July 25, 2023
Amidst the serene landscapes of a small village in Vietnam, Trang's family faced the struggles of poverty, relying on selling sweet cakes for their livelihood until an unforeseen mishap pushed them further into financial distress. However, in the face of adversity, Trang's unwavering determination and a unique bond with a special friend led her to an unexpected path of empowerment through her education, propelling her from YouTube obscurity to remarkable success. Her story stands as a testament to the incredible transformative power of education in shaping lives and dreams.
In recent decades, Vietnam has focused on the modernization of its education system to achieve further economic growth. The government has increased its education spending, which stood at 14 percent in 2018, after peaking at 19 percent in 2012, according to the World Bank. Education is free and compulsory for children until the age of 11. However, UNESCO reports that current reforms seek to universalize and extend compulsory education until age 15.
Despite these efforts, educational costs in certain regions contribute to growing inequalities. Students from poor, rural and ethnic backgrounds such as those who reside in the Mekong Delta and Highland regions, are more likely to drop out between ages 6–15. Based on a recent UNESCO report, many primary schools charge a variety of supplementary fees for textbooks, uniforms and other materials, and secondary schools are allowed to charge tuition and other fees. In addition, many parents pay for private lessons for their children to ensure academic success. This causes children from low-income families — such as economically disadvantaged ethnic minorities — to fall behind. This results in a significant education access and achievement gap.
In a quaint thatched hut, nestled in a small village in Vietnam, Trang and her family struggled to make ends meet by selling sweet cakes at the nearby market. One fateful day, disaster struck when their boat capsized, and all their cakes were lost to the river's depths. With the family's financial situation now dire, Trang's determination to pull them out of poverty was ignited. Little did she know that her extraordinary bond with a special friend would lead to a journey beyond her wildest dreams.
As Trang pondered her family's predicament, she found solace in her special connection with animals, particularly Bim Bim, the lone white duck in a flock of black birds. Identifying with Bim Bim's isolation, Trang began to wonder if their unique friendship could bring joy to others as well.
In the midst of her daily struggles, Trang heard whispers about a platform called YouTube, where people shared their stories and talents with the world. Inspired to become an actor, she saw this as an opportunity to showcase her bond with Bim Bim and, in turn, hopefully earn some money to support her family.
With nothing more than an old phone, Trang embarked on her YouTube journey. Though her early videos garnered little attention, she persisted, recording moments like Bim Bim's birthday party, cooking lessons and dancing. Through life skills classes, as part of Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program, Trang learned how to become more confident in herself and persevere in the face of hardships. She also learned the importance of time management, as she figured out how to balance her new passion for YouTube while also focusing on her studies at school.
Trang's unwavering dedication finally paid off when her YouTube channel gained momentum, attracting a dedicated fanbase. To her astonishment, she received YouTube's prestigious Silver Creator Button Award, commemorating her success in reaching 100,000 subscribers. What began as a dream had grown into something truly remarkable.
Trang's path from a small thatched hut to YouTube stardom is a tale of perseverance, friendship and the power of dreaming big. Her ability to turn adversity into opportunity, while inspiring others along the way, stands as a testament to the boundless potential inside of every girl. Through her extraordinary journey, Trang reminds us to look beyond our circumstances and embrace the magic that awaits when we dare to believe in ourselves.
Trang is one of the girls featured in She Creates Change, Room to Read’s multimedia storytelling initiative to promote gender equality through the stories of young women. The project includes six animated and live action short films that profile how brave young women like Trang in historically low-income communities have utilized skills and mentorship to overcome obstacles in their lives — from food scarcity to harassment to early marriage. She Creates Change aims to inspire young women everywhere to see themselves as the heroes of their own stories.
The She Creates Change film series, which will be released in October 2023 to commemorate International Day of the Girl, aims to reach all 432 million adolescent girls globally with content and educational curriculum that supports them in creating change in their communities.