Thursday, June 2, 2016

The month of May has been a very busy but meaningful month for many of us at Tea Talk CoRE.  However, the busier we are, the call to slow down and reflect become all the more important. Otherwise we become a rat running on the spinning wheel but going nowhere.
In May, Trang (CoRE's director) was in Singapore through a scholarship from the National University of Singapore to participate in a South East Asia Young Social Work Leaders Conference in Singapore.  Tea Talk CoRE is very proud of her.  Many of my professors and social work colleagues send me messages on how impressed they were with Trang's presentation and the professionalism and passion she brought along with her.  Along with her was Tra My, a Tea Talker that has graduated from Let's Talk and is now a social worker at Hagar International.  Both Trang and Tra My did us proud.

Ms. Trang, receiving her certificate of attendance.
CoRE, though young and few in manpower, has again pull off a successful fundraising gala dinner.  Our success is very much due to all the support and help that we received from our faithful advocates, advisory council members, Tea Talkers, Let's Talkers and friends from around the world.  Our accounting staff is still consolidating the final amount raised.  The delay is due to the fact that some had pledged to donate but has yet to transfer the fund.  As for today, near to US$21 000 (gross) has been raise. Well done ALL.  Well done CoRE!

Mr. Lawrence Peh, member of Tea Talk Advisory Council and CEO of ParkCity Hanoi sponsored a table for the gala dinner.
All our Tea Talkers that helped made the gala dinner a success.
Ms. Van, a faithful Tea Talker volunteering as the MC for the evening.
May also saw the arrive of 19 students from School of the Arts (Singapore) coming for their Oversea Community Involvement Program (OCIP).  SOTA, together with Tea Talk CoRE organized fun cultural activities, baking classes and workshops spreading LOVE to those around us.  In return, each of them and those of us at Tea Talk CoRE received more than we gave. Freely received, freely give.  As SOTA and Tea Talk CoRE journeyed together for 11 days, wonderful memories were made, friendships extended, fear and insecurities evaporated, forgiveness offered, appreciation and admiration credited.  Yes, Luong celebrate with this quote, "We succeeded, not because we see each of you shared in tears the valuable lessons the service learning experience has brought.  We at Tea Talk CoRE succeeded because we tear along with you all."  Moving forward, all such service learning trip will be renamed as Let"s C.A.R.E. C for Collaboration; A for Appreciation, R for Risk-Taking and E for Empowering Communities.

SOTA students getting ready and oriented for their 11 days OCIP at Tea Talk CoRE Community.
Let's Bake: A community involvement program.
SOTA students organizing a community event with children from the local community.
But, May is not without its challenges.  The demolition of the neighboring building has severely affected our operation and business.  We came in on one Monday morning and saw the thick layer of dust covering every inch of the cafe.  Then came the deafening noise and thundering shock waves that each pounding of the demolition machine struck to breakdown each brick.  In my heart, I grumbled and wished that the neighboring construction will take more deliberate action to reduce the noise and dust. My desperate attempts to negotiate the situation pales in what God did.  God, who watches our every step has a great sense of humor.  He sent such a big rain and flooded many parts of Hanoi.  The heavy rain certainly did the job of keeping the dust at bay.

Demolition work on the house next door
Dust covered over Tea Talk
One of the most sever flood since 2008
Looking ahead, June will be a time to consolidate.  At Tea Talk cafe, our cook Trang and our manager Ha will be due for maternal leave soon.  We are training a new cook now and is looking for someone to help with the accounts.  Credits to Ha for spending the past one year establishing the tedious but needed work of establishing a strong team of cafe staff.  Linh has joined us 3 months ago to assist with marketing along with many other service related task.  Tiem is a new staff making all the drinks.  She will need training to improve her drinks making skills.  Xuan our baker is recently married.  Congratulations. 

CoRE Community, the charity arm of Tea Talk, will continue to host workshops, lectures and talks.  On June 11, Let's Talk will have it official graduation ceremony for its 6th intake. Ms; Lee Song Lee, a senior medical social worker will be conducting a sharing session on 21st June about Medical Social Work In Singapore.  At the same time, CoRE will be hosting the Community Public Health Training team again from 20th to 24th June.  The community health project will be renamed to Let's GO.  G = Grow; O = Outwards.   As we grow individually as a person, both in professional skills and our personal hope, Tea Talk CoRE aspires to grow outwards and bless other communities.  Thus the partnership between REI and CoRE through the Community Public Health Team lead by Dr. Hipp is helping is set the ground and foundation for what I envision will take root in 3 to 5 years time.

Not to say the least, is our Tea Talk Tour and Tea Talk English.  Our youngest siblings in our family. Youngest they may be but over the past 6 months, both the tour and English services have brought new revenue streams for our bottom-line. Our youngest siblings, like the picture depicted below has help carried Tea Talk CoRE through challenging times. When we have a hole to jump over, each of you came in to bridge the gap.

