It was 2008 at York University, Toronto, Canada. A young Vietnamese student was waiting for her first class on Development Studies to begin. Her interest in International Relations had faded. She had ventured to York University with the dream of becoming a diplomat to represent her country. Now she couldn’t help wondering whether her dream was too naïve. The political games, the moves and counter-moves of the world’s powers couldn’t appeal to her. Disillusioned and somewhat disoriented, she took a mentor’s suggestion to try Development Studies. She didn’t know what to expect. Certainly, she didn’t expect the course to change her life forever.
That young Vietnamese woman was ClickSpace member Ly Tran. And yes, her life did change. As Ly studied the world’s economic structures, the struggles of developing countries resonated deeply with her. Frankly they made her heart sink. Ly saw her native Vietnam in a new light, and in her heart she knew she had found a new direction.
In 2011, a freshly minted bachelor in International Development Studies and Non-profit Management, Ly returned to Vietnam for hands-on experience. She soon joined Bloom Microventures, a registered UK NGO that supports rural communities in developing countries.
Ly Tran – 2nd from left to right
Microcredit and Rural Tourism
At Bloom Microventures, Ly and her team improve the lives of the women farmers through microcredit and rural tourism. She explains: “Many farmers still live on harvest-based income, which is often an annual lump sum. With microcredit in the form of small loans, they’re able to diversify the crops, lower the risks, and have additional income for their families.”
Rural tourism is a unique aspect of Bloom Microventures’s business model. Staying away from mainstream tourism, rural tourism focuses on creating destinations in places that may be economically poor but cultural and environmentally rich. Off the beaten path, travelers enjoy authentic farm tours, field trips, interacting and working with farmers. All are in harmony with the natural landscape.
Ly enthusiastically shows me some farmstay photos on Bloom Microventures’ Facebook. She seems very proud about this recent project. Built by the local family with support from Bloom Microventures, the beautiful rural lodge provides travelers with good comfort after a long day exploring the rural life.
“Our model is simple enough not to distract the farmers from their agriculture work. We want to encourage them to stay where they belong, do what they do best; and still get the extra source of income,” Ly emphasized.
A Promise Kept
What Bloom Microventures has achieved did not come easily. Back in 2012, soon after Ly joined, with the departure of key original executives, It fell to Ly to fill the leadership vacuum.
“I did not join Bloom prepared or interested in taking a leadership role,” Ly shares with bewilderment in her voice. ”To be honest, I had very specific learning goals and didn’t want to worry about all the entrepreneurial problems. But I did not have a choice.”
If no one stepped up, all the projects would collapse. Ly couldn’t bear to see that happen.
“The promise we made with the farmers in the villages felt so personal. I made a personal commitment to fulfill that promise.”
Ly leaned in to keep her promise.
A Changemaker’s Attitude
Thinking back to that important moment in York University when she was exposed to the world’s issues, Ly recalled a feeling of depression.
“It hits most students in Development Studies – we see all the wrong things in the world. Then we end up either depressed or cynical,” she smiled.
What pulled her out of that dark place was the drive to do something.
“I try to focus on initiatives. There may be no perfect solution, but actions must be taken.”
Ly is right. Someone needs to roll his sleeves up and get down to business. Otherwise, nothing will change.
“In Development Studies I learned that each country has its unique development path, defined by the interplay of many factors,” Ly asserts. “The growth paths are not the same and not linear.”
Through Bloom Microventures, Ly and her team hope to contribute what they can to blaze a trail for Vietnam.
Find out more about Ly Tran and Bloom Microventures: