This is the first post ever from the White Rice Foundation, so we have a LOT to cover. As of late 2019, we are now recognized as a 501(c)(3) non-profit by the IRS and a tax-exempt organization by the great State of Texas! That means that all donations will be tax-deductible and we will lower our operating expenses because we will get discounts on things like credit card processing, web hosting, etc. It also adds extra responsibilities like auditing groups that we grant money to and filling out tons of paperwork around tax-time.
We just got back from Kon Tum, Vietnam where we spent some time talking with Father Hieu, hanging out with the Daughters of Charity (nuns), and visiting the four locations we currently help sponsor. Kon Tum is a beautiful area and it was wonderful seeing the kids. They are always excited and happy to see us. I’m not sure if they are excited to see us, or are excited to eat the candy we bring. We bring a LOT of candy. Yen bought a lot of Halloween candy when it went on sale after Halloween. The Halloween candy combined with the rest of the candy we had saved throughout the year and some that was donated allowed us to bring over 60 pounds of candy! I think next time we might also want to bring some toothbrushes and floss. I’d hate for us to be the primary reason for cavities in the region.
Doing trips like this is always a roller-coaster of emotions. It warms your heart to see the smiles on the kids’ faces and to know that you played a small part in providing them with food to eat, but it is painful to see how malnourished some of these children are and how much work there is left to do. For now, let’s focus on looking at pictures of the kids; there will be time to talk about what more we need to do later in the post.
We arrived in Pleiku airport (the closest airport) on the first night later than we expected because Lunar New Year (Tet) had delayed almost every flight in the country. We took a taxi to Kon Tum and met up with Father Hieu and the Daughters of Charity at a boarding school run by the nuns. In the video below you can see the kids singing a song and dancing.
The next morning we went to visit the first village. The traditional Lunar New Year (Tết in Vietnamese) food is bánh chưng, which is pork, green beans, and rice wrapped in banana leaves and boiled overnight. We brought bánh chưng and candy to all of the kids we visited. It took a lot of coordination to hand out that much candy and bánh chưng to all of the kids. The kids in this village do not get food provided every day. The day we came was not a day they were scheduled to have food, so they just got bánh chưng and a lot of candy.
We spent more time in the second village we visited. Fortunately the nuns are able to provide one meal for the children every day except Sunday. As we approached the village, we could see kids running down the street to meet us. The kids were excited for the candy and bánh chưng! We had a chance to interview one of the parents and one of the volunteers to ask about the effect the meals have had on the children in the village. The nuns and other volunteers spend a lot of time to cook and serve meals. Their dedication is inspiring.
In the third village we handed out more bánh chưng and candy. There are a lot of kids in the area whose family lives on a few dollars per day. Even the few meals they get can make an impact in their health and help to alleviate the financial strain of the families.
The fourth and final village we went to fed children in the house of one of the village’s leaders. As we pulled in to town, the kids were gathering. After the food was laid out on tables, the kids all sat down, prayed, and ate. They were serving rice porridge (cháo). We talked a little with the kids, and they all thought it tasted very good. One little girl even brought an extra container to bring some home to her sister who was sick.
We had a chance to interview the lady who owned the house to get some additional information on how they fed the kids in the village.
Now that we’ve got to see some cute pictures of the kids we can move on to other business. It is important to us to make the most out of every dollar donated. Working with volunteers and the Daughters of Charity is one way to keep costs down, because they work for free. Our BOD members also cover their own travel expenses when going to visit and audit the organizations we donate to. None of the money that has been donated to the White Rice Foundation has gone to any administrative or marketing expense. The only expense that gets taken out is the cost of credit card processing and bank transfers, which normally run around 2%-4%.
One of our obligations as a foundation is to audit the organizations we donate money to. This is important to make sure the funds are being used in a responsible way and also gives us a chance to build longer term relationships with organizations to figure out new ways to help people in the area. A link to the audit report for this trip can be found by clicking here. There are a lot of details in the audit report, but to summarize, we found that donating to Father Hieu was very efficient and effective. Each meal cost around $0.20, and we are going to help Father Hieu raise more money when he comes to visit the US later this year. His goal is to raise around $4,000 USD per month to provide meals for the children in each of the four villages every day. Right now only one village gets meals every day and the others only get them once or twice a week.