The magic of money, just a little bit can change the world.


For a lot of us money is the goal, the reward. But to a [social] entrepreneur money is a tool to make change. Borrowing money to make money is the alchemy of the modern day. When the ultimate goal of making that money is to change your life and the lives of those around you at a very profound level, then that’s pure magic.

That’s what I’m witnessing here in Tam Ky on a daily basis. Mrs Hanh is pure magic. She’s scrimped and saved, borrowed and begged from family and friends and already she’s doing what so many of us only dream about – she is quite literally changing the world.

This restaurant is not what I was expecting, even though I’d seen the original architect’s drawings, I genuinely think I understimated her. Shame on me. Throughout all the worry that comes with the risk of a new business, Mrs Hanh has kept her vision strong and now that we get closer to the date, and Kiem has moved in and she’s getting phonecalls on behalf of other orphans hoping to move in, the itch is getting so strong to just get this place going.

Right now I’m Mrs Hanh’s employee. She’s not paying me but she’s treating me very well – if you’ve met her, then you know her hospitality knows no bounds! I’m here as a sounding board and as company when she’s shopping for all the millions of small things. I’m also supposed to be sharing photos and stories with you to let you see what’s happening and, ahem, encourage a little more dosh in the pot. But I’m afraid I’m not expressing the sheer amazingness of it all. I don’t know how to tell you how absolutely awe inspiring this place is. Mrs Hanh’s biography will be a bestseller some day!

And how can you support this one-woman wonder?
Send her happy vibes, she’s totally stressing. She’s got a to-list the height of her and she’s still taking care of everyone else. Send her the price of a cup of coffee or a weekday lunch – knowing that if you ever come here you’ll get a lot more than that back. Know that she will take note of every loan and make every effort to repay it in full within 10 years. She’ll note every donation and instead of repayment, she’ll pay it back into the community by using it to send a child to school or help a family out of poverty. Share this page and maybe someone else might throw in the price of a coffee too and it keeps rolling.

In the right hands money is magic , it’s a tool that can change the world.


The Firechild Finery story – she made me do it.

Mrs. Hanh inspecting each piece of jade before I handed over a cent.

It’s mainly because of that woman. She is the inimitable Mrs. Hanh. Hanh is her first name, the Mrs. bit is a sign of respect and affection shown to her because she is possibly one of the most inspirational women I have ever met and I’m not the only one.

I met her in 2008 when I lived in Viet Nam and she became like a sister, a mother and best friend. We speak the most ridiculous Englamese together and even though communication is difficult across skype and phones, we know what’s going on. In other words, without getting too gushy, I feel really lucky to know her.

So when I went back there this year she told me that I simply had to buy shtloads of jewellery to take home with me to sell. She knows I want to make money to fund Project New HOPE and she wants it to be a success. And she’s really bloody persuasive!

So we made a date for the Saturday morning before I left in Da Nang city. I stayed with a friend the night before and Mrs. Hanh took a bus from her hometown about 2 hours away. We shopped and we shopped. Ack, I say we, I didn’t really shop – I just spent money. She shopped; she looked and prodded and poked and bargained and asked questions and inspected every single item before I paid anything. She also inspected the receipts, luckily!

We drank litres of orange juice with salt, we ate noodles and I drank a fair bit of coffee too. I’m not joking when I tell you that I almost passed out once or twice. It’s not like we were careening around a shopping mall, this is the most jam-packed market building you’ll ever see. It was just so intense. And hot…

We finally finished up just before lunch time and headed for Hoi An on her motorbike. I drove and she squealed behind me. (We had a couple of close calls…) We got to Hoi An and ate an amazing dinner at the beach with Pat, another amazing person I feel very lucky to know. I couldn’t believe how good the food was. But Mrs. Hanh – was.not.impressed. The crab wasn’t good enough. And she called the owner over to tell her personally. You can’t beat that kind of directness!

Next stop, scarf shop. She took me to see a friend who she’s been dealing with for years. This friend gives Mrs. Hanh all her children’s hand-me-downs so they can be passed on to the children in the orphanges in Tam Ky. That’s just part of everyday business for these ladies, they don’t think twice. So we sat on the floor with the shop owner for another hour or so and chose silk scarf after silk scarf. Mixed silks, handwoven, manufactured. We juggled colours and swapped packs and they chatted about everyone and everything.

So then it got dark and we had to leave – we piled all our loot on the bike again and headed off down the number 1 motorway back to Tam Ky. She drove this time, I carried two backpacks.

I don’t think she stopped talking the whole way home, especially when a big truck was honking its way past. (We were on a 110cc scooter…) I caught very little of the whole lot except for this – she was so excited that she’d helped me and she was so excited to get working on shopping for her new restaurant.

And that, dear friends, is why I’m selling this stuff – because she made me buy it because she believes in what I do. I believe in what we’re doing too and there’s no other way to say it . A minimum of 30% of all sales will fund Project New HOPE and 20% towards her restaurant venture – and that’s a whole other story for another day.

Thanks for reading,