Viet Nam News
by Lương Hương – Toàn Nguyễn
What could you do with a mere VNĐ2,000 (US9 cents)? It’s not enough for a parking fee, a small cake or an ice cream. But low-income workers in HCM City can now buy clothes, books and other essentials for VNĐ2,000 at a store called 2k.
Open once a week at Nụ Cười 3 Restaurant in District 7, 2k is part of Sunbox Project, which officially kicked off last October. The project is placing boxes around cities near schools, libraries or cafés to collect donations of old clothes, books and toys from passers-by.
“No objects are worthy of being thrown away," said Lương Ngọc Linh, a member of the project. "An old thing to you might be new to someone else. We have nurtured Sunbox Project for such a long time. We encourage people to collect their unused items and put them in our boxes nearest to their location.”
The boxes, easily identified by the smiley faces plastered on their fronts, are being placed in eight locations in the centre of the city, like Little Owl Shop in Phú Nhuận District, BFF Coffee in Bình Thạnh District, and Momo Bookstore in District 10.
Since its very first days, the project’s eight members have received support and many donations from people across the city, especially those who work in social fields.
“Some have helped us organise our programmes, some helped us decorate the store and others lent us storage bins to store goods,” Linh said.
The used items they collected were originally going to be donated to poor families and organisations in need.
Then the amount of old objects they collected grew so large that Sunbox came up with the idea of creating a store to sell used objects at low prices to poor people. And 2k was born. Every item there costs VNĐ2,000.
After thorough preparation and with support from Nụ Cười 3 Restaurant, Store 2k opened for the first time on March 28. Though there were still several problems, Sunbox members said they noticed customers were pleased.
“Seeing the radiant smiles of the poor labourers who could buy something despite they were second-hand clothes, we were very happy and proud of what we were doing, which motivated us to improve the store for the next week," Linh said.
Some have asked Sunbox why they don’t just offer used goods for free.
“Despite encountering financial difficulties, the poor still have their own self-esteem," he said. "If groups like us don’t consider their feelings, they could be hurt."
"Buyers can feel that they have been able to pay for some clothes, instead of receiving them out of the blue," Linh added.
Besides selling goods at low prices, store 2k is also unique in that it is open just one random day a week from 11am to 12:30pm, following the hours of Nụ Cười 3 Restaurant. Each customer can only afford maximum two items.
Linh says the store is open randomly in order to avoid crowds. In addition, different customers are free on different days, so some would not be able to make it if it was just one day a week.
“Charity does have unexpected side effects," Linh said, explaining why they chose to open just one day a week. "If the giveaway is improperly managed, the kindness might have negative effects on the receivers. The thought of being poor and knowing they’ll receive help wouldn’t motivate them to better their lives."
The strict rules at 2k were specified right from its first day, assuring that customers queue up for their turn.
“On a Friday afternoon a woman came to our store to insist on paying us VNĐ1,000 (4 cents), which she owed from the previous day," Linh said. "We will always remember what she said to us: ‘Despite being poor, I still have to pay back every penny I owe.’"
The money collected from 2k goes toward the operation of Nụ Cười 3 Restaurant, which also serves low-income customers.
VNĐ2,000 is a small bill, but 2k and Nụ Cười 3 Restaurant have turned it into a source of happiness for so many in the city. VNS