Jimmy Pham has been a pillar of the Hanoian community for over 22 years. Born in Saigon but raised in Sydney, Jimmy keeps a foot in both camps which has allowed him to successfully operate in the hospitality sector in Vietnam, for over 22 years. Jimmy’s long history operating the KOTO social enterprise has allowed him to not only develop extensive experience in the social justice space, but also vast business networks within Vietnam. His high visibility among both expats and local Vietnamese has long been an asset that he has utilised by mentoring socially inclusive businesses into thriving institutions in Hanoi through the Centre for Social Initiatives Promotion.
Born in Vietnam in 1972 and moved to Australia as a young child with his mother and siblings, growing up in Sydney. He was interested in tourism and travel, and studied hospitality at school. One night, on his first trip back to Vietnam, Jimmy went for a walk and met some street kids. He noticed how dirty they were, and that they had blisters on their legs.
He asked, “Where do you shower?” and they replied, “We shower next to an open sewer.” The next day, he organised for that small group of street kids to have a proper wash. By the time he left Vietnam some two weeks later, word of his generosity had spread, and he was paying for 60 young people to wash and eat.
The concept of KOTO — Know One, Teach One — began when Jimmy asked some of these young people what they wanted out of life. They simply replied, “We need skills so we can find stable jobs.” He then decided that he wanted to come back to Vietnam on a long-term basis and make a difference. He didn't know how he was going to do it, he just knew that he wanted to help.
Without a doubt, what Jimmy started as a way to address poverty has transformed the social enterprise sector in Vietnam.
You have to be so passionate, driven, focused and love what you do so that no matter what comes your way, you can weather it.