Viet Nam News
by Lương Thu Hương
A group of Hà Nội expats is giving something back to the city they now call home.
Together they have launched Hanoi Christmas Kitchen, a project preparing and giving hundreds of gifts to the city’s less fortunate.
Started last year, the project has since attracted many more people.
Basic hygiene products such as toothbrushes, soap and towels are among the gifts that many have received from the Christmas Kitchen.
“We thought there were a lot of poor people in the cold in Việt Nam during December. At home, Christmas is the time when we give to people, so we thought why don’t we do something similar here," said Naim Hydal, a Canadian musician who has been living in Hà Nội for nearly four years - and the initiator of the project.
“Why hygiene products? I think it’s a good thing to give, something that people need. I know some of the people that live under the Long Biên Bridge. They live in very bad condition so I hope to help them have a better outlook,” he added.
In addition, this year the group also prepared more than 250 free meals which they cooked themselves and delivered on December 9. The event was supported by Den, a café and bar in Yên Phụ Village, Tây Hồ District that provided the group with a kitchen as well as the location for the fundraiser. The volunteers prepared the ingredients and cooked all the meals themselves.
The gift packages and meals were delivered to poor patients and homeless people by members of charity groups called Ấm (Warmth), Sunshine as well as the volunteers from the Foreign Trade University before Christmas.
“Christmas Kitchen project is a simple idea. There is no corporation. We can do this as a group of friends. Everybody takes a role, for example, somebody went to local businesses or shops,” Hydal continued.
“Lots of restaurants donated quite a lot, which was probably one of the greatest things. And we also raffled to make money to buy all of the supplies and then contacted the charity groups.”
It took the volunteers nearly two weeks to prepare for the project by launching two events – one was held to raise fund on December 2, which included the venue vibes, live music, a raffle, carnival games, and games of chance all with prizes donated by businesses around Hà Nội. The second one, held on December 9, was for cooking all the food and wrapping gifts.
“It was my idea but everybody else joined in, particularly my friend Leah Fairchild, who did all the contacts for charities and the buying,” said the 36-year-old musician, who is a member of Rebel Monk band. “We all met here in Việt Nam. Everyone came together, even my band’s friends. We all play music and we all know each other, so everyone just helped out quickly, despite our limited time. The project is a big group effort.”
Last year, Hanoi Christmas Kitchen raised over VNĐ25 million (US$1,098), which was given to the charities the project was working with.
Hydal said he was lucky to a part of the expat community in Hà Nội, particularly as a musician performing in the city. This helped him know a lot of people always willing to help.
“I hope that the project will keep going with or without me. I hope the idea will stay for the generations.
“This is a growing city. There are big gaps between the rich and the poor, and people can really the see the difference. I believe we should always take care of each other. Charity begins at home and I now call this place my home, so I want to do something better for it.
“If you want to do something for society and people, you do not need a lot of money, but just a great business idea and a strong team. That is the blessing we have with everybody involved,” Hydal said. — VNS