Have you ever heard of a kind of toy that can be eaten? If not yet, come to Vietnam and get a go at Tò he – a traditional folk toy, which is very familiar with Vietnamese children. It is made from rice powder and natural food coloring, so after you PLAY, you can EAT it. The meaning behind this toy is very close to Tòhe Project: making chances for kids to have fun, but also helping them get the benefit from these playground activities.

Tòhe is a social enterprise with several non-profit initiatives designed to help autistic children support themselves through their own creativity, how they view the world filled with wonder and fresh loving eyes. One of the most well known aspects of Tò he is Tò he Style which is designing quality apparel featuring childrens art. Selected artworks are then converted into merchandise, such as clothes, accessories, homeware, toys, etc. and the profits go back to Tòhe Fun where facilitates creative art playgrounds for disadvantaged and disabled children to play and express themselves, art classes and the artists as well.

This summer, Alijah Lawson a.k.a Ali has become a part of Tò he for his 6-week internship to gain better intercultural understanding of Southeast Asian workplace customs, and determine what way he can assist in the needed area. As an individual intern, he decided to live in a rented room which is within walking distance to work so that he could enjoy the fresh air when walking and also observe the daily life of local residents. 

On the first day at work, right after he walked into the store, he was embraced by broad smiles immediately from his supervisor and staff here. He was also greeted with splashes of color from all sorts of children’s drawings. Unfiltered, uninhibited, and authentic. 

Then, the supervisor showed him around this 5-storey workplace and had official greetings with co-colleagues at different segments in this organization. 

First day at work and warmly welcomed by authentic splashes of color and people at Tòhe

“The mission of Tòhe is awesome!”

Tòhe Style & Tòhe Bank – 100% playful

With the philosophy 100% playful, Tòhe Style designs, prints, produces and distributes Lifestyle products, accessories from disadvantaged children’s paintings and the authors will receive 5% of product price as loyalty money. Through rough materials, emotional shapes, they want to bring not only friendly natural but also subtle and elegant experiences to customers.

Besides, Tòhe Bank, which is the first and exclusive online gallery of  kid’s paintings in Vietnam so far with the mission of promoting and spreading playful spirit, they collect, display and present children’s paintings from far and wide regardless of nationalities, ethnics or circumstances. Paintings will be sold directly,  online or be auctioned as well as used as prints for Tòhe products with the consent from the authors and their families. The money collected then will be sent directly to the authors and their families.

The time that Ali was working as an intern in Tòhe, he actively participated in the process of setting up the latest art installation/gallery. Ali shared that he loved hearing stories about how kids like to draw and then seeing what their interpretations were. Admittedly, art has healing properties through its ability to facilitate meditation and expression. It is amazing how Tòhe brings fun, freedom and creativity to the kids and the kids bring the same to adults via the products in the store! 

Tòhe Fun – “PLAY to GROW”

As mentioned above, Tòhe Fun holds free art playground for disadvantaged children in Social protection centers, indigent schools in remote areas and islands weekly in order to give kids the opportunities to have fun and experience creative art activities. They also search and support children who love art but haven’t got any chance to develop talents through scholarship program, facility supplies so that children can improve living conditions. 

However, the financial budget to support children is in need of filling up so Ali, together with his supervisor to co-develop an effective fundraising strategy that best meets the immediate needs of this NGO. Although he might sometimes face up with language barrier and confusion as being the only international intern here, he still managed to create a draft sponsorship proposal to promote the meaningful project. What is more, Ali also reached out and researched local tourism agencies to expand future fee-based workshops.

Ali supported an event of Tòhe Fun

Tòhe Fun ignites and brings such subtle joy to children who need it most. I was so moved by seeing these warm and beautiful drawings that happiness vibes out, yet being created by some who have been through the toughest of circumstances. 

“I feel at home with Tòhe staff”

On the final evaluation day, right after he delivered his presentation and results of hard work, he took ABROADER around Tòhe’s office and proudly showed his greeny workstation and all-time favorite space on the rooftop. 

This place is full of various kinds of plants and soothing shades of trees, which helped Ali to think as his flow of thoughts needs organizing. 

As the proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” goes, when it comes to off-work mode, Ali eagerly joined hang-outs with his co-colleagues and spent weekends discover Vietnamese culture with beloved local buddy and other friends that he made. 

Immerse into local culture and amazing landscape of Northern part of Vietnam

By the end of his internship, Ali  shared that 

At the beginning, it took me a little bit of time to adjust to working at Tòhe and living in Hanoi, but gradually I found my place working with the creative team. I was lucky enough to receive so many various tasks and assignments that I believe that they would make my experience as a marketing analyst well-rounded. Moreover, during the time I spent here, it was an honor to work with the autism artists and see their creative process, and customer’s excitement at Tòhe’s art. Tòhe products and artwork are a great reminder of being playful, letting loose, and observe the world full of freshness and surprise – a recurring image of Vietnam! 

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