Whether you’re travelling for a short time or thinking of relocating for a longer time it’s 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, build support programs around them, identify a local business that wants to give back to the local community to assist in administering our programs, 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 programs, they commit to running them for many years, ensuring consistency of management and operations while providing scalability for the Take Time model.
How did this foundation come about?
Whenever those at Take Time spent a large block of time in any country, they want to give back…do something for the people that are typically the essential ingredient of enjoyment in that country. At first, we always looked for existing organisations to join, places that can leverage our time, experience, and money. If we can find charities that tick all our boxes, we join them. If we cannot, we decide to start our own, like Take Time.
And why is this important to you as an organisation?
All of us at Take Time have led a very blessed life. Good family, good friends, successful professional lives. We believe anyone with those elements underpinning their own lives have a responsibility to help others less fortunate.
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 programs. 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 program has been a smashing success with the traveller community. We receive 10-20 emails a week with people telling us that joining in one of our programs was the best thing they did while touring Vietnam. And our business partners are benefitting. They are known now for being socially responsible business that gives 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 programs in all the other cities in which they operate in Vietnam. As of this moment, Take Time’s plan for the next four months see us opening support programs 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 (read: 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 programs, 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 ‘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 that even if they believe in our work or trust us, 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 programs 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 ‘programs’ 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 programs 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.
Is there a follow up programme after the children come of age?
Take Time is currently only supporting existing charities not operating our own. We believe that local charities started organically and operated by locals are going to be the most successful in the long run. However, we recognise that local organisations often need help; that is what Take Time was created to provide.
With respect to our children ‘coming of age’, we want to provide support in advance of that time so that they are prepared for their life after the orphanage. Where our supported orphanages have incremental programs for supporting their ‘graduates’ we will get involved there as we continue to expand our reach.
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 financial donations will 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.
For more information, contact Take Time:
Facebook: Take Time VN