Saturday, February 18, 2012

Tea Talk update


I guess you all have known by now that we have US$30,000 for the Tea Talk project.  Our initial budget was $100,000 and then revised to US$60,000.   Thus we are half way to the target.
Mr. Tien, Ms. Trang, Jacqueline and I have many exciting stories to share with you all as each you are partners in this long journey.  3 years has gone by since the idea was conceived in my fearful heart.  But each of you have given me courage to pursue this dream.  Now, the dream is slowly but certainly becoming a reality.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate all your support and words of encouragement.  
As of today, we have found an ideal location, just 100 meters away from the university that I am teaching.  This is ideal for the students to come over and "hang-out".  We are planning to meet the landlord this weekend to negotiate the price.  Currently, he is asking for US$3000 per month.  This is $1000 above the budget that we are willing to pay for rent.  A second solution would be for my family to move into the house, with us living on the 3rd level of the 3 level home. Tea Talk would occupy the first two levels while I chip in on the rental.  Polar cafe's boss from Singapore, Mrs. Kate Cheah, visited the location with us recently and also finds the location ideal and suggested that my family move into the cafe premises as well.   Jacqueline and I will have to weigh the pros and cons of moving into the cafe.  One immediate pro is that it would help with our rental, as at our current home, we're paying US$400/month.
The Tea Talk core team has decided to go ahead with the rental if the landlord is willing to lower the rent to US$2300 per month.  With my family moving in and sharing US$400 for the rental, Tea Talk will have to pay US$1900.  We are also looking at inviting other businesses or NGOs to have their offices there to share with the rental.  So these are our thoughts for now.
As for me, my work hasn't change a bit, in case you might wonder.  I will continue to be a volunteer social work consultant at the university. By the way, 14th Feb 2012 marked my family's anniversary.  11 year ago, we relocated to Hanoi and called it HOME.  
Again, it has been a privilege working on this Tea Talk project.  I like to use the analogy of the human body to share what I mean.  Some of you are like the brain, giving invaluable suggestions.  Others give of their time by designing the website and the Tea Talk logo. Some of you are the hands and feet.  You run around with me to look for suitable locations.  Others in Singapore and USA have run around to collect donated items.  Brown School professors at Washington University in St. Louis, for example, have given 60 social work books that will be made available for reference at the Tea Talk library. Some have helped to raise funds, like my beloved friends at the McDonnell International Scholars Academy.  Like to eyes, some of you took your own initiative to look for donated items like teacups, mixers, fruit juicers and desktop computers to help cut down our setup cost.  Many of you, like the mouth, have been sharing with your friends about Tea Talk.  I have been receiving emails from friends all over asking me when is Tea Talk opening.  A social work professor came from England and looked me up, and asked, "Where is tea Talk located?  I want to visit." I had to disappoint her by saying, "We are still at the planning stage, but you are welcome to come to my house for tea."   She came to my house for tea indeed.
Donations, both in cash and in kind, are pouring in from Singapore, USA, Israel, China, Hong Kong, Korea, and Vietnam.  It is exciting to see Vietnamese people rising up to give back to their communities. Many gave sacrificially.  Again, thanks for all your encouragement and support.  
Hopefully, I can show you some pictures of the Tea Talk cafe by the next update.
Sincerely,
Michael Ong