By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
Many people give, but only do so with strings attached. These thoughts may sound familiar:
“The more I get acknowledged in public, the more I will give.”
“I jump on the bandwagon when the rich and powerful in the room are giving.”
“I give when I get VIP treatment (like sitting next to big shots or at the head table) at charity events.”
“I give when my business gets returns from the investment I make.”
“I give because my friends ask me to. Usually, my giving has nothing to do with believing in the cause.”
“I’ll give when I become rich.”
Thach Nguyen, a philanthropist and multi-millionaire developer, recognizes these obstacles in giving to the Asian community. His dream is to shatter barriers and inspire donors to give unconditionally.
Nguyen is developing a plan to do this. Among his circle of friends, Nguyen said he could only name one who gives altruistically.
“That’s Jerry Lee, a role model in our community,” Nguyen said. Lee, a philanthropist and chairman of Mulvanny G2 Architecture, is involved in multiple causes in Seattle.
Why he gives during a recession
“When I become rich, I’ll give.” This is an excuse that Nguyen observes in many people.
In response, he asks, “What if you died before you got rich?” adding that people should give regardless of their wealth.
“Even if you have lost your job or [experienced] a big salary cut,” Nguyen said, “the last thing you should do is feel sorry for yourself.
The only way to move fear and doubt out of you is to help someone. If you want to feel better, find someone who is worse [off] than you are and help him. The more you close yourself [off], themore you close yourself to possibilities.”
Nguyen cited the book “Law of Attraction” by Michael Losier and said fear paralyzes people and keeps them from seeing the possibilities. Good things come about when people are free of anxiety, anger, frustration, and desperation.
Nguyen says that feeling relaxed and grateful allows someone to think clearly and see what’s beyond the horizon.
Nguyen recalls one of his apartment projects collapsing due to the economic recession. Instead of becoming consumed with stress, he helped others.
He feels hopeful and keeps an open mind. Nguyen helps many homeless families and first-time home buyers. Nguyen is on the First Place School Board, a school that teaches students from homeless families. He frequently holds free seminars for these families and has already placed some in homes through his programs.
How he gives
When most donors are asked to help, the story ends when they sign a check to support a cause. For Nguyen, it’s just the beginning. His current project is to support Helping Link’s 16th anniversary and a fundraising dinner on Aug. 22 at a waterfront home that has won numerous awards for its architecture.
Nguyen quickly mobilized his friends to be the event’s table captains. In less than two hours, after agreeing to aid Helping Link, he visited Northwest Asian Weekly and other community newspapers’ offices to lobby for support and buy advertisements for the event.
A man of action, Nguyen is creating a documentary and writing a book to inspire the spirit of giving. Besides his commitment to supporting many organizations, he has built a network of other contributors by running events and motivational seminars, as well as speaking for many organizations.
Some of the events he has contributed to had 1,000 attendees. It’s intense. The events create effective networking and is testament to Nguyen’s strength in organizing.
Nguyen doesn’t want to give back merely because of his fortune. During the Vietnam War, he and his family came to the United States with nothing. His eyes well up as he talks about his family’s escape. Nguyen and his family escaped Vietnam as the last passengers on the last U.S. plane leaving the country.
A white sponsor supported his family during his early years. He vowed to give back out of gratitude.
Three years ago, Nguyen learned that his father had often helped orphanages. To honor him, Nguyen supports Vietnamese children. Helping Link helps Vietnamese kids, in addition to other services and language classes that help refugees and immigrants integrate into Western culture.
Nguyen’s dad, Nhon was a social worker for the State Department of Social and Health Services ,and a well-known giver and mentor in the Vietnamese community. According to Helping Link Executive Director Minh Duc Nguyen (unrelated to Thach Nguyen), Nhon often gave his own money to clients during emergencies.
“By the time the state processed the money, it would be too late [for these people],” she said. “We are passing the torch to Thach and the younger generation.” ♦
Nguyen will speak on his vision of giving back at Helping Link’s networking event.
Assunta Ng can be reached at email@example.com.