Hanoi is a city brimming with life. Fast paced and full of energy Hanoi has so much to offer, especially for the responsible traveller.
Inside this energetic city are many socially conscious organisations giving tourists the opportunity to give a little back. Vietnam’s growing social enterprise movement is greatly visible here in Hanoi and below is a guide to finding some of those community based organisations changing lives in Vietnam.
Responsible places to eat
Joma Coffee is a famous bakery and café that is committed to serving fair trade, organic coffee with a socially responsible agenda. Joma gives 2% of every sale back to people and the planet through various organisations in Vietnam and Laos, including Hagar International, an organisation committed to the recovery, empowerment and community reintegration of women and children who have survived human rights abuse.
Joma has a range of coffees, teas, shakes and a delicious selection of sweets available to customers.
Tea Talk is a social enterprise that offers their space to youth and adult development workshops.
The Centre for Counselling, Research & Empowering Community (CoRE) is the charity arm of Tea Talk Café. Their aim is to enhance the wellbeing of individuals, groups and families by providing individual and family counselling services, life skills trainings, enrichment workshops and a host of community involvement opportunities.
Visit this warm and cosy café on the outskirts of Hanoi, and you might even get the chance to meet with the owner, Michael, and hear about the story behind Tea Talk.
Donkey Bakery is a socially responsible café in Hanoi that provides vocational training and support to people with disabilities, with the majority of their team members being hearing, visually or physically impaired, or from disadvantaged communities. They aim to provide their staff with a stronger sense of independence, confidence and greater opportunities for now and the future.
The café offers great coffee, juices and a selection of sandwiches, donuts and sweet treats. They also run a catering business for events.
KOTO, meaning Know One, Teach One, is a social enterprise providing training opportunities to disadvantaged youth in Vietnam. The restaurant in Hanoi is one of their business models that generates income to support the operational costs of KOTO as a whole, to improve KOTO’s capacity to train more students.
The multi-level restaurant serves as professional platform for KOTO trainees to fine tune their skills in hospitality service and culinary arts, while at the same time providing guests with a warm and charming venue to enjoy fantastic food and service.
KOTO have now opened up a smaller ‘street-food’ restaurant next door to the original one so those on a backpackers budget can still support the work they do. Stop by for an amazing Pho for only 55,000 dong.
Pots N Pans is another arm of the KOTO social enterprise, providing a working environment for graduates of KOTO’s vocational training program. Their menu is a little bit more upmarket but it’s a great place to visit if you feel like splurging for a great cause.
Responsible places to shop
Craft Link is a Vietnamese not-for-profit fair trade organisation that sells a range of handicrafts produced by ethnic minorities, disadvantaged groups and traditional villagers from around Vietnam. As a member of WFTO Asia, Craft Link adheres to all 10 principles of fair trade, which includes providing a fair wages and working conditions to their producers.
Visit their large showroom in Hanoi for a range of fair trade products produced by the people of Vietnam. Know that what you buy has been made with fairness.
Tohe is a social enterprise that organises weekly art classes for disadvantaged children, including children in orphanages, children with disabilities, children in hospitals or children in remote areas. The classes give the children a chance to express themselves through the arts and, afterwards, the art works of the children are selected by Tohe’s designers to be used on their products.
A portion of the sale of the products you purchase will be used to support the Creativity & Arts Training Program with the aim to support these children by creating opportunities for them to develop their creative ability.
Shop through the unique range of handcrafts and toys and bring home a souvenir with meaning.
Sapa O’Chau, the first ethnic minority owned and run international tour operator in Vietnam, has recently opened a second office in Hanoi and house a Hmong Handicraft Showroom where you can shop through a range of fair trade contemporary designed accessories infused with Hmong motifs.
Sapa O'Chau is a grass roots community development project helping Sapa's children and young people gain fair access to education and employment. All profits made through the shop go towards the running of their many projects in Sapa and other areas of Vietnam.
Chie Design has 3 shops in Hanoi that specialise in selling handicrafts made by ethnic groups in north west Vietnam. The products are made using natural materials that are friendly to the environment and human health, for example hemp plants. Find a range of handicrafts including toys, fashion, home décor and many more.
Chie Design aspires to help maintain the weaving occupation and the unique traditions and cultures of the north western minority groups of Vietnam.
Responsible things to do
Hanoi Kids is a student run organisation that offers tours to English speaking visitors in exchange for the opportunity to practice English.
Established in 2006, Hanoi Kids and their tourism model have made their way to number 1 on Trip Advisor’s top tours in Hanoi, as well as earned a certificate of excellence 4 years running.
Volunteers give their time to take visitors around Hanoi on a range of tailor-made tours that can include anything from a grand tour of the city to a visit to a nearby pottery village. All in exchange for some cross-cultural communication.
Hanoi Free Walking Tours is another organisation run by students who voluntarily give their time to take tourists to visit the appealing sceneries, unique lifestyle and thousand-year cultural identity of Hanoi. All students are completing some kind of tertiary education in English and the tours greatly help them to practice their language skills while showing people around Hanoi.
One of my favourite tours is the street food tour where you try all the wonderful and wacky Vietnamese cuisines from the north, in places that only the locals would go. It’s such an authentic experience.
Backstreet Academy is a social enterprise providing tailor-made tours created by locals. They have a number of unique, cultural tours in Hanoi, which include participating in some of Vietnam’s ancient traditions like stamp making, knife making and even leather making.
If you’re a foodie there are also a number of food based tours you will enjoy, which include cooking classes, street food tours and a coffee appreciation tour that takes you to all the best cafes in town to try some world famous Vietnamese coffee.
Pack for a purpose is a travel community dedicated to positively impacting communities around the world by assisting travellers who want to take meaningful contributions to the destinations they visit. The idea is that travellers find a project to support in the area that they are travelling to and either take or buy products for those in need.
Buffalo Tours is the drop off point in Hanoi for anyone interested in making a donation. You can find a list of needs by following this link. Even if you didn’t pack these in your suitcase you can easily buy many of the products from stores in Hanoi for a cheap price.
Do you know of any other responsible activities in Hanoi? If so please let me know by commenting in the section below or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add to the list.
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