Monday, April 9, 2018

Let's Celebtate - Tea Talk is closed!

April 10, It’s Tea Talk 6th Anniversary.  But Tea Talk is closed. 
And many people are sad and asked WHY?  
Outsiders look in and ask “What went wrong?” “Why didn’t more be done to keep it going?”

Those of us who are insiders knows why.  We may be sad but not disappointed. 
In fact, many of the Vietnamese who have expressed sadness also wrote me to tell me 
how thankful and grateful they are for Tea Talk. And that is true, my own sadness has 
turn to thanksgiving, then to gratefulness and finally celebration.  
So why celebrate the closure of Tea Talk, a space that had cultivated hearts and nourished souls?

This is just a fraction of the Tea Talk family.

Fun days! Learning to bake! Or is it?
Learning to serve on another!
Learning to love one another: Love does not keep records of wrongs.
Just some of the many young lives that Tea Talk has been working with.  Each of them represents at least a 1000 lives. For who they are is at the core of what we do as professionals.

It is good from a development social work perspective it is good that Tea Talk is closed.  
Is Tea Talk’s mission accomplished? Not really. Just partially, not all! 
Tea Talk is closed for a very simple reason.  No money no (Tea) Talk. 
The fiscal realities make its very challenging to keep Tea Talk going. 
That said, Tea Talk has impacted many young lives.  These young lives are like the bud breaks 
that signify the coming of spring. They are ready to spring forward. 
It's time for me, an international development social worker to step back, 
and let these young lives take over.  Oh, the letting go is not easy. 
The image and statues are the easy part to let go. It is the sense of significance and joy 
when working with these young lives that is hard to let go. 
Let go I must for this is fitting with what Prof Robert Chambers in his book, 
Development: Whose Reality Counts? Putting the First Last, asserts.  
Prof Chambers “reflects on the view that listening and participation isn’t enough: 
the whole idea of empowerment means development institutions need to disempower themselves too.”
(I did not read the book but read an article located here: Click.) 
Over the past 6 years of developing Tea Talk, it has empowered many young lives. 
 But unknowingly, I have empowered myself and many other international development workers too.  
I remembering reading a wise saying that goes like this: “For the mission to be deeply ingrained, 
one must become less and less.” And like Mr. Tien, one of the co-founder of Tea Talk said: 
“Unless a seed dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”  
So, it is good that Tea Talk is closed. It is time for us outsiders to disempower ourselves. 

I took this picture at the end of Autumn.  The sun setting, the tree lost all its leaves.  Signifying Letting Go!

It is good from a psychological point of view. For almost 6 years, the volunteers, staff, donors and 
many others have toil.  Many toil with real sweat and blood. If I may use a farming analogy, 
the past few years were seasons of plowing the soil. It's hard work. Do you know why farmers 
need to plow the soil? Truth is, seed requires two things for germination.  
They are moisture and warmth. To get moisture, the seed to soil contact must be firm. 
To get warmth from the Sun, we plant seed when the temperature is favorable. 
Likewise, it is with developmental work. The person-to-person contact must be firm.  
To be firm, we must work alongside our local counterparts to share skills and knowledge (moisture). 
Warmth can only come from the sun. 
In winter, some farmers try to create warmth by using the greenhouse effect. 
However, nothing can be compared with real Sun. Planting the seed at the right time is crucial.  
Too early, you kill it. Because it too cool. Too late, we miss the season and so have nothing to do 
but wait for the next planting cycle. I guess this was hard for me to understand when 
I was living and growing up in Singapore. All kinds of fruits and vegetables are available all 
reason round and often in an instance. We get it anytime and want it now! 
But the natural cycle of the creation the creator has installed is different.  There is a time 
for everything under heaven. So it is good that Tea Talk is closed. The time has come for 
the natural process of germination to do its work. For April rain comes spring flowers.

An antique plow frozen in time and in the snow along the path that I usually takes my walk.  Reminding me that winter is a season of rest from toil and wait for the first sign of spring.

Its April but it is still very cold outside so I bought a pot of tulip.  Can't wait to see what Spring will be like!

It is very good indeed.  In fact, it calls for a celebration. I can’t wait to see what will spring be like. 
I want to be able to smell very flowers.  I want to look at them, admire them and take pictures of 
them and with them. And this is the call to celebrate Tea Talk as it closed it door at the end of its 
6th year.  

The 7th year, will be a time of rest, of waiting and anticipation, that the natural 
process and power of nature will do it germinating work, then when the bud breaks, flowers blossom 
and plants that have been dominant in the winter months begin another cycle of life, of growth, 
then shedding and dormancy later in winter. It is also a time to re-imagine. 
It is with this same spirit that I see the young lives of Tea Talk, spring up and carry on the work 
of building people, deepening relationships, loving and sharing with one another, 
growing in joy and peace, being patient and kind, cultivating goodness, faithfulness 
and doing everything gently and with self-control. 
If you were to ask Luong if she was aware that behind her was the word "re-imagine", she probably don't.  Yes, moving forward, the young people have to re-imagine what the Tea Talk community means to them and how they can continue to keep it going.  Touching lives, one at a time.

Very simply, Tea Talk believes in LOVE.  Literally, some found their love at Tea Talk, some fall in love with Tea Talk, 
some felt loved at Tea Talk, and still some found LOVE at Tea Talk, and this is Love. 
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor 
others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, 
always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. It is my Vietnamese friends, volunteers and 
colleagues who have taught me what it means to be loved. 
So let’s celebrate that Tea Talk is closed even as we celebrate it 6th anniversary.  
We celebrate, because, it is in the closing that the LOVE we experienced can be shared 
to those outside of Tea Talk. Then, we can all really say, it is so! Mission Accomplished!

