Based in Hoi An, Streets International provides an invaluable bridge for disadvantaged youth, taking them from extreme poverty and a life on the streets to a brighter future with career prospects and dignity, for themselves and their families.
Founded as a social enterprise in 2007 by hospitality consultant Neal Burmas, Streets International runs 18-month culinary training programmes at their multiple facilities in the historic old town of Hoi An. It’s here they welcome some of Vietnam’s poorest teenagers and young adults to their tightknit community, teaching them essential life skills, a solid command of English and the culinary skills which are the key to their future careers.
Those who pass the rigorous entry requirements for the programme must be a minimum of 17 years old, so they are legally eligible to start work and their careers on completion of the course. Whilst studying with Streets, trainees are accommodated in supervised housing, provided with health cover and community support, a small monthly stipend, and the opportunity to learn skills that can take them on to careers in top end hotels and restaurants worldwide.
The training programme includes class-room learning with international instructors, as well as hands-on experience, observation and practice at the Streets Restaurant and Café in the heart of Hoi An’s tourist area. The restaurant’s menu features the highest standard of contemporary Vietnamese and international cuisine, equipping trainees with the skills needed to prosper in the culinary and hospitality industry.
Another project run by Streets is Oodles of Noodles which offers tourists an authentic Vietnamese culinary experience and gives trainees the opportunity to further practice their newly acquired English language skills. Operating in partnership with G Adventures, the largest small group adventure travel company in the world, Oodles of Noodles introduces tourists to a variety of local Vietnamese noodles and gives them the chance to practice making their own.
During their time with Streets, trainees undergo apprenticeships with full-time professional staff, some of whom are previous graduates. The training programme is designed to support youngsters who lack academic skills but who demonstrate the aptitude and attitude required for a career in the hospitality industry.
The programme not only teaches trainees how to cook and serve in high-end restaurants and hotels, but also develop the agility and flexibility needed to compete confidently in the highly competitive tourism industry, especially one requiring competency in English language.
Since its founding, Streets International has graduated over 200 trainees, most of whom find work within two months of completing the programme. Many have gone on to take jobs at five-star hotels, restaurants and resorts where they are able to command salaries that would have been unimaginable before they entered the life changing programme.
Since April 2018, Streets International has partnered with AsiaLIFE and Oi Vietnam magazines to raise awareness of their work and to provide scholarship funding for future trainees through a social enterprise called Small Change Vietnam.