Building a better future

As the city of Nha Trang develops economically at a rapid pace, there is a growing need to ensure simultaneous social development; the rising tide lifting all boats so to speak. In most situations, the marginalized and forgotten are typically left to the care of compassionate volunteers and Buddhist monks inhabiting local Pagodas. In Nha Trang, luckily there are a growing number of socially conscious and successful business people in the community who have decided to put their focus and energies towards community development, sustainability and specifically to the care of orphans. There are many who do fine work and deserve the utmost admiration for their work across Khanh Hoa province and this article examines just two examples.

In the tradition of ‘ladies first’, we introduce Eileen Brown, a highly valued and respected member of Nha Trang’s growing ex-patriate community. Along with her husband, the equally excellent Steve Brown, the couple fell in love with Nha Trang 15 years ago while on vacation. They eventually decided to pack up their lives in the rat race of Australia, and settle down in Nha Trang 4 years ago. Since then they have been operating the highly successful and esteemed ‘Pure Vietnam Massage, Beauty & Spa’ for the past 4 years. With remarkable compassion, Steve and Eileen have been using the profits made from their business – since its conception – to give back to the community and surrounding area. With Steve handling the day-to-day operations of the business, Eileen now focuses all her time on community development through her Tuong Lai Foundation (TLF) currently serving the orphan children of Tu Bong Pagoda, located about a one-and-a-half-hour drive north of Nha Trang. With 14 orphaned infants all under the age of 3, there is a tremendous amount of work to be done.

Her efforts have already built a large fenced-in sand pit for the children to play in as they grow, a garden to grow vegetables, and a water reservoir which holds up to 850,000 liters of clean drinking water which is also used by the surrounding community. Soon there will also be a swing set as well as a hydroponic system setup holding up to 250 plants which will be locally produced and sponsored by a school in Victoria, Australia. Eileen has also been running a summer-school program teaching English at the pagoda for the past 2 years which has been a huge success. This program educates the surrounding community and has been teaching English and a variety of other interesting topics such as culture and environmentalism to nearly 100 youth of all ages.

Another highly valued member of the ex-patriate community of Nha Trang is Lanterns and BBQ Un In owner Robert Costabile. A fellow Australian native, Robert helped inspire Eileen to fulfill her passion for giving back when they met during one her visits before moving here. Having started the highly regarded Lanterns restaurant to fund projects in the community, Robert has had a long-standing relationship with many of the orphanages in Nha Trang. Similar to Eileen, Robert first visited Nha Trang years ago and immediately fell in love. While visiting an orphanage, he felt compelled to focus his efforts on making a difference in this world through positive change for the children in need. Since then, he has opened businesses which have been on a constant upward trajectory and have helped countless children find guidance and direction.

Robert, along with his partner Hien Thuy Phan have been focusing their efforts on three different projects for community building. The first is a scholarship program fund which pays for 250 orphans school fees. Both international and local sponsors help give education and futures to these children in need. The second is a food supply program which provides nourishment to 9 different orphanages each month. Due to their focus on the importance of relationship building, Robert and Hien receive calls from the orphanages about what they need and the program is more than happy to oblige. Lastly there is a Children’s Day every August before school starts where up to 600 children from the 12 different orphanages they work with enjoy a day at the beach.

Both the little and large acts of kindness undoubtedly have a big impact on a community. Leading by example is the first step towards making change and there is no shortage of great leaders to learn from in Nha Trang. With their principles of relationship building and sustainability, Eileen and Robert along with their treasured partners continue to contribute to the community in ways that will live on for years. Inspiring countless others, more and more members of the community seek out ways to help make a difference. This upcoming October, Kids Kastle and CoLab will be hosting a Family Day BBQ with all funds raised going to Eileen’s Tuong Lai Foundation. Make sure to check it out as well as the many other ways you can help this wonderful metropolis reach its full potential.