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 a NGO supporting education in Vietnam. He quickly received support from three enthusiastic board members, and just a short time afterwards, Sao Bien was registered as a non-profit organization in Austria.
Based on his strong belief that education is the most efficient and most sustainable way to open new opportunities for children in need, the organization aims to grant school access to children that, without Sao Bien’s help, could not attend school in a safe manner or on a regular basis.
Sao Bien therefore solely focusses on particularly poor and remote areas where current schooling infrastructure is in very poor condition. By building new schools Sao Bien creates a safe and friendly learning environment for children that would otherwise be left behind.
Since inception in 2016, Sao Bien has completed 34 school projects in 12 different provinces in Vietnam and two school projects in Laos.
High efficiency is achieved by a lean organization with an experienced project manager who has lived in Vietnam for several years and a NGO-experienced board based in Vienna that handle financials, risk management and legal aspects. A growing team of volunteers in Vietnam and abroad assist with several important tasks, ranging from fund raising to architectural support to attending site visits.
Our team of passionate and dedicated people are from all around the world!
We are primarily based in Vietnam and Austria, however we have a young and passionate team of volunteers on a number of continents.
Our NGO-experienced board members have remained unchanged since inception in 2016.
We are also pleased to work with a Ho Chi Minh City-based Dutch architect who acts as a consultant on our projects.
Junior Project Coordinator
Local project Coordinator (Highlands)
Business Advisor, Volunteer
When we first talked about our idea to build schools in remote villages in Vietnam, we were sometimes told that, in a country with almost 100 million people, our activities would not make any difference.
Still, we believed in our vision and started to work on implementing our vision. We did not know whether we would ever finalize a single school but we were sure we would not regret having tried.
Now, several years later, we know that we made the right decision. An old story illustrates best why we are so passionate about building more classrooms in rural Vietnam and opening opportunities for children.
This story about starfish – in Vietnamese that is “Sao Bien“ – explains our organization‘s name.
"While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning 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 still 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 the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, 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 into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”
Source: https://andrew-ong.com/2008/02/06/the-starfish-story-you-can-make-a-difference/ [retrieved 25.11.2016]