Dedication empowers people

JIMMY Viet Tuan Pham has two homes.

The 41-year-old has lived in Vietnam for 16 years but grew up at Canley Vale.

The founder and chief executive of non-profit organisation Know One, Teach One [KOTO] has dedicated his life to disadvantaged young people in Vietnam.

He is one of 152 people named as Members of the Order of Australia on Australia Day.

"Home is where I feel I am most needed," he said.

"At the moment it is Vietnam, but finally I would like to come home — that is Australia."

Mr Pham established KOTO, formally known as Street Voices, in 1998 to lead disadvantaged Vietnamese youths in the right direction.

"They told me they needed a job, so I saw a need and acted on it," he said.

"Hospitality was the most transferable skill you can teach someone who only has an academic qualification of grade four."

KOTO provides 24-month programs teaching kids hospitality (certified through the Box Hill Institute of TAFE in Melbourne), English and life skills.

"What is more incredible is these kids are taught not only to be empowered and independent at the end of the program, but they are also able to teach others how to fish as well," he said.

KOTO was a learning curve for Mr Pham, who had no experience in hospitality.

"I guess when you love something so much, you are willing to learn and learn fast," he said.

"The biggest challenge would be finance. Working with a budget of $2 million and being responsible for over 200 kids' lives and over 100 staff can be overwhelming with the economic downturn.

"But it's always moments like these that you feel so proud to be an Australian."

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