The Shelter Collection was founded in 2004 by Danish national Ole Riis in collaboration with the Danish Vietnamese Association. Father of two adopted Vietnamese children, Ole was motivated to give something to the country they came from, especially as the social care systems for children in Vietnam were not developing at the same extent as the economy.

Initially funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), Ole created a volunteer committee of dedicated professionals from education and development backgrounds, well suited to work with local NGOs in Vietnam and to ensure transparency and sustainability of the project. A year later, in 2005, the Shelter Collection partnered with the Little Rose Warm Shelter (LRWS) in Ho Chi Minh City to provide support for vulnerable girls, particularly those who had suffered sexual abuse.

Since forming the partnership, LRWS has housed more than 300 girls aged between 9 and 18, many of whom are survivors of sexual exploitation or human trafficking. The shelter provides a welcome refuge for the girls, and working closely with local collaborators they offer psychological rehabilitation, opportunities to go to school, free healthcare and a supportive, loving environment in which to grow.

Ensuring access to regular and relevant education is a key part in helping the young girls to fulfil their potential while in care. By professionally integrating essential skills training into the programmes they run, the Shelter Collection supports girls with tuition fees, life skills development, career counselling, and work placement opportunities.

LRWS has an additional team of counsellors and teachers working to assess specific needs of the girls, and to ensure that safety and individual progress is at the focus of their development.

Sexual abuse remains a culturally sensitive topic in Vietnam and there are few organisations actively offering support to vulnerable and marginalised youth and their families. Working together, LRWS and the Shelter Collection tackle a broad range of culturally sensitive social issues including school drop-outs, exploitative child labour, drug addiction, HIV/AIDS welfare, sexual abuse and human trafficking.

A central part of the Shelter Collection’s work includes community outreach and advocacy of child rights. In partnership with the Danish Special-Pedagogical Publishing Company and the Philippine based Stairway Foundation, they have developed some of the first and best teaching materials in Vietnam for Social and Emotional Learning and Child Sexual Abuse Prevention.

A core group of 12 instructors hold regular workshops about sexual abuse and emotional difficulties in schools and local government facilities, with participants attending the training sessions then returning to their communities to share their knowledge.

Combining this with large public awareness campaigns and the distribution of leaflets highlighting the dangers of sexual abuse, they are helping spread the word that it is no longer acceptable to deny a child the right to grow up in an environment that is safe, clean and free of violence.