Prepared according to one of its trainee’s recipes, the Wok Shrimp in Wonton Rolls at Streets Restaurant Cafe in Hoi An are something special. Yes, all the ingredients come from selected local markets. And all the waste from preparing and cooking the dish is used to feed local pigs. But what makes it most remarkable is that the trainees behind the recipe – were all previously from a vulnerable, orphaned, trafficked, out-of-school, or otherwise disadvantaged background. Set up in 2009, Streets International runs an 18 month residential program, including a Training Centre, Restaurant Café, Noodle Culinary Centre, and Bakery Cafe in Hoi An, Vietnam. To date, nearly 250 young trainees have learned hospitality, culinary, English, life skills lessons and apprenticed there. Each trainee is provided with study materials and full daily living support, including nutritious meals, supervised housing, clothing, uniforms, active social support, monthly allowance, health examination and basic medical care. For most of them, this is the first and only real chance to transition from poverty and life on the streets to the dignity of self-sufficiency that comes with a successful career in the hospitality industry. Perhaps the most remarkable thing, however, is that 100% of the trainees have had gainful employment upon graduation. Streets has forged partnerships with the likes of Hyatt, Intercontinental, Healing Hotels Consortium, La Residence, as well as specialty boutique resorts, such as The Nam Hai, and leading travel companies, including G Adventure and Trails of Indochina. It’s thanks to these partnerships that all of its graduates have secured starting positions at five-star resorts and hotels.
Not only does this help them on the path to self-sufficiency, it enables them to support their families and the communities they come from. Streets International also runs many tours – especially the Oodles of Noodles Tour developed with G Adventures/Planeterra and the Market Tour. Both are guided by Streets Trainees, taking more than 10, 000 visitors each year to experience authentic culinary experiences, while providing the trainees with excellent opportunities to practise their English and interact with international guests. Where many of these youth knew nothing other than the streets, now they make their living sharing their unique knowledge with people visiting Hoi An for the first time.