Giving hope to women in Vietnam
HopeBox is a social enterprise empowering survivors of gender-based violence to transform their lives.
HopeBox is well-known in Vietnam for its signature brightly decorated cookies and other homemade delights that the social enterprise delivers to people’s homes and offices.
But it’s not just tasty treats that HopeBox is known for. The organisation is the first social enterprise in Vietnam to respond to the lack of comprehensive psychology and economic recovery services for survivors of gender-based violence.
According to a 2019 National Report on Violence Against Women, 63 per cent of women aged 15 to 64 in Vietnam have experienced one or more forms of domestic abuse. During the COVID-19 pandemic, HopeBox experienced a significant increase in the rate of phone calls received from victims of gender-based violence.
Since the start of the pandemic, HopeBox has had to become more efficient to meet the increased demand for its services. The organisation has also had to adapt to meet growing demand for its products during lockdowns.
CEO Huong Dang founded HopeBox in 2018, inspired by the experience of her sister, who was a victim of domestic violence.
‘Now my sister is my right-hand woman. She runs the kitchen at HopeBox,’ says Huong.
Huong says her mother’s influence also played a big part in her drive to improve the lives of women. Huong’s mother, who raised her children on her own, always encouraged Huong to be kind and hardworking, and emphasised the importance of giving back to the community.
I want to be a role model for the young women in my village. I want them to know they can go a lot further than they think they can.
A safe place
HopeBox supports survivors to transition from shelter homes and unsafe environments into safe and secure accommodation. The organisation covers half of the women’s rental costs and secures scholarships for their children so they can continue their education.
Gradually, the women are introduced to working at HopeBox, where they can feel safe, earn money, learn new skills, and start to heal their trauma.
As well as vocational training in baking, HopeBox provides psychological support including trauma healing, yoga and life skills. When the women commence working full-time in the kitchen, they receive full wages for producing their handcrafted baked goods.
Revenue earned from the sale of the products not only pays the women’s wages; it also goes towards partnering with recruitment agencies that train and prepare them for the hospitality industry.
‘My proudest moments are when I see women at HopeBox transform; to see someone who used to be a victim become confident and dream of opening her own bakery,’ says Huong.
‘We want to send a message to our community, that our women deserve a better life. By supporting them and providing them with the proper skills and knowledge, they can do a lot of amazing things.
'My dream now is to see my sister become the CEO in my place and for the women we support to take on key roles and take the organisation further.’
We want to send a message to our community, that our women deserve a better life.
A helping hand
As with many social enterprises, capital is a big challenge for HopeBox. With a grant from the Australian Volunteers Program Impact Fund, HopeBox has been able to buy additional kitchen equipment, develop a new product for sale and train program participants on new products.
‘We need to be creative in our product development and gather as many customers as possible,’ says Huong.
‘The grant helped us raise our revenue by 65 per cent since Christmas 2020 and by 350 per cent for our Lunar New Year's sales in 2021. The funding allowed us to afford designers to help us come up with new concepts for our products. We sold out all our products during special occasions and seasons.’
HopeBox also received support from Australian volunteer John Joseph Lalor. During his remote assignment as a Business Development Mentor, John helped Huong set up an advisory board based in Australia and assisted the organisation with securing funding and developing their five-year strategy.
He also supported HopeBox staff to manage an e-learning platform project, which is aimed at raising awareness on gender-based violence.
‘John is an amazing person and mentor. He has so many skills and a lot of experience and is very calm and hardworking. We felt so lucky to have him.
'It’s amazing for a small start-up organisation like ours to work with the Australian Volunteers Program. It really helps us to build our portfolio and the volunteers help fill gaps in our skillset and help us grow.’
Find out about volunteering with organisations in Vietnam.