Whether you’re travelling for a short time or thinking of relocating for longer, it’s always good to give back while we travel this amazing world of ours. So next time you book a flight to some far flung corner of the globe in search of life changing adventures and memories why not take some time…
Tell us about Take Time? Who are you and what do you do?
Take Time is a non-profit organisation supporting charities in Vietnam that desperately need a helping hand. Take Time evaluated nearly 40 charities before selecting our first three to support. The first three include two orphanages and one soup kitchen for elderly, disabled people. Our business model is to identify and select charities for our support then build support programmes around them. We identify a local business that wants to give back to the local community to assist in administering our programmes, and then engage both the local community as well as travellers. Our business partners (e.g. DKs House in Hoi An and Hue Backpackers in Hue) are not only responsible for administering our programmes, they commit to running them for many years, ensuring consistency of management and operations while providing scalability for the Take Time model.
What has been the response?
In the first three months of operations, Take Time has grown faster than anticipated. We have engaged more than 1,000 travellers for our day visit programmes. We have raised more than 100 million Vietnamese Dong from these travellers, which has already made us the single largest donor to all our charities. We are also fielding inquiries for long term volunteering every day.
Additionally, the programme has been a smashing success with the traveller community. We receive 10-20 emails a week of people telling us that joining in one of our programmes was the best thing they did while touring Vietnam. And through this our business partners are benefitting. They are known now for being socially responsible business that give back to the communities in which they enjoy their success. It’s not just good for their reputation, but also for their bottom line. To that end, Take Time has just signed an agreement with Vietnam Backpacker Hostels (parent company to DKs house and Hue Backpackers) to develop similar programmes in all the other cities in which they operate in Vietnam. As of this moment, Take Time’s plan for the next four months is to open support programmes with six more charities in cities such as Hanoi, Ha Long, Sa Pa, and Mai Chau.
Do you think social media has helped launch the foundation?
Social media has undoubtedly been an aid in our success to date. Old-school social media (i.e people talking to one another) is an important part of anyone’s reputation in Vietnam. In a country where there are essentially only two directions to travel, north or south, half of the people in any hotel, hostel, or bar will be coming from where the other half is going. It is this word of mouth on the Vietnam travellers trail that has generated such strong interest and grown our reputation as a foundation. Electronic social media has also played a very important role in our growth and will have a prominent role in our future growth, awareness programmes, and fundraising. Each day, people from all over the world are reaching out to us based on social media outlets like Facebook.
In South East Asia many orphanage programmes/tours get a lot of slack for not having the children’s best interests at heart. Children are not, and never should be a tourist attraction. How will you make sure Take Time never falls into this category?
Criticism of many charities in SEA is warranted. Take Time screened almost 40 charities before selecting our first three. Many of them fell out of consideration because of a lack of trust or a perceived lack of care (due to management; not facilities, funding, or need). In places like Cambodia, there is ‘orphanage mafia’ operation, they rent children by the day from their parents so they can fill a building, call it an orphanage, and charge people a lot of money to come and tour the facility. Sad stories and heavy-handed sales tactics result in people donating $5,000 USD for a new roof, a new classroom, etc. that is never built. The money doesn’t go to the children in many cases and worse these ‘rented children’ are not in school because they are off posing as orphans each day.
Further, there are people – even if they believe in our work and trust us – that are offended by the idea of volunteers interacting with orphans. I recently had a German couple, both quite proud of their advanced social service degrees and 30+ years in the German social service system, lecture me on how damaging our programmes are to the children. I was told to “let the system take care of it”. What this couple didn’t know or seem to want to learn is that there is no ‘system’ and few institutionalised programmes in Vietnam. Those that exist reach very few children and are at best of questionable integrity. Our belief is as human beings, we can choose to get involved or we can choose to turn a blind eye. Our programmes are designed to provide consistency for our charities and the people they benefit. A predictable level of support allows for growth, consistent interactions, and stability for the operation.
How can we get involved?
The single biggest factor to our long-term success is personal involvement. The best way to generate this interest is for people to spread the word. Like us on Facebook, visit our website, share our material, subscribe to our newsletter. Very soon, Take Time will launch an internal fundraising campaign so that financial donations can help drive our efficacy. Additionally, we will soon be seeking corporate sponsors to provide support both in terms of funding and in the goods and products our charities need most.