vietnam and to open 4 centers in India. In the long-term, they hope to be able to export the model in other countries where there is extreme poverty.