KOTO stands for Know One, Teach One - learning should be passed on; knowledge is meant to be shared. This is the essential idea of KOTO’s Vietnamese-Australian founder, Jimmy Pham.
In 1999, Mr Jimmy opened a hospitality training centre in Hanoi, giving at-risk and disadvantaged youth the opportunity to break the poverty cycle by forging a better future for themselves, their families and their communities.
Twenty years later, our almost 1, 000 graduates now include executive and sous chefs, hotel and resort general managers, business owners as well as university graduates. All are contributing to their families and society.
KOTO continues to be acknowledged as a leading unique not-for-profit social enterprise, not only in Vietnam but also internationally. Today, KOTO provides 200 at-risk and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam an opportunity to undertake our 24-month holistic hospitality training program to end the cycle of poverty and truly empower our trainees to realise their dreams.
Mission, Vision and Culture
KOTO's philosophy is ingrained in our name: Know One, Teach One. It is the underlying principle behind the expectations we have of staff, trainees and alumni. We believe in a just environment for all of those who come in contact with KOTO. We are committed to excellence and take pride in our work. In addition, we also believe in and practice the following values:
The History of KOTO
Jimmy Pham was born in Vietnam in 1972 and moved to Australia as a young child with his mother and siblings, growing up in Sydney. He was interested in tourism and travel, and studied hospitality at school. One night, on his first trip back to Vietnam, Jimmy went for a walk in Saigon and met some street kids. He noticed how dirty they were, and that they had blisters on their legs.
He asked, “Where do you shower?” and they replied, “We shower next to an open sewer.” The next day, he organised for that small group of street kids to have a proper wash. By the time he left Vietnam some two weeks later, word of his generosity had spread, and he was paying for 60 young people to wash and eat.
The concept of KOTO — Know One, Teach One — began when Jimmy asked some of these young people what they wanted out of life. They simply replied, “We need skills so we can find stable jobs.” He then decided that he wanted to come back to Vietnam on a long-term basis and make a difference. He didn't know how he was going to do it, he just knew that he wanted to help.
I am humbled that my desire to provide 9 street children with training, a stable income and a safe workplace in a small unassuming sandwich café in Hanoi has evolved and grown over the last twenty years. Thanks to the support of our donors, sponsors, partners, volunteers and staff, KOTO has now provided almost 1,000 disadvantaged and at-risk youth with an opportunity to improve their lives, their families and often their community.
KOTO has evolved since the early days, but I'm pleased to say our philosophy remains prominent in everything we do. KOTO stands for "Know One, Teach One”, and it reflects our belief that if you're in a position where you can help someone less fortunate, then you should help them; and the greatest thanks you can receive is to one day see that person be in a position to do the same for someone else.
I am honoured to find our alumni in every leading hotel and restaurant across the length and breadth of Vietnam. Many alumni are now running their own businesses and providing internship opportunities for KOTO trainees and employing KOTO graduates themselves. With their Australian Box Hill Institute qualification, many have been awarded scholarships to continue their studies in Australia and several are working in Australia, Germany, New Zealand and Singapore. I am especially proud when our alumni return to work at the KOTO Training Centre and our restaurants in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to enrich the lives of our trainees and encourage them to also dream large.
Jimmy Pham AM
KOTO Founder and CEO
KOTO staff and volunteers are privileged to see the trainees transform from timid, shy teenagers into young, confident adults who are not only sought-after hospitality professionals, but also well-rounded, responsible community-minded citizens, ready to embrace any challenges that lie ahead. Experiencing this growth is thanks enough for our hard work.
Despite the considerable economic growth experienced in Vietnam over the last twenty years, the need for KOTO remains strong and fortunately the demand for well-trained hospitality professionals continues to grow. It's exciting to see the KOTO story being written day by day, and I look forward to the day that KOTO has the funds to build our Dream School and is financially self-sustainable.
Thank you for your interest in KOTO. I hope you enjoy learning about KOTO, and that one day you meet a graduate, trainee, or staff member and experience the warmth of the KOTO family for yourself.