Posted by SE Vietnam - Student Exchange Vietnam

Vietnamese cooking methods like the beehive coal method have been around for a while, and Vietnamese cuisine is very set in its ways of being cooked. On the way to improve living conditions and air quality for local residents, especially low-income families, Center for Creativity and Sustainablity based in Hanoi is hopefully launching a newly-invented cookstove that may replace beehive coal and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide. 


Center for Creativity and Sustainability (CCS) is a non-profit organization located in Hanoi whose vision is to promote sustainability in Vietnam through implementation of R&D, consultancy, capacity building activities and application of creative methods, solutions and development models. These include Green Street (for sustainable product innovation), Elegance (for renewable energy and clean technology solutions and i-Nature (for organic zero-waste agriculture).

This summer, Valeria became a part of CCS with the position as an intern for a renewable energy and clean technology project with Elegance, specifically “Biomass cookstove project”. This project has the goal of replacing beehive coal and other cooking methods with a biomass gasification stove. The biomass gasification system consists of stainless steel stove with a galvanized mild steel cover and functions with biomass pellets, which contrasts the harmful gases produced by the beehive coal. However, the challenging task for Valeria is to gain customer’s insights and promoting this product despite the situation that beehive coals seem to be considerably preferred due to its low cost and convenience.

beehive coal

The prominence of beehive coal usage in Hanoi


In order to find out what our potential clients (local restaurants, street food stands and other users of beehive coal) think about the product, Valeria developed and conducted an interview at 16 different locations which cooked with beehive coal. Besides, she also delivered a demonstration of how the cookstove works and how to use it safely and efficiently. This was the first time Valeria came to Vietnam in specific and South-East Asia in general; therefore, a list of households visited was provided by Mr. Long – the inventor of the cookstove to facilitate her interview progress. Also, Valeria and Thuy Anh (her translator) were accompanied by her grandmother, so these places were more welcoming and willing to answer their survey. However, sometimes, Valeria also went to some places that she found on her own, but she realized that the people would not bother to do the interview and were annoyed by their presence. She confessed that:

The language barrier was definitely a challenge, but my translator was great and made it less difficult to obtain the information I needed.


Enjoy lunch with Tu Anh and her family 

In all, this task is not only about one-man show but also requires harmonious cooperation between cultures and the open-mindedness and bravery to keep on the work even though when things go tough. 


As Valeria majors in medicine and has zero experience with entrepreneurship or marketing new products, it was hard and nerve-wrecking for her at first to learn how to effectively promote a new product, especially simultaneously confronting the language barrier, but she found it became easier with time as she learned new things along the way. Throughout this project, she was able to learn how to give the community information about a product in a way that would spark Vietnamese people’s interest. With the help of the translator, she gradually broke the language barrier as she learned more about Vietnamese culture of speaking, specifically the intonation and facial expression when she introduced the cookstove and conducted a demo of using it. People in Vietnam, especially older generations are not very open minded to change their way of working, especially when their income depends on it. However, she was able to create some interest in a few restaurants and business owners and finally, hard work paid off, she was even able to convince one person to purchase the stove. 


Display how to use the biomass cookstove

On the journey to delve into her self, most importantly, she learned that she was more extroverted than she thought and that she could quickly catch on when it comes to discovering different cultures. Not only did she adapt quickly, but she also enjoyed the process that she reached out to different provinces in both the Southern and Northern area of Vietnam. She shared:

I am an independent person and get things done efficiently on my own. I am an open minded person and should take advantage of these skills I didn’t know I had. I have never been exposed to a different culture in such an authentic and real way, so I was unaware of how interesting it can be and how much I enjoy it.

đi chơi

Immerse in amazing and diverse local landscape


After the internship, she continues with medical career and soon, she will graduate from medical school in Costa Rica and then proceed to do a residency program in the United States. Since she has learned that she is independent, open minded and loves to immerse in different cultures, she would like to include travelling and working in different countries throughout her career. On top of that, the internship for Center for Creativity and Sustainability has inspired her significantly to make  her field more sustainable, so she plans to research on how this could be possible. Before abiding farewell to the host organization and ABROADER, she left behind a warm-hearted and valuable advice for future interns:

I recommend you practice your intrapersonal skills and have as many conversations with locals as possible. Take advantage of the cultural immersion from your host family and ask them many questions about Vietnam. This really helps you gain an understanding of the culture and helps you do your job better. It will also help you become more well-rounded and open-minded.

Thanks to Valeria’s active contribution for the host organization during 6-week internship, ABROADER believe that the product that she wholeheartedly works on to promote will surely be improved to meet the demand of the locals. Also, Center for Creativity and Sustainability also gained a variety of insights coming from residents, local restaurants and foreign chains so that more marketing plans would be conducted in the future. What is more, it is an honor to observe Valeria’s growth in skills and her sincere sharing in her journey to discover her self.  

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