The following is a letter I sent to my lawyer with full details of the Bamboo School's progress to date, with sensitive data and nonpertinent information redacted for security purposes
Xin chao (redacted),
On my US passport, my information is as follows:
Here in Hanoi I am living in Hai Ba Trung district, but will be moving into a new house in either Hai Ba Trung or Hoan Kiem at the end of October.
In Latin America (primarily Mexico and Venezuela) and here in Vietnam I use the name Pablo, and in China (where I was born) I am known by 杨慕非.
Here is my LinkedIn professional profile (essentially an online resume), which has not yet been updated to reflect my current activities in Vietnam. In particular, Immunathon (which has the shortest description) is worth noting - I was an officer of this startup, which I helped launch with a brilliant scientist due to our having worked together in the lab together when I was in university, where I conducted AIDS research at Harvard Medical School. Fun fact about me: I have, with my own two hands, genetically engineered the AIDS virus. Somewhere in a freezer at Harvard Medical School are three strains of SIV (a variant of HIV which differs from HIV by 5% and only infects simians) which exist because of me.
Details of my plan, part 1: The Bamboo School
- The Bamboo School is not a school, but rather an educational program specifically targeted towards the poorest and most dispossessed communities in Vietnam, with the motto that "Music Is A Human Right." All people are born artists, and I believe that art gives a voice to the voiceless. We will begin with free music and english lessons (English because it is a means to economic advancement) and plan to offer free computer skills and dance courses as well. Not only will the instruction be free, it will also be a superior education to that which the kids could get at the best schools in the world. Here is how:
- The curriculum for this school will be delivered via the Khan Academy model (an educational model which has received significant support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which Bill Gates calls "the future of education"), through video lessons produced in Vietnamese with the best musicians I can find. My musical background is extensive, and I am able to gather world-class talent here in Hanoi by virtue of my connections made through my performances. I have performed with symphonies in Venezuela and Boston, have toured the United States with the band The Meditations, have performed at a number of universities including Harvard and BU, BC, Northeastern, etc. Professionally, I gave up a promising music career which had me going back and forth between Boston and New York City performing with numerous bands as a saxophonist. If you would like to see me prove it, I play at the Hanoi Rock City open jam in Tay Ho district every Wednesday night. Music starts at 9pm.
- The curriculum is also being designed to be a cutting edge curriculum with input from America's first conservatory, The Peabody Institute. The Peabody Institute is a part of Johns Hopkins University, and they are advising us as well as Hong Kong Generation Next, a progressive free music nonprofit in Hong Kong.
- The "schools" will not be schools at all, in the traditional (and also legal) sense. The plan is to find trusted local partners (shops, cafes, restaurants, any public gathering place) and supply them with free tablets/computers as well as instruments. The spaces will then become collaborative learning spaces where children are free to learn from the videos and play the instruments. In the beginning I will personally visit each site and conduct in-person instruction, and in time my goal is to employ other teachers so that no school goes more than three days without a teacher present.
- We have physical "schools" in Phong Nha and Sa Pa being established already, and plan to have schools in Hanoi, Haiphong, and Hoi An by December. I have the personal funds and local connections to accomplish this, the only question is of time.
- In Sa Pa, the primary development will be music instruction - Sapa will be our flagship school. Phong Nha will be developed slower due to (redacted)
Details of my plan, part 2: (redacted material)
Who is currently involved in my case:
- Our mutual friend Nguyen Ngoc Phuong Chi is working with me; I am director and she is cofounder of the Bamboo School. In November, we are going to move into a new house and office space, at which point I will hire her away from Viettel so she can work full time for the school, as well as one or two interns. Due to her law degree from Hanoi Open University and her connections in Viettel, as well as her exceptional skill at connecting with people in English and in Vietnamese, she is a tremendous asset to the school and I could not do this without her. She also happens to be a fantastic teacher - you should see her working with the kids. Seeing that was one of the things which made me fall in love with her.
- We have partnered with Hoang Huy Music in Hanoi to obtain instruments at cost, each of which I individually test to ensure quality and playability before purchase.
- Sapa O'Chau in Sapa has a fully-operational school (legally speaking, not a school - they are, legally speaking, a "boarding house" which provides "supplementary education" but really they are a school, with 50+ students) and has entered into a partnership with us wherein we provide them with instruments through our partnership with Hoang Huy Music. I just came back from meeting with several of their directors, and will return at the end of September with instruments and to provide instruction for their students. We will also provide them with other resources as time goes on, including teachers from Hanoi and Korea via the following:
- The Korean Ministry of Culture through their Stories of Vietnam program is interested in sending their teaching artists to our schools in Phong Nha and in Sa Pa; we have been in constant contact with two of their representatives for the last two weeks.
- We have partnered with a family in Phong Nha which runs a scrap metal and shop business, and they are safekeeping our instruments and materials while also making them available for the children of the community.
- I have two tailors which I have auditioned (by buying clothing from them), one in Hanoi and another in Hoi An, who are willing to produce and ship clothing for Iliac Fashion. After going to Phong Nha on Friday I will then go to Hoi An on Monday or Tuesday in order to work out more details with them as well as gather my own promotional materials for the website.
People who will be involved:
- The American Embassy in Hanoi - my contacts there are (redacted)
- (redacted), a nonprofit consultant who will do administrative and grant-writing tasks in the USA.
- The El Sistema USA network, a trade group of over 50 free music schools in the United States with over $15 million in revenue with whom we are collaborating to achieve fiscal sponsorship in the USA (fiscal sponsorship is the fastest route to a tax ID in the USA, which will allow us to take donations from overseas).
- (Redacted) - we are currently running a fundraiser within the (redacted) Group, purely individual contributions from employees but in the future we hope for corporate grants as well, and are making our name known through grassroots efforts there. We will also launch a similar program within (redacted) in one month.
People who possibly may be involved:
- A number of nonprofit leaders in the states, who are following the progress of the Bamboo School closely via a private Facebook group composed of the leadership of El Sistema USA programs.
- TEDxHong Kong, for which I am being considered as a speaker in 2015. I am told I have already been accepted, and am awaiting an official invitation.
- Numerous personal and business connections which I will keep confidential for the time being.
Any more information you would like, please let me know. The two main questions I want answered at our meeting on Friday are these:
- As stated above, what legal structures will allow me the greatest degree of freedom of operation here in Vietnam.
- If there are any other holes or topics that, in your eye, must needs be addressed, please let me know before our meeting so I can research and prepare.
Thank you for your time and attention - I look forward to our meeting soon!