As far as Vu Hoang Duong is concerned, participating in the British Council’s Global Citizens Summer Camp was a formative experience that helped her realise what is important in life. The young woman is now happy with what she has. She works in a project management position for the non-government organisation (NGO) Oxfam in governance, overseeing projects of social significance as well as finding fulfillment in her role as a loving mother to two at home. Every day, she tells herself to live more responsibly, lovingly and in ways that benefit future generations.
The Young Global Citizens Programme (YGCP) is a British Council youth-centred initiative with the objective of cultivating a sense of local and global community and awareness about sustainable development. Vu Hoang Duong was accepted into the YGCP when she was a fresher at the Foreign Trade University. She was beginning to think more deeply about the outside world and wanted to make a difference. Through the YGCP and her relationship with the British Council, Duong became aware of things that mattered to her professional and personal lives. “That [was the] turning point!” Duong said, without any doubt.
Teaming up with other YGCP members from Vietnam (17 in total), she participated in a wide variety of activities to develop her cognisance and enhance her skills. She was able to share what she learned with those younger than her in the summer camps that followed. In 2007, Duong was selected to participate in a British Council event to meet global YGCP representatives in the UK. She has been invited ever since to share and connect with summer camp teams.
“It is interesting how the British Council brings together people who meet, innovate and create, and inspire one another to action,” she said. The young ones Duong met inspired her to live and to have passion in life. A Korean friend crossed continents to work as a volunteer and contribute to making positive changes. A Pakistani friend who later became a well-known TV anchor moved Duong with her story of how she survived through the hardship of war in her country.
Duong also truly learned how to respect differences. The 17 YGCP members came from different parts of Vietnam and disparate environments, yet had their own individual qualities. Because of this, they learned a lot from one another. There was a love of tap dancing, determination to build a hometown educational facility, chasing a dream to become an architect, a yoga instructor and so on. Living so close to such differences enlightened Duong: “Learning from one another’s way of life and respecting these differences makes life interesting and nuanced.”
An all-important influence for Duong came from contact with the British Council, a career choice. Getting to know British Council employees from the YGCP summer camp, she came to love the values enshrined by the British Council and knew she wanted to work for a NGO. Duong felt the dedication the British Council employees extended to young participants not only from their sense of responsibility, but from love, passion and the need to inspire and spread good values. Under such influences, Duong chose a socially meaningful topic for her Bachelor’s dissertation, Fair trade for coffee growers, before she applied for an internship at Oxfam and became an employee. She held firm in her belief that “working hard and being useful will have positive future impacts”, the same sentiments the British Council officers cultivated in her.
Another value inspired by the British Council is always being at the forefront. After the YGCP, she followed many British Council activities and realised she was “at the forefront”. For example, the concepts of global or active citizenship have only become more familiar with people recently through constant use, after the British Council introduced them in 2006. Personally, her entire career with Oxfam has followed that principle of being creative and at the forefront. A reward for Duong’s efforts can be seen through the Citizens’ Public Services Rating on Smartphones initiative, an Oxfam success story that Duong and her colleagues jointly initiated, raised funds for and convinced municipalities to implement and replicate. Another effort was the Tax Inclusiveness Initiative (a policy review and recommendation for tax reallocation to guarantee more inclusiveness between the rich and poor) that Duong helped develop and promote. This was rated as pioneering and timely, as Vietnam was in need of restructuring its tax system during a period when conventional revenues, from tariffs and oil for example, were dwindling.
More than a decade has passed since the YGCP, Duong still keeps in touch with her summer camp friends and British Council officers, to share memories and deep-rooted life values from the summer camps. She often says to herself: “If I don’t do this right, what will become of my children, future generations and the whole society, unless I help to build a foundation on which they can thrive?”
“It is interesting how the British Council brings people together to meet, innovate, create and inspire one another to action.”