Last Day in Vietnam – Saigon Children

Saigon Children

by Judy Ashbrook & Mayra Santiago

Today, we had the great pleasure to visit the students and administration of the Saigon Children’s Charity (SCC) – a very worthwhile local charity which focuses on poverty reduction through education and training.

After a very informative presentation by the Communication Development Manager, Do Thi Xuan Phuc, we got an opportunity to talk to a group of students, ages 14-22, about why higher education is important, potential career opportunities they can consider, as well as sharing personal stories in order to get to know one another.  There was a 20 minute dialogue back and forth sharing the importance of education, learning how it can help them in their life, and the students were very interested in learning about us and what we do! They heard about Margo’s work with the Disney internship program and learned that they could dream to be an intern and work at one day.  Mayra spoke about coming from Puerto Rico and choosing to immerse herself in the American cultural and way of life, becoming a leader in Disney Company. We also enjoyed interacting with the students and staff through an ice breaker in which we broke up into 3 groups, had 5 minutes to create a team name, brand slogan and how we’d promote ourselves, and then present to the group. Three distinguished teams emerged based on commonalities between Stetson students and Saigon students.  Our team was Magic Saigon – Magic to represent Magic Kingdom and Orlando Magic blended with their Saigon.  We pictured fireworks over the Saigon skyline, and decided we would sell ourselves by promising magic through creativity, education, and innovation.

The students in this school have the opportunity learn skills in many areas such as hospitality, beauty, IT, English and photography.  In order to fund their programs, SCC has many fund raising initiatives. For example, recently they have published a book of photographs taken by the students themselves reflecting Vietnam daily life. With proceeds from this book, SCC will be able to continue support the children of Vietnam with initiatives such as scholarship programs, school construction and training and educational development programs.

To end a wonderful time with this organization, we were able to show our support by purchasing several of the ‘coffee table’ books displaying this impressive collection of photographs  taken by students and compiled over 5 years.  We discussed on the bus to look for ways we could give back to them, and with 90% of the profits going directly back in the form of aid & scholarships these seemed perfect!  Our total donation came to around US$500 which we will be used to help the kids of Ho Chi Minh City to be empowered and self-sufficient. This visit was an extremely rewarding and apt way to end our time in Vietnam!


Saigon Children’s Charity is truly making a difference in the lives of the children in Vietnam every day.  We encourage you to follow this link below so that you can too can learn more about the Saigon Children’s Charity.

Cohort 9 International Trip itinerary

In just a few more days, Stetson Executive MBA Cohort 9 students will depart for their trip to Istanbul and Budapest! Here’s what’s on their plate after they arrive Saturday, June 16:

Sunday, June 17:

Cultural Day in Istanbul

Students will take a guided tour of Roman & Byzantine Era and Ottoman Istanbul, seeing such sights as the Hagia Sophia Museum, Hippodrome of Constantinople and the Underground Cistern. Then they’ll go to Topkapi Palace and the Sultan Ahmet Camii-Blue Mosque. Students will also have their Welcome Dinner on this evening.

Monday, June 18:

Business Visits and Bosphorus Cruise

Travelers on the Alumni/Guest trip will take a cruise on Istanbul's Bosphorus. Photo courtesy of GoToTurkey

Students will meet with executives from General Electric, Pozitron and Koc Holding. Ibrahim Gokcen of GE will give students an overview of Turkey and discuss the country’s role in the world economy. Firat Isbecer of Pozitron, a mobile and alternative communications company, will teach students about entrepreneurship in Turkey and the role of government in Turkish businesses. At Koc Holding, Funda Gundor will talk about holding companies in Turkey’s private sector.

After the business visits, students get to go on a cruise down the Bosphorus for astonishing views of the European and Asian sides of the Bosphorus Strait.

Tuesday, June 19

Business Visit and Dancing

Executives from Divan Hotels will meet with students to discuss Turkey’s tourism and hospitality industries. Later, students can visit the Grand & Spice Bazaar and enjoy a show at Turkish Dance Night at Hodjapasha.

Wednesday, June 20

Business Visit and Travel

Executives from Mercedes-Benz Turk A.S. will explain why such a world-renowned car manufacturer chose Turkey for its operations. The students will then travel to Budapest for the second part of their trip.

Thursday, June 21

Business Visits

Students will learn from executives at Nokia and IND Group. Yrjo Eskola, director of operations at Nokia, will discuss the company’s strategies, both global and local. Later, Tamas Braun and Adrienn Barath of IT company IND Group will teach students about the marketing strategies of a company that’s expanding within Hungary.