Thanks to Yen who is the OWO for Tea Talk Tour.  OWO - One Woman Operations.  Also the the Mcfaddens for leading Tea Talk English.  Any guess for OMO?   No, it no One-Man-Operations.  Its One-McFadden-Operations.  This is because when Presley works, the whole family sacrifices.
Let's Bike - Tea Talk Tour's unique street food tour by bike.
Let's Share - Tea Talk Fun Club.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Tea Talk CoRE Fund Raising Gala Dinner

Greetings.  Allow to me share with you that Tea Talk CoRE Fundraising Gala Dinner is here again and we would like to invite you to join us make an impact in the community.  Our social impact through the Centre for Counseling, Research & Empowering Community (CoRE) has expended. For a snapshot of our impact, you can review the videos of the various projects and events we have organized over the past few years at our official channel:

CoRE's yearly operating expenses is budgeted at around US$59 000.  Our goal is to raise US$120 000 through the different fund raising events throughout 2016.  This will give CoRE at least 2 years of operating expenses. To date, we have raised near to US$15 000.

Below ere are some videos highlighting Tea Talk CoRE Community programs and impact.
Interview with VTC10 :

We are asking that you consider supporting us in the following ways:

1) Sponsor a table for a 9 course dinner at Fortuna Hanoi Hotel with a donation starting from US$800.

2) Buy a few tickets for yourself and invite your friends/ business associates to the gala dinner.

3) Buy a few tickets/tables for the beneficiaries of organizations working with disadvantaged children, orphans and people with disability.

4) Be a sponsor and give a cash donation directly to CoRE in support towards the fundraising effort.

5) Be a sponsor and give in-kind donations like gift vouchers, electronic and household appliances for lucky draws.

Donations are welcomed even if you cannot make it to the event.
Click on the links below

In Vietnam - CoRE's bank account
Bank name:  BIDV
Number account: 22010000592607
Address:Thang Long Branch

In Singapore, please contact for bank transfer details.

For a receipt of your donation, please email Ms. Hong at

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Dead or alive?

Dead or alive?
What come to mind when you look at the picture on the left?  Is the plant dead or alive?   I bought this plant 2 weeks before Tet, the lunar new year here in Vietnam.  It was a beautiful plant with interesting flowers.  My helper Ms. Hai who have been working for us the past 15 years looked at my new "buy" and laugh at me saying, "Michael, your plant will be dead in two weeks.  Nonetheless, enjoy it while you can."  

The day I brought the plant home.

During this festive period, it is also my family tradition to make a trip back to Singapore around that time to celebrate Chinese New Year.  9 days later, we returned to Hanoi and the blossom were gone and the plant was dried up because I did not water it during our absence from home.  Just as Ms. Hai predicted.  Looking at the plant, I asked myself the question: "Dead or Alive?"  I had wanted to throw it out.  However, for unknown reasons, I decided to cut back on the branches and kept watering it.  For 2 months, I watered it.

Yesterday, 10th April 2016, I noticed something interesting happened.  Like a miracle, new life sprouted.  I can't imagine what seems so dead as indeed still alive.  In fact, as new leaves start to sprout, I can imagine the bloom that will one day come again in the future.  I am glad I did not throw the plant out when all seems so dried up and dead.  

New growth!
In fact, I have been similar thoughts about Tea Talk.  Tea Talk celebrated it's 4th Anniversary recently.  Many times, outwardly, I feel I am wasting away.  Over the past 4 years, I have contemplated on numerous occasions to "throwing it out" or to give up.  But each time I feel like giving up, a new spark of hope rekindled my spirit to press on.  The past 4 years have been extremely tough.  And I do not know how the future of Tea Talk looks like. However, on Saturday, when each of the Tea Talkers shared their stories,  I saw up-closed once again sprouts of new leaves, new life and new hope in the eyes of those who shared their stories.  Guess Tea Talk will have to keep pressing on, and set it's sight on the hope that sustains it.


Sunday, January 3, 2016

Christmas Party at Tea Talk featured on Vietnam TV.

Singaporean Youth volunteers at Tea Talk CoRE. 

Read the reflections of the Singaporean volunteers here:

Monday, November 9, 2015

A month later: In memory of Jacqueline's mother.

Grace wrote this song in memory of her grandmother.

The meaning of eclipse not only means the obscuring of light, but it also signifies deterioration and decline. I wrote the song in remembrance of my late grandmother. The song is about the last night of her life, and the image of the event that continues to linger in my mind.

I flew back to Singapore from Hanoi, a trip of a little more than a thousand miles. I remember stepping into the dark room and seeing her trembling because of the cancer. "恩琦来了- Grace is here" my mother tells her, and I see a tiny hint of a smile that she mustered up a lot of effort for. She was also fighting for each breath, and to see her in so much pain was very heartbreaking. It was only back in July that seemingly…everything was fine, and I still could enjoy her famous sweet and sour pork. Only a few months later, she was unrecognizable to me.

