Tuấn Nguyễn lost his vision when he was 19.
At the time, he was a sophomore in a Vietnamese university and had to quit school because he couldn’t keep up with his schoolwork.
There are millions of visually impaired people in Vietnam, and they face enormous educational, professional, and social barriers – inaccessible university examinations impeding their graduation, frequent denials from employers, and stereotypes and discrimination in their communities.
Motivated to create equal opportunity for the blind, Tuấn joined UNICEF’s UPSHIFT Incubator pilot in Vietnam, which aims to help youth take entrepreneurial action and address local challenges they find in their communities. Leveraging his expertise in IT, Tuấn and his team developed a job board and online forum for blind people, both to connect candidates with employers, as well as offer virtual support services and mentoring. The website launched in December of last year.
Tuấn’s story shows us what young people can achieve when they have the skills and opportunities. That’s why today, UNICEF and Pearson are proud to announce a partnership to scale the UPSHIFT programme in Vietnam and introduce a similar programme based on the same principles in Myanmar. Together we hope to empower more young people like Tuan and his team; to equip them with 21st century and employability skills.
Southeast Asia is currently experiencing a staggering youth boom, with more than half of the 630 million people in the region under the age of 20. This is a huge proportion of young people who have the potential to significantly boost the prosperity, stability, and well-being of their countries; to create a future in which they will thrive.
This joint programme will aim to encourage just that. Through a series of workshops, vulnerable and marginalised youth will learn crucial skills such as critical thinking, communication, teamwork, entrepreneurship, and project management. Just as Tuấn and his team did, they will then have the opportunity to apply these skills, identifying and analysing real-world challenges and problems in their communities.
We know that businesses have the scale, investment, and expertise to help address the world’s biggest challenges. In addition to investing over $1 million, Pearson will contribute to curriculum development, mentoring for participants, and workshop facilitation, to scale up the great work piloted by UNICEF and help empower more young people with better jobs and better lives.
Together, Pearson and UNICEF see the opportunity to directly reach over 3,000 young people in Myanmar and Vietnam, which will in turn impact positively on tens of thousands of their peers as the UPSHIFT ideas and innovations take effect in communities.
Working together, we can help to empower and enable these young people to fulfill their potential and leave a legacy in their communities. We look forward to reporting back on our successes and learnings over the coming year.
By Kate James and Mike Penrose, Exec Director, UNICEF.
Find out more about the UNICEF Pearson partnership here.
Read related stories on UPSHIFT:
UPSHIFT Vietnam: Impact through Incubation
UPSHIFT: Putting Youth in the Driving Seat of Change