I painted this picture.  The tree is now a log, A resting place for the worn out bicycle wheel. Flowers blooming in the distance leading to a path of light. Signifying something wonderfully new is inviting us to explore.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A New Book Stands Ready To Be Opened ✨

Dear our beloved Tea Talk customers and friends,
The time has come to share with you what may be surprising news. Tea Talk is going through a period of restructuring. Due to fiscal realities, Tea Talk Management has decided to close the Cafe. Tea Talk’s mission will continue through the work of its social arm - CoRE (Center for Counseling, Research, and Empowering Community). This was not an easy decision, of course, but one that was finally made with confidence – and hope.

Why HOPE?  
Because this is what Tea Talk has always been about. Is it sad to close the doors of a Café that has stored up so many memories? Indeed. But it is likewise difficult not to celebrate those memories, those stories – the people – who have made Tea Talk so successful over the past 5-plus years. We have so much to be thankful for. And so much to look forward to! 

CoRE, the social arm of Tea Talk in the form of a local NGO, will continue, and is in the process of reorganizing. We are excited about what the future holds. We trust that as the Tea Talk book closes, a new book stands ready to be opened. What great stories will it include? We have learned so, so much in our years of work together (often with you!) at Tea Talk, and we trust that we can take what we’ve learned and not only utilize it in a new setting, but improve upon it, and continue to invest in the lives of those who need help in the community around us.
We will notify you (stay tuned to these newsletters!) when the reorganization is complete. Please contact us at if you have any further queries. Thank you!

The beat went on last month for Let’s Chat and Let’s Share, as this community of young people continued to meet together twice a week, even after moving from the previous Tea Talk building into a modern shared workspace location. Several local Resource Exchange International-Vietnam staff shared, including Let’s Chat/Share founder Presley McFadden, as well as Zonia Go, who helped us to say “goodbye” to the Tea Talk Café building by facilitating a time of expressing our souls via art journaling that seemed all too appropriately titled “When Words Are Not Enough”, given how many of us were feeling. The month was also highlighted by the completion of Beka Riese’s 5-part series, Think Deep, where she challenged us in the final sharing to wrestle with the question of “How Should We Live?” However, the top highlight this month was simply that we were able to move from the Tea Talk location to the co-working space location, and continue to have meaningful times of sharing and learning together.

And so, as Tea Talk Café closes, it seems all the more fitting now that Michael published a book to help secure the story and stories of Tea Talk in his book, “Tea Talk: One Story at a Time”. Now would be a great time for you to encounter the incredible account of the journey it took for the social venture, Tea Talk Café, to become a reality, even as you now follow our latest updates to see what will be next! The book chronicles the beauty and wonder of Vietnam that Michael became familiar with, as well as the challenges he would face in a foreign land. If you never got a chance to walk through the doors of Tea Talk, where so many lives have been changed, then you still have this opportunity to have the doors opened to you as you turn the pages of this book. We trust that after you read this account, you’ll look eagerly with us to see what is ahead!

Tea Talk Story Book is available at:
📚 Leave us a message via this email (for those who are based in Vietnam);
📚 Write Ms Linda Sim at to purchase a copy in Singapore.
Electronic version on Kindle is available too.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Thank You for Making our 2017 Awesome! 😇

Dear our beloved Tea Talk customers and friends,
2017 has been a year full of challenges for Tea Talk since we relocated to a new place. You may still remember the hassles we went through around this time last year. Thankfully, at the same time, 2017 has also been a journey full of hope, grace, love and kindness from people around us. And undoubtedly, no one else but you who made it happen!

On 9th Dec, Tea Talk had the privilege to welcome Wai Kuen and Li Fang, our faithful advocates from Singapore, back for a Christmas Talk with local youths. This time, they not only brought along their family members and church friends but also engaged their contribution to Tea Talk. We were grateful for their precious time sharing about the Christmas story, their generosity in providing food and presents to everyone, and especially, their ongoing trust and support towards our work for the community in Hanoi. All participants expressed how great a time they had that night and are excited to see their dear Singaporean friends again.

On 18th Dec, Tea Talk was honored to be one of the destinations on the exploring journey of 16 teenagers from My First Break (Singapore). On this study tour, the students learned about the Tea Talk work model, in addition to exploring the core values behind our work via different exciting activities. We hope this trip helped them understand our mission in Hanoi, and most importantly, inspired them to contribute their kindness to their home countries in the future.

Some of you may have heard that Michael published a book before he left Vietnam for a sabbatical. This is the incredible account of the journey it took for a social venture called Tea Talk Cafe to shift from dream to reality. "Tea Talk: One Story at a Time" shows us the beauty and wonder of Vietnam and her people through Michael's challenges of starting up a social enterprise in a foreign land. If you have yet to walk through the doors of Tea Talk, where so many lives have been changed, then let this be your opportunity to have the doors opened to you, with the fragrances of faith, hope, and love touching your nose and inviting you to be the next in line to "express your soul".

Tea Talk Story Book is still available for sale! If you want to order one, please:
📚 Leave us a message via this email (for those who are based in Vietnam);
📚 Kindly drop Mrs Linda Sim an email at for a copy in Singapore.