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

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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.
http://www.gofundme.com/Mrs-Hanh

Do nothing, do something?

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I’m back in my other hometown, Tam Ky, Vietnam. The place I adopted back in 2008 when I lived and worked here for 6 months out of the 9 I spent living here. I got here late on Monday night and slept all day Tuesday so it’s been 4 days really.

Yesterday was tough. I spent the day questioning myself. Why am I here? What can I really do? What’s my vision, my focus, my plan? Am I doing more harm than good being here? Genuinely,  what’s the good in showing up everyday for a couple of months and then disappearing again? What does it achieve?  And on and on the questions went.

Then today I got to the orphanage and realised I hadn’t seen Gai yet. I spotted her and smiled, doubting she knew who I was but she smiled back anyway. Then she came over, said “hello Edin” (yeah, that’s my name here) and immediately started chatting. She remembered, we had fun, she knows I’m here for 2 months and I’ll be gone again. And I think she’s ok with that.

I also took a bucketload of photos today so I think that helped.

Why I love …

hoi an fishing net sunriseAnother addition to the Why I love… series, topics can and will be small and big, I love a lot of things. You can see them here.

I’m not sure how long exactly I’ve been ‘getting up early’ but at this stage it’s long enough that it seems normal. In a climate where late mornings are king – where the city buses don’t leave anywhere until almost 9am on a Sunday morning – getting up a full two hours before leaving for work is not how we grow up.

But I’ve been doing it now for a while and I love it.

I wake up around 6, or sometimes closer to 6.15, and I head straight to my desk. When I’ve made it that far I either wrap up in a blanket or open the window and start writing. I write morning pages, three of them. Sometimes I do it with my eyes half closed and my brain half dead, but I still do it. It’s become a part of my day really quickly. I think I thought it would reveal things to me, things about my inner psyche that I hadn’t known about. But it seems not to be there just yet, instead I hammer out little details, I make decisions and I put some thoughts out of my head. You know those thoughts that just run around and around and around? Yeah, not so much anymore. By putting them down on paper and thinking them out a little further than that one sentence, I’m getting places.

When that’s done, I’ll write a blog post or edit some photos. Now that I spend my days in front of a computer again, I’ve made a rule that I don’t switch it on when I get home from work. So I do all my editing and writing in the morning, and I do less faffing on facebook too. Time limits!

I can feel things changing, these little things all add up and I feel as though I’m on the edge of something new and exciting. Before I even think about breakfast, I’ve already accomplished something tangible. It’s a great feeling.

Have you ever tried morning pages? Would you?

PS – That photo was taken on one of my most ridiculously early mornings. Setting my alarm for 4am at 1am after a long night of playing cards and drinking beers. It was in Hoi An last year on a photo tour with a pal who lives there, Etienne runs photo tours in his adopted home town of Hoi An and all over SE Asia. It was at the very start of the trip and the sun was just coming up. In the tropics there isn’t much time for sunrise and sunsets but it was gorgeous to be there at the waters edge in the dark of the night and then out on the water as the sun rose up in the sky.

Mary’s House

I’ve been wondering where to start with this post for a long time. I need to tell you about this special place but I don’t know how.

food fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight!

In March this year I finally went back to Viet Nam almost three years after leaving. When I left in April 2009 I wasn’t really sure how long I’d be able to stay away. I was desperate to come home but still, I had a feeling I was leaving part of myself behind as I went through those departure gates in Ho Chi Minh airport.

A couple of years of unemployment and sh**ty jobs kept me from getting the time or the money together to go back. That and a fear of returning – what if it’s not the same? what if I don’t love it? what if no one remembers me? what if I don’t remember? Stupid maybe, but true. Anyway, luckily for me I now have a job I love and a contract I can play around with so I managed to get four whole weeks off to go back. A chance to catch up with old friends and meet new ones.

I sat on the plane in Hanoi airport heading for Da Nang and I remember wondering to myself why I was there. What the hell was I doing? There are so many other places to see, what a waste of time and money. I actually really did think that. I think it was partly tiredness and partly hunger. A temporary insanity if you will.

I got there and Jen met me at the airport. I had a quick change and we went to an old haunt for a few Vietnamese rum &cokes. It was like we’d never left. The smells and sounds were so familiar. A mixture of corriander, jack fruit, anise and petrol. Home from home!

sweet milk on the bottom, serious coffee on top and ice in the Winnie flask

The next day we went to Mary’s House. I met ‘our’ children. I fell in love with the place. I knew this was special. The atmosphere is so different to any other orphanage or foster home I’ve been to. There’s a sense of community there that you can see vividly. The smiles are bright, the shouts are loud, the children are beautiful.

I spent a lot of time there over the three weeks – I created a classroom and taught a little English. We had meetings with outsiders and insiders. We talked about how to educate these children to their maximum potential and encourage them fully to be their true selves. I took afternoon naps there and had big adventures in to Da Nang city centre with one of the older girls. We spoke Vietnamese and English and used a bilingual dictionary a lot! It just felt so real.

We’re getting funds together for next year now. €23,000 will house, educate, feed and clothe 23 children. €1,000 for a whole year. That’s eh, €20 per week to cover everything for one child. Things are much cheaper there, of course, but the budget for the house is very carefully considered.

So anyway, would you like to meet this beautiful smiley bunch? Kerry has just finished this video and I think it’s spectacular. The song captures the vibe in the house perfectly and the photos are so gorgeous. Click on the picture and it will bring you to the page where you can watch it and read all about it.

Thanks for reading,
éadaoin

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,
éad.