Need a Motorbike? Rent, buy, or service one at VIP BIKES in Hanoi. 

Training Disadvantaged Boys -

Ngu squats beside the smoothly running Honda motorbike at VIP Motorcycles at 64 Alley 71 Tan Ap, Ba Dinh, in Ha Noi. The newly rebuilt engine sounds perfect, the exhaust purring like a kitten, the valves ticking gently in perfect harmony. A smile crosses his face, an expression every young man deserves: one of satisfaction and accomplishment and pride in a job well done.

The shop is a dingy sanctuary where disadvantaged boys take refuge from a world that has not treated them kindly, has abused and cast them out like so much unneeded waste. Ngu's (not his real name) story is typical of the boys who enter the shop seeking safety and kindness and the right to learn a trade and eventually earn their way in the world using much needed skills.

Ngy's parents, simple tribal people, sold him to a sweatshop for $30. He was taken with other children to Saigon and locked into a factory, never allowed out of the building, fed just two small meals a day and worked from seven AM until midnight seven days a week. He is a bright boy and spent his days plotting his escape.

He discovered only one small barred window in the building barely large enough to squeeze through. Fortunately the bars were old and loose and one night he managed to pry them apart. Several boys busted free from the concrete and scrapped through the aperture and into the moonlight. Finding his way 800 miles back to his village seemed impossible and the authorities eventually discovered him. They knew about Andrew Soto, owner of VIP Motorcycles, who volunteered to take him in, care for him, and teach him the trade of motorcycle mechanic.

Andrew has done his own share of wandering and, like Ngu, found his home in Hanoi. A certified car and diesel mechanic from Australia, he knocked about the world until finding himself in Viet Nam. Enchanted by the warmth and kindness of the people he had finally found the country for which he was looking. He also recognized the need to help the many disadvantaged boys, boys lost and confused and with no trade. Every young man needs work and a usable and satisfying skill.

Soto is a quiet man quick to smile with a kindness that hangs about him like old coveralls. Instructions to his boys are given gently and with the understanding that they had difficult lives and deserve to be treated kindly and with respect. Their admiration and affection for him are apparent. They understand his willingness to help them and appreciate his efforts.

Andrew's wife is a great asset to his business. Petite, even by Vietnamese standards, she interprets effortlessly, and adds to the bowl of smiles in the shop. Her specialty is accounting and her intelligence is quickly apparent. Together they make an excellent team and role models.

Viet Nam is overflowing with motorbike shops, yet few knowledgeable mechanics. Anyone, experienced or not, can open a shop. They often piece together parts and do shoddy work. Andrew offers boys a chance to be efficient, effective, and skilled mechanics who perform quality work and who can go into the world and become successful.

VIP Motorcycles is a small discrete shop off an alley. Unlike many motorcycle shops the business is neat and clean, tools arranged in files, oil on the floor kept to a minimum. Cans of lubricants stand like colorful soldiers on shelves and tires dangle like necklaces from the ceiling. A computer sits amongst the piles of paperwork at a small desk under a glowing light whose slight flickering gives a constant and feint heartbeat.

Up the narrow staircase a door opens to the classroom. A colorful plastic motorcycle sits at one end of the room; sticky notes advertising various and crucial parts. The boys are eager to learn about motorcycles; not as eager to learn math and other academic skills that Soto requires. The boys all suffer through English classes. Twelve trainees are enrolled at a time, as many as Soto can accommodate.

With the help of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, Soto originally started his vocational training and rental program in 2008. It took 18 months to establish the shop and program before he broke away to run the shop on his own. Lars and Julie Jaegar donated money for equipment from their Partner’s Group Company and St. Joseph’s supplied money for training.

The rental section of the business stared with just three motorbikes. They now have over fifty and growing. The boys all work on the bikes and keep them in top shape. They also rebuild bikes for sale and service others. They have a reputation for quality and guaranteed work.

Soto enjoys working with the boys. The biggest problem is finding homes for them while in training. The training goes beyond motorbikes and skills used in any business are taught. They learn about punctuality, listening skills, and how to follow directions, abilities that have allowed several boys to take jobs outside the motorcycle business.

Soto leans down and listens to the rebuilt engine. He smiles and pats Ngu on the shoulder. With his new skills, an open road lies ahead.



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