Very vividly, I remember the cross necklace that she put on. I believe it was a sense of comfort and peace as she knew that she was going to pass on to a better place. The whole family was gathered in that dark room, and everyone gave her a kiss on her forehead. As I think about it, I recall the sweat from her forehead that lingered on my lips. From that moment, we all knew it was really goodbye, and wow…tears are salty…
We all waved goodbye as we left the room that night, and I watched her hand move slightly, waving in return, reassuring all of us that she'll be okay, we would be just fine…eventually.
Music & lyrics by Grace Ong.

Thank you for your prayers and love during this period of bereavement that Jacqueline, Grace and I went through.  We are thankful that we were all able to all see Jacqueline's mother before she entered into the sweet embrace of her beloved Lord Jesus Christ.  Jacqueline managed to nurse and care for her mother during the last 2 weeks of her mother's life.  Grace and I, together with the rest of the immediate and extended family were able to see her for a last time, expressed our gratitude for her sacrificial life and gave her our good-bye kisses and hugs on the evening before she was called home to be with the Lord the next morning at 5.40 am on Friday, 9th Oct.  My mother-in-law, was 74 years old.

Before her passing, my mother-in-law encouraged us by quoting the Bible verse in Psalm 90:10 saying "Our days may come to seventy years or eighty..." Then she said: "I am already 74."  How many of us can face death with such peace and assurance? Though we continue to grief over our lost of a dear mother, mother-in-law and grandmother, we are all inspired by her simple faith, a life of loyalty and sacrifice.  

Jacqueline would like to share the eulogy which she read out during the funeral service. 

My Mum was a gentle and quiet lady. She would enjoy a cup of coffee after finishing her day’s of work at home. She cooked, cleaned, washed and took care of her children and grand children with full dedication and love. 

Widowed at the age of 47, she brought up 5 children. She had never complained about her hardships. She was strict and would lay down rules which she thought best for us, in order to make sure that we grew up well. 

Being away from Singapore and living in Vietnam for the past 14 years, Michael, Grace and I would always looked forward to coming to Mum’s home, knowing that she would cook a sumptuous meal for us. I remember writing her a letter when we were away the first year, saying how much I missed her pig stomach pepper soup. After which, she never failed to make that whenever she knew we were back in Singapore.

Her cooking was enjoyed by all her children and grandchildren. It was foolishness to try duplicating her dishes which none of her daughters nor daughters-in-law could succeed. All of us have our favourite dishes made by her. And now we will always treasure the taste and memory of her cooking. 

This is a great loss to us. Knowing that our lives would now be different without Mum being here. Thank you Mum! We are going to miss you dearly and will always remember how much you have loved us.  We love you and know that you are now in the embrace of our Lord Jesus. One day, we will meet again in eternity! 

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A New Chapter

Tea Talk’s 3rd anniversary gala dinner was so much more than a celebration of our achievements. The event that took place on 10th April at The Hanoi Club Hotel was a signifier of our intent within the local community, and provided a platform in which to exhibit our fantastic new psycho-social educational projects. That evening funds were raised for Tea Talk’s partner NGO, The Centre for Counseling, Research & Empowering Community (CoRE).

Our guest-of-honor Mr Ng Teck Hean, Singapore Ambassador to Vietnam & Mr Nguyen Vu Kien, Deputy Director of International Relations Department of VCCI, and over 200 guests from right across the globe joined us that night.  As our smartly dressed philanthropists made their way inside the prestigious showcase room, they were greeted by CoRE’s dedicated team of volunteers, all eager to present the fruits of months of hard work.  

Currently CoRE offers three community-based programs - Let’s Talk;  Tea Talk Counseling and Three Cups of Tea Library. In the coming weeks we will add a fourth project called “Skill Me Up’’ – a workshop designed to equip children and teenagers with important life-skills so they can have a enriching adolescence.  Do check out these videos:

Once the guests had taken time to learn all about Tea Talk’s programs, they were then treated to some of the finest foods Vietnam has to offer, as well as some truly breathtaking musical performances from the likes of awarding winning vocalist Ms. Olivia Ong, and classical pianist Joshua Shin. 

Undoubtedly, the biggest success story of the night came in the form of a live auction – with all proceeds generated went straight towards CoRE. Guests were able to bid for items ranging from original works of art by talented local school children, art work donated by students from Concordia International School Hanoi,  one of a kind banknotes in mint condition, and personally signatured album by Ms. Olivia Ong.

As the evening drew to a close it was only fitting that the Founder of Tea Talk & CoRE, Mr. Michael Ong, gave an inspired speech that reminded us all why we care so much about our young generation and the local community as a whole. The future is looking brighter than ever for Tea Talk and CoRE, and we are all extremely excited for what lies ahead!
For more photos from the Gala, please follow this link to CoRE’s facebook page: