Today's note is written by our S.E. Asia director extraordinaire Tam T Tong. I lovingly call her the mighty T's. It is about our "Tet" shop. Tet being the weeklong Lunar new-year celebration. Culture is that new things are bought for the New Year. Houses are painted families are brought together.
A couple years ago it finally hit me that just giving Tet gifts to poor kids was really robing the mothers and fathers of dignity. The message we gave out was we know you can't give your children gifts so we will do it for you...
Then after reading a book called Toxic Charity it hit me lets set up a "store" for a day. Invite the kids and parents we use to give the charity Tet gifts to and sell popular Tet type gifts for 10 cents on the dollar. If the family is unable to have the funds to "shop" let them work for a few hours at our office or one of the homes. Doing so small jobs to earn some money so they can provide for they're families.
If you can help us to cover the costs of what it took to make it happen, you can do it online at www.gibtk.org put Tet into comments box. So without further ado here's Tam note
I still have mixed feeling about Tet shop when we do it again today for 150 families from Dai Loc and Que Son. This is something special to our entire team. Besides 20 staff members, we had 20 volunteers came in and help from 6:30 in the morning, setting up is a major undertaking. Even a few of the young men who have completed our Hals Home program returned to help How touched to see kids coming back and help!
As normal, I don't take any important role in running this Tet shop. I enjoy walking around and talking with parents and children at the Tet shop because I want to see happiness on people.
I first met a lady. I sat on the floor and started talking to her. She smiled non-stop when talking about her opportunity to be at our Tet shop. She said my daughter wanted me to buy her a stuffed animal. She reminded me many times to make sure I didn't forget. This would the first time in life my daughter was able to have a stuffed animal as a gift from me. She is 8 years old and in grade 2. To kids in the countryside, a toy or a teddy bear is a huge luxury that families cannot afford. Families have just has enough for rice, how dare they spend 5 dollar on a toy, which amounts to a day or more of labor.
When the Tet shop started, I saw a father getting dresses for his daughters - wow! He had to wait for everyone to move to the next stop so that he could get dresses for his daughters. Seeing a big smile on his face while holding on two dresses, I can feel how much he love his daughters. He was excited with the thought of how happy his daughters would be when they see dresses.
Walking a bit more, a little boy got caught into my sight. He was looking at two toys, which confuse him, which do I chose? He liked both! "This is the first time I get to choose a toy I like." He then told me: "I have never a toy like this before. When I have free time, I just walk around the neighbor and talk to my friends. I am so happy that I found a toy. I will show it to my friends." A little toy means a lot to this little boy.
I noticed that more fathers came to purchase stuff. I followed different fathers just to enjoy their happy faces. After talking to several of them, I know that those fathers came to Tet shop for the first time. I asked each the same question; "how does it feel, being able to give your families gifts you were able to buy yourself?" I'm unable to express the emotions I felt. They looked straight into my eyes with their head up and with pride of a father and a husband and said; they were so proud of themselves when they can do something for their families. Their children will be so happy to get this gift. Nothing could express their feelings when they thought of the moment of giving the baskets to their families.
I asked if they spend this much money ($40 USD) each year to buy candy and cookies for their children on Tet. All of them told me no way. Maybe just a couple small packs of candies from the market in the last days of the year, is all they can do for their children. They never dare to dream something luxurious like what we provide at our Tet shop! I was choked with emotion when hearing that because I was reminded of the sadness on my fathers' face when he could not provide things for us on Tet.
Truly this Tet shop helps build strong family value. Those fathers looked at me with pride to say that we were buying things for our children and families. From a crazy idea, which I could not believe when we started it, now shows a deep effect on how to build up self-esteem on fathers and build up family value.
I wish you could see the big smiles on their faces, you may understand what I want to say in this journal. Growing up in a very poor family, I understand how much we dream of unaffordable things which are just for people with money in society. When we were poor, sometimes my father bought short pants for my sisters and me, that little gift meant so much to us. Now, seeing fathers got caught in the middle of crowd with women to buy dresses for their daughters. How sweet it is!!!
Love Tet shop. Love serving with our team to bring hope and happiness to people. Thank you all my great teammates and volunteers.