Even children can make a difference to the needy

This is one of the most widely shared and read articles in Vietnam right now, and for good reason. Vietnam has many poor people and many disabled. If you’re a teenager, you (or your family) are probably lucky to be able to afford to eat and get an education. Time for luxuries like Facebook is minimal. Wasting your days on Farmville would be unthinkable.

So when Duong Thach Thao and her 11th grade school friends set out to create a food bank for disabled children, they had their work cut out for them. They went to restaurants and cafes and asked if the owners would donate their leftovers or spare food to charity and were met with disapproving glares and told “không” (no). But they didn’t give up.

Some people said their mission to give food to the disabled was “inhuman” and should be abandoned as it was inappropriate to help those who some considered would be better off dead anyway. They were repeatedly told they were uncommitted, lacked the skills, the knowledge, the ambition. Their goals were vague and their ideas too lofty. Noone wanted to help them.

The recruited volunteers to help them study food safety at universities. They pooled their money to buy expensive meals just so they could sit down with restaurant owners and explain their project and their motivation. Despite starting out trying to win a charity award for creating a noble project, they forgot about the competition and became determined to make a difference and help distribute food to those who needed it most.

A manager at the Western Food Store in Hanoi, Le Thanh Ngoc was one of the first to lend her help and listen to the girls and take their detailed and well-planned emails seriously. She became their first major sponsor, encouraging her staff to spend extra time to sort and grade the un-used food appropriately for distribution, but in her own words “those small acts can help many miserable people”.

One of the girls, Trinh Minh Anh, said “For nearly two months, I stayed up until three or four in the morning discussing plans with the others. My parents knew the project was meaningful but they said they wanted to forbid me from continuing it. They only eased up after seeing I was so committed to it.”

Now, the disabled children in Hoa Binh Village have more than a dozen volunteers working daily to bring them healthy and nutritious food to enrich their lives and the girls have pioneered the model of a food bank, an otherwise unpopular or unheard of concept in Vietnam.

Thao commented that in the past she often didn’t finish her meals or would leave food behind at a buffet, but said “Since (this) project, I don’t dare waste food anymore.”

Sometimes overcoming economic disparity and feeding the starving and disadvantaged can seem an impossible task that even the heads of government or the wealthy cannot solve. But with determination, even a dozen school girls can, with enough resolve, change lives.

This is why this is the most popular story in Vietnam this week. Because it is truly inspirational.

So I ask you. You think you are a member of the community in your country, but you think you can’t make a difference ? Well look at Thao and her friends from Hoa Binh in Vietnam and learn something. Anyone can make a difference in the world. It just takes determination and hard work. Noone is powerless except those who choose to be.

A disabled child in Hoa Binh is given a bag of treats supplied by the girls’ charity efforts.
Photo credit: Thanh Nien News, Vietnam.

This entry was posted in Culture, Life in Asia. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *