Expat spirit of Christmas alive and giving in Hanoi

Published:  21 Dec at 6 PM
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In the midst of the modern Christmas’s commercialised beanfeast, a group of expats in Hanoi are playing Santa to the city’s homeless.

Now in its second year, the expat-inspired Hanoi Christmas Kitchen is preparing to give hundreds of gifts inclduing hot meals to the homeless and less privileged in the city. From its small beginnings in 2016, the project is now supported by a great many more expats living and working in Hanoi, all of whom are giving of their time to ensure those without homes aren’t totally left out in the cold days and nights common during Vietnam’s winter months.

Initiator of the project Naim Hydal, a Canadian musician who’s lived in the city for four years, began the project as a way to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas. Targeting the homeless living under Long Bien Bridge, the Christmas Kitchen volunteers launched two charity events earlier this month, with the first a fundraiser featuring carnival games, games of chance, a raffle and live music. All the prizes as well as the gifts for the homeless were donated by local businesses.

The second event, held on December 9, saw all the gifts being wrapped and food for the homeless donated by local restaurants was cooked and frozen against the day of delivery. A local restaurant provided the venue for the cook-in as well as for the fundraiser. The next step was to involve local charities in the delivery schedule, with Hanoi’s Warmth and Sunshine group and volunteers from the city’s Foreign Trade University more than happy to help. As well as the gifts and hot meals, donations were raised and given to charities working with Hanoi's homeless.

After 2017’s event, over $1,000 was given over, with Niam and the group hoping for more this year. Niam told local reporters Hanoi as a growing city has huge gaps between the poor and the rich, and it’s up to the community to take care of those in need. Charity, he added, begins at home, and helping the less than fortunate doesn’t need massive amounts of money, just a strong team and a great idea. It’s a blessing, he said, to be able to contribute.
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