Two years ago, Vietnamese citizens experienced the beginning of the strictest social distancing period during the COVID-19 pandemic. Though COVID-19 began to spread in Vietnam in 2020, countless communities nationwide were severely impacted by the strict lockdowns imposed in 2022.
But if there’s one thing I remember from COVID-19, it is the compassion Vietnamese residents showed to their communities during this time. In a period of isolation and suffering, Vietnamese communities supported each other with open hearts, kindness, and selflessness.
In October 2021, I launched the COVID Compassion Podcast Series, a series of recorded interviews that aimed to document and share compassion within the Vietnamese community during the pandemic.
How it all started
After scrolling through Facebook in the early stages of the lockdown period, I noticed numerous posts from high schoolers and working professionals seeking donations for their COVID-19 relief campaigns.
I stumbled upon posts from Jimmy Nguyen, a close friend from high school who began his fundraising campaign on YouTube. An avid performing arts student, Jimmy had orchestrated an ensemble of student performances to create a virtual concert, raising funds to donate food and necessities to Ho Chi Minh City's medical workers.
Jimmy was an incredibly energetic Vietnamese student who utilized his creativity to help others. In my first podcast episode, titled “A Concert for Care,” Jimmy shared his experience in reaching talented music students from around Vietnam who, just like him, were stuck at home with seemingly no way to help the communities around them that were struggling. Jimmy connected different singing and musical instrument tracks from many local singers in Vietnam, uniting students with their shared passion for music in order to do good for their communities. The money raised from this concert was donated to medical workers in Ho Chi Minh City, helping them afford necessities and care such as bottled water, extra hazmat suits, and packaged meals.
Immediately, I knew that there were so many more individuals like Jimmy who were working hard to help their surrounding communities in Vietnam. I was compelled to uncover and share their stories to inspire others the way they inspired me.
And from there, my podcast took off! I began my journey of interviewing community leaders from all over Vietnam. My interviewees ranged from Vi Do, the CEO of Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, to Nguyen Thi Cam Van, a CFO at Fulbright University Vietnam, who dedicated her social-distancing hours to running a non-profit organization. Over time, I was lucky to be in contact with some of the largest non-profit organizations in Vietnam, eager to share their charity stories with me.
My unforgettable podcast episode
While every episode was highly memorable and taught me so much, my most memorable podcast episode has to be with Nguyen Thi Cam Van, the founder of From Saigon the Saigon (FSTS).
From Saigon to Saigon is a non-profit organization that donated groceries and over-the-counter medications to less fortunate neighborhoods in Vietnam, connecting kind Facebook donors to supermarket chains willing to support her mission to help suffering households.
When she just started her charity, Van had no experience in non-profit work. After reading about the hardships of less fortunate neighborhoods and utilizing her extensive leadership experience from her professional career, Van “did what [she] knew how to best, which was to lead.”
Van started by asking friends and family to fundraise, then publicly asked for help from strangers on Facebook to identify households they knew needed help. Many Vietnamese community members reached out to ask for help or directed Van to neighbors or friends that desperately needed help.
While raising a one-year-old son at home and balancing her job as the CFO of Fulbright University, Van raised funds from countless Facebook donors and established partnerships with some of the supermarket chains such as Co.Op Mart and Big C to aid her in the purchase and delivery of her care packages to impoverished neighborhoods. One household at a time, Van coordinated the routine delivery of food packages to support over 11,000 Saigonese families in need.
In my emotional 40-minute podcast episode with her, Van shared her reflections on her charity work experience during COVID-19.
“During this period, there were times that I thought I would collapse in front of my laptop. There were just too many people who needed help. Mothers were giving birth to children during the lockdown and had no food, no milk, and no help to raise their children. There were circumstances I never thought I would hear in my life.”
My most significant insight from the podcast
To this day, I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to share the stories of kind-hearted and hardworking people like Van. Her story encapsulates the kindness of the Vietnamese community. During the hardest of times, she balanced her work-life, family, and charity in order to do good for others.
From high school students to working professionals, the interviewees I met on my podcast show continue to inspire many individuals and ignite our love for Vietnam.
Despite experiencing hardship in one of the most stressful times, Vietnamese citizens poured their hearts out to support each other. Not only were they willing to support others, these individuals were so willing to teach others how to do good in this world, just as they did.
During my interviews with these people, I asked for one piece of advice they would give to young people looking to make an impact on their communities.
“If there is one piece of advice I would give young Vietnamese, stay true to your heart. Be sincere, be genuine, and ask for help. There are many people out there who need our help.”