Doing well and doing good.

I stumbled across a little bakery in the ancient city of Hué, the former capital of Vietnam, a few days ago. It was absolutely phenomenal – a truly authentic French boulangerie slap bang in the middle of the noise and the heat of South East Asia.

The staff were quiet, but extremely polite and friendly. The food was delicious. As I tucked into my baguette, I leafed through the reading material scattered around the place.

La Boulangerie Francaise – The French Bakery.

Turns out it’s a kind of social enterprise: the people that work there are kids from incredibly tough backgrounds. They get training and tutelage from master bakers, work on their craft, intern at restaurants and hotels, all the while working shifts at the bakery and selling their goods to the public.

After two years, they’re fully qualified. The bakery had some impressive statistics about where these kids go next. Lots of them go and work in big hotels, whipping up delicious treats for travellers and tourists like myself. The project has been running almost 20 years now.

What an idea. I love it. It’s so much more than just something to keep these young people occupied. It’s a way for them to forge a better life for themselves and their children. It’s an opportunity for them to find meaning, and add value, and make a difference. The journey towards competence in anything is a deeply rewarding one. In the words of President Theodore Roosevelt:

“Far and away the best prize life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”

I’m inspired by the simplicity and brilliance of this project. It’s not a simple handout. It’s not a short sighted scheme designed by bureaucrats to win political points. It’s a useful project, based on the principles of common sense, research, and practicality.

It’s an example of how capitalism and the free market can work for the good of all. Making money and spreading prosperity needn’t be evil and soulless.

If you ever find yourself in Hué, Vietnam, check it out: La Boulangerie Francaise – The French Bakery.

Find it on Google Maps here:

FH8V+4C Huế, Thành phố Huế, Thua Thien Hue

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