September 24, 2016 – We could hardly believe that we pulled off this amazing night. This 4th Annual Fundraising Gala was like no other. Because we wanted this banquet to be dedicated to a full course of authentic Vietnamese Cuisine — something that is rarely if ever done anywhere in Canada since no Vietnamese restaurants are large enough — it was a daunting task to rent a large hall not knowing if we could ever prepare enough food to feed our 350 guests. But, with the incredible talents of our super team members and head chefs Linh Kim Truong & Hang Pham, the magic of Dong Phan & Chua Phat Quang, Thu Le Pham, Ngoc Nguyen, Bich Ngoc Bui, Huynh Anh Mai, and the generosity of wonderful restaurants Ha Long Bay, Saigon Hut, Thanh Tam, and Dzung Phu-Huong, we were able to treat our guests to an unforgettably delicious Taste of Vietnam.
The evening itself was great fun with the wonderful Dr. Cecile Phan as our Master of Ceremony. We opened with the energetic Lion Dance by the Chua Phat Quang dancers (Michelle Dang, Chris Vuong, Cecilia Nguyen, Jacob Vo, Anh Le, Lily Dang, Dustin Nguyen). Lewis Lavoie, a renown artist, was kind enough to join us to perform a live painting for our live auction. The lovely students from the UofA Vietnamese Student Association (Minh-Thu Tu, Cecilia Nguyen, Dennis Shin, Justine Chung, Huy Dung, Izaak Xavier Harry, Donna Cao, Lily Dang, Daniel Ta) treated us to a traditional Vietnamese dance, Mua Xuan Cuoi Em. And the talented Justine Chung showcased her skill at playing the Dan Tranh, a Vietnamese string instrument. Even one of our guests, Basemah Abittar, a new Canadian citizen, entertained our guests with an Arabic song. Our photographer was Alaa Bitaar. We were once again honoured by the presence of the Canadian sponsors who started it all: Henry & Leona Heuver, Phil & Vicky Baril, John & Colleen LaPerle, Michelle & Theresa Zyp.
This year, we were fortunate to once again receive Mr & Mrs Heuver’s generous donation of a week’s stay at the Arizona Tropical Oasis for our live auction items. The beautiful singer Carrie Day also donated a House Concert. Both items helped raise significant funds for the foundation.
Of course, the night wouldn’t have been possible without the help of all those hard workers in the background: Dawn Bauer, John Bui, John McGillivary, Verna Quach, Vincent, Nathan, Thomas, Anthony, Angela, Vivian, Katy, Lorraine McCarthy, Trudie Aberdeen. And it wouldn’t be a success if not for the hundreds of guests who drove from near and far to support our effort. We are also grateful to the many silent auction items we received from dear friends and kind businesses.
In the end, we raised over $45,000! Thank you so much, dear friends!
September 24, 2016 Opening Remarks by Dr. Nhung Tran-Davies
Good evening dearest friends, family, and honoured guests. We are so humbled to once again have you share in this special evening with us. We are immensely grateful for your ongoing support. And for those who are new to our event, it is an honour to meet you and to be on this journey with you.
There is a saying that in order to know where you’re going, you must first know from whence you came? That is one of the reasons why our Foundation came to be, for none of us Vietnamese-Canadians here, despite the 40 yrs that had passed, can forget from whence we came – the guns, the bombs, the oppression, the poverty. We founded the Children of Vietnam Benevolent Foundation to honour the countless Canadians who helped us so generously and unconditionally when we first came to Canada as refugees.
Our foundation was also founded to honour our parents who had worked so hard and tirelessly to raise us as good citizens in this foreign, beautiful, yet often very cold, land. Because of you, we know very clearly the path of our Foundation. And that path, and the very reason for our existence, is to pay forward the kindness and love that we had ourselves received.
Sometimes, we get so caught up going from one disaster to the next that it becomes easy to forget that when the news camera turns away or the years passes by, the devastating effects of war or other man-made atrocities often linger for generations to come. The reality is because of this devastation, Vietnam remains a developing country. It is very difficult for us to see the ongoing poverty and struggles of so many of the children when we ourselves were so fortunate to be have been sponsored to this land of hope and opportunities. Because you did not turn your backs on us, we cannot turn our backs on them.
However, we cannot do it alone. Because we know that there are so many needs here and around the world, we dare not ask for more than just one evening with you to focus our attention on the lingering poverty in our homeland. Since establishing in 2013, it has been only with your help that we have been able to carry through our mission to help give hope and opportunities to these impoverished children of Vietnam through love, education, and the provision of basic needs.
The average income in Vietnam is b/w 400-800 USD/ mth. That is why when I asked the director of one of the orphanages why the surrounding community does not do more to help the children, she asked me how when the people in their community have so little themselves.
Little did we know that when you walk into these places, a piece of your heart remains with the children in these orphanages. That is how eight orphanages have come under our assistance. Knowing that these children have very few advocates in their own community, our foundation is doing what we can to help improve the lives and living standards for these children. We are providing assistance with the children’s school fees, supplying basic needs such as food/clothes, purchasing new beds, air conditioners, and even washing machines. Our recent great joy was to see the children at one of the orphanages playing on their new playground equipments.
Because we know education is the key to a better future for the children and their community, a large part of what we do as a Foundation is to help the underprivileged children go to school and to finish their schooling. In the past year alone, we granted nearly $15,000 in scholarships and school supplies to students throughout Vietnam. We have given many bicycles to students to facilitate their travel to school through the heat. We have also provided many hearing aids for children with disabilities. Our assistance has reached as far north as the remote, mountainous communities of Ha Giang. Seeing their faces light up when they receive their new books or treats makes all our hardwork worthwhile.
This year, we also helped in the construction of a new Kindergarten school in Thanh Phu. What is wonderful to see was that once the school was built, the excitement of a clean, bright new school for their children inspired more parents to send their children to school, and members of this community stepped up and donated bikes and other school supplies to the children. What we are doing are not only lifting up the children, but also their community.
I am so moved to see all the hardwork and dedication of so many amazing people in bringing this night together. It is very humbling when I look around the room because I see so much beauty in your hearts, and I feel such great love for the children. We thank you.