An old story which teaches us that each and every one of us can contribute to making the world a better place is the reason behind the organization’s name - „Sao Bien“ which is the Vietnamese word for starfish.
'The starfish' story or 'We Can Make A Difference'
While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance bending down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean. As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water. He came closer and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?” The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.” The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and it is low tide. If I don’t throw them in now, they’ll die.” Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young man, do you not realise that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!” The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It has made a difference to this one.”
The story („The Star Thrower“), written by Loren Eiseley, was first published in 1969 in „The Unexpected Universe“ and many different versions of it have been written since then.
Sao Bien. Room for Education.
At the beginning of 2016, after 15 years in asset management, Thomas decided to go to Vietnam to work as a volunteer.
He was so deeply impressed by the honest hospitality, the openness and thirst for knowledge that he decided to found an NGO supporting education in Vietnam.
With the active support of „Verein für Soziale Gerechtigkeit‘ (Organization for Social Justice) and three enthusiastic board members, he quickly raised initial donations for his project. A short time afterwards, Sao Bien was registered as a non-profit organization in Austria.
The organization aims to give children between the ages of 6 and 11 access to quality education by building schools in very remote and very poor villages in Vietnam. In this way it aims to contribute to the children’s right for education, as anchored in the Sustainable Development Goals. More …
Sao Bien solely focuses on those areas in Vietnam which, due to their location and poverty, have not received sufficient support from the State and other NGOs in the past. These areas are mostly populated by ethnic minorities.
Many organizations shy away from the logistical troubles and additional costs that are often connected with these remote locations.
Sao Bien involves the local people and local authorities as well as teachers from the very beginning. This ensures a high degree of identification with the project and, at the same time, guarantees that the school exactly matches the specific needs of the particular village.
Agreements with the local authorities ensure a proper use of the building after completion.
The project is implemented with the help of different local partners whose support is essential in particular for finding a suitable location, contact with local authorities and a smooth and efficient implementation.
High efficiency is achieved by a lean organization with an experienced project manager based in Vietnam and a NGO-experienced board based in Vienna that handle financials, risk management and legal aspects. Therefore, no money is wasted on headquarters and other overhead costs, but reaches the children in need.
The focus of an international organization on these regions will eventually raise awareness of the problematic situation of these minority groups.
04/2016 Thomas’ first volunteering stay in Hanoi, Vietnam
07/2016 Thomas’ second volunteering stay in Hanoi, Vietnam
8/2016 Launch Facebook Page
9/2016 Registration as non-profit organization (Austria)
10/2016 Letter of support from the Austrian Ambassador in Hanoi
11/2016 Completion of project 1
2/2017 Completion of project 2
3/2017 Cooperation with ngo-shoes
4/2017 Chimney talk Thomas at Idealism Prevails
5/2017 Award Ceremony Sozialmarie (Austrian Audience Award 2017)
5/2017 Completion project 3
5/2017 Article in Viet Nam News und Vietnam Economic Times-The Guide
6/2017 Charity Event in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)
7/2017 Launch Website
8/2017 Article in Austrian Kronen Zeitung
8/2017 Completion of project 4
9/2017 Charity Event in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) - Chuck's Burger
9/2017 Completion of project 5
11/2017 APA-OTS press release(German only)
12/2017 Story on VTV 4 (Channel 4 of Vietnamese State broadcasting)
12/2017 Completion project 6
1/2018 Completion project 7 (Gemeinschaftsprojekt mit VSNL)
7/2018 Completion projekt 9
7/2018 Completion project 10