Friday, June 22

Business Visit and Budapest Tour

During a trip to Budapest Bank, students will learn about the impact of the financial crisis on the local economy and compare it to the situation in the United States. Later, they’ll tour Budapest, with stop-offs at the Parliament, the Royal Castle, the Fisherman’s Bastion and the Citadel, followed by a river cruise.

Saturday, June 23

Budapest Safari Park

The students’ final day of the trip will be spent participating in a philanthropic effort. Students will take children who are in state care to the Budapest Safari Park and help them solve animal-related tasks at stations throughout the park. Solving the exercises will involve cooperation of the children, volunteers and cohort members.

Who’s ready for the trip?

Stetson’s donation to help Oakhaven residents open hair salon

Residents at Oakhaven plan to use Cohort 8's donation to set up their own hair salon.

Today, the residents of Oakhaven Home for the Aged will formally accept the check donated to them by executives in Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 8.

With $73 collected at Stetson’s Executive MBA Alumni Event in May, plus contributions from Cohort 8 and Stetson University, the students were able to present the residents of Oakhaven with $200 to use as needed. On July 3, the residents will be presented with the check during a special service at their church, New Apostolic Faith.

Francis Chamarengah helped coordinate the executives’ visit at the home. “The church and the home both have expressed their sincere gratitude for your visit and donation,” said Chamarengah to Wendy Lowe, Stetson Executive MBA program coordinator.

“They have been trying to open a small hair salon for the seniors at the home,” continued Chamarengah, “and the church will assist them in getting more equipment and items to get this salon going. Your donation will definitely go a long way in making this a reality.”

Cohort 7 performed the first philanthropic visit as a part of the international trip last year when the group prepared a meal for monks in Vietnam. Cohort 8 continuted the tradition this year at Oakhaven, and based on the enthusiasm expressed from the students in both cohorts and the groups they visited, this type of experience may become customary for the Stetson Executive MBA program’s international trips.

Cohort 8 visits seniors in South Africa for philanthropic experience

Denise Edelmeier, left, visits with a resident named Denise at Oakhaven Home for the Aged in Cape Town.

Members of Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 8 wanted to give something to the South African people in return for their adventure in the nation. After careful consideration, the cohort selected a retirement home as the best place to visit and provide support. This decision was made in part because of the age of residents who could share what it was like to live through Apartheid during this evolutionary century of change.

The cohort visited Oakhaven Home for the Aged, coordinated with the assistance of Francis Chamarengah of Cross Cultural Solutions. “Oakhaven is not a place for old people to live before they pass, but it’s a place for the living,” said the local director, Ms. McPherson, “It’s their home. We work tirelessly to provide an environment that allows residents the freedom to go about their day in a manner that feels most comfortable to them.”

At Oakhaven, residents can participate in organized games, exercises and movie viewings. Oakhaven provides total care (health, emotional, spiritual) for its residents, including medication, meals, laundry and hygiene services. Oakhaven houses more than 100 residents, 50 years of age and older.

Victor, age 84, is a retired carpenter who built one of the first skyscrapers in downtown Cape Town. He said he loves living at Oakhaven. He doesn’t have any family in the area, so he relies on his friendships at Oakhaven to provide company and support emotionally.

McPherson said Victor’s situation is not unusual for Oakhaven residents. Few have consistent visitors, and the students’ brief time visiting will not only be incredibly stimulating for the residents, but it will boost their morale for days and weeks to come, especially upon learning about the students and their lives in the United States.

Residents gave members of Cohort 8 a tour of their home at Oakhaven.

Cohort members mingled with the residents for more than an hour. Student Denise Edelmaier was captivated by a resident, also named Denise, who was born and raised in Cape Town and in earlier years was a seamstress making dresses in a factory. Jason Plas and some fellow students spent time with light-hearted residents Christine and Gloria. And resident Sam was a very sweet man who was more than happy to share his smile. He seemed very content to be a father of four, but it was sad for the students to see that he struggled to remember his children’s names.

“I could see that visiting with the seniors meant a lot to them,” said student Eric O’Leary. “The fact that they do not receive visitors is sad, and sharing time with the seniors was very rewarding.”

During the cohort’s time with the retirees, many residents requested photos, which the students gladly took and shared. At the conclusion of the visit, Cohort 8 presented Oakhaven Home for the Aged a donation equivalent to $200 (U.S.), a portion of which was raised at Stetson Executive MBA’s Alumni Event.

“You forever made a positive impact on Oakhaven and its residents,” said McPherson to the students upon their departure. The students concurred after leaving that they too had been forever changed by the conversations they had there and the time they spent with the retirees.