Fri. Jul 1st, 2022

VietNamNet Bridge – Former San Franciscan postal chief John William Kelly was inspired to help others through his parents’ dedication to charity. The 60-year-old is busy making them proud by serving meals to the needy at HCM City’s Smile restaurant.

HCM City, John William Kelly, unprivileged people

On the job: John William Kelly chats with young Vietnamese volunteers as he wolfs down an early lunch before beginning to wait on poor customers at the “Smile” charity restaurant in HCM City.

“Viet Nam took my heart,” says American John William Kelly who has decided to visit the country every year and spend his time here volunteering at a charity restaurant in HCM City called Nu Cuoi (Smile). He told Van Dat that he had found a “perfect job” after his retirement.

After finishing an early lunch with some other Vietnamese volunteers at the Smile restaurant on Ho Xuan Huong Street, the former postmaster of Palo Alto City outside San Francisco rushed to prepare and serve rice to poor customers standing in a very long queue.

He moved briskly among the crowd, making sure everyone got enough to eat.

“I don’t like to wait until the customer has to ask. If see the rice bowl on their table empty, I just fill it for them,” John said.

He speaks no Vietnamese, but the 60-year-old man communicates very well with everyone in the restaurant with gestures. “When they raise their hands with an empty rice bucket or nod after my question, I know they need some more rice.”

Not many people in the restaurant can speak English to communicate with him. And his Vietnamese vocabulary, acquired over a month or so, now comprises of three phrases: No chua? (Are you Full?), Com them khong? (Do you need some more rice?) and Xin chao (Hello or good morning).

Kelly has not only earned smiles from his fellow volunteers and poor customers, he has inspired may young people who now volunteer at the place and also get a chance to hone their English conversation skills.

A man who supervised the work of many employees has no difficulty now taking orders to complete various tasks. He said he felt very happy.

“I think this is a perfect job for a volunteer. When they smile and babble ‘thank you’ in English, I forget my tiredness,” he said.

Kelly is well-off and has a comfortable life in the US, but he visits Viet Nam because the country “took his heart” during his very first visit here in 2004.

Furthermore, he is following in the footsteps of his parents who served the poor till their last breath. He said his parents would be proud of his voluntary task.

John Kelly had been looking for opportunities to do something meaningful here, and it was on his fourth visit to Viet Nam for a vacation that he found Smile.

“At the San Francisco Airport, I met a nice lady who knew I was coming here. She has a very giving heart. She gave me a small amount of money, US$25. She asked me to give it to a place that I know the money would help. I said okay. I took her $25 and added $25 of my own and I came here.”

Upon arrival in HCM City, he looked for someone to give the money to; and a Vietnamese friend introduced him to Smile.

After coming to the restaurant and making a donation, he decided immediately to help out after seeing many unprivileged people paying just VND2,000 (10 US cents) for their meals.

“I have to pay for the air tickets and hotel in Viet Nam by myself, but I am very happy to do this meaningful job. I will come back and do this every year,” said Kelly.

Working continuously at the restaurant for around six hours every day does not tire him at all.

“It’s not a big day. I have a very good feeling, being here. I am disappointed because this shop has to close on Sunday.”

His visa to Viet Nam will expire at the end of this month, so Kelly has to return to the US soon.

“Unfortunately, I have to leave. I have only more than 20 days here. During my first days here, no body said anything, but now more people say good morning and say thank you”.

Source: VNS

By vivian