Of all the social enterprises we were eager to meet during our trip to Hanoi, ToHe was the top of our list. Their vision and product range really spoke to our hearts because the prints they use on their cushions, toys, stationary and clothes, are all designed by children.
Despite being completely dazzled by the vibrancy and colour of the ToHe headquarters, we were delighted to be able to chat with Ms Hoa about the work that they do and were completely inspired by the origins of the brand because their story is similar to ours.
The three founders left good jobs to work with the less fortunate children in society. While working with these children, they realised that despite the social situation that the children found themselves in, they loved to draw and colour. Motivated by the children’s ability to embrace creativity, colour and happiness, despite their disadvantages, they decided to bring this message to life.
Initially they set up a free, creative playground where disadvantaged children could come and let their imagination run wild and creative juices flow uninhibited. So another idea was born. The artwork comes to life in the form of the products available for sale in the shop, most inspiring however, is that 5% of each sale goes directly to the artist themselves. The remainder of the funds go towards providing materials for the many creative playgrounds in centres around the city, that they have launched since their founding.
To add to their list of socially responsible credentials, they make a conscious effort to use recyclable materials where possible and impressively when they bring cartons of milk to the playgrounds for the children, they wash out the carton when they’re finished and then use it for their art! The initiative also provides employment for a small production team who create product samples from the children’s work as well as a manufacturing facility in a small province called, Ninh Binh, in the outskirts of Hanoi.
Every time we visit a social enterprise whether it is in Dublin or Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City, we are always amazed by the cycle of enhancement that they create in a community whether it is through employment, empowerment or education. It also makes us feel very proud to be part of that gang!