By Assunta Ng
Northwest Asian Weekly
My baby just turned 30. She is the youngest of my three children. And in some ways, she has more influence on me than either of my two sons.
The Northwest Asian Weekly is celebrating its 30th anniversary. It dawned on me that this ‘baby’ has raised me instead!
In reflecting upon who I was before I started the papers, I realized I was not proud of my old self.
The first thing I remember was that I was not always generous. I was frugal for myself. When I was a school teacher, if anything cost more than $40, I would complain about the price tag, without considering the item itself . Part of the reason was that a teacher’s salary was, and still is, modest.
With a one-track mind always thinking about the dollar sign, I never gave thought to supporting others or the long-term growth of community organizations. My mentality was to save every penny and not spend a dime on anything. I was not interested in investing in the community or anything that I didn’t see as having an immediate benefit. Sure, I volunteered, but rarely did I write a check.
But running the newspapers changed me. Over the past three decades, my capacity to give back to the community has gotten so much deeper compared to my past attitude of giving nothing.
My business has literally opened my eyes and mind. It has connected me with many people who are dedicated to giving. They truly have inspired me. I’ve raised hundreds and thousands of dollars for many nonprofit organizations. It is gratifying to realize that I have the ability to raise money for the needy and connect with those that can contribute to others in need.
In 1992, we celebrated our 10th anniversary by raising $40,000 for Kin On Nursing home. Since then, we have helped and organized fundraising events for natural disasters, from 9/11 in 2001 to Japan’s tsunami last year.
The other issue I care passionately about is providing scholarships for young people. Even though I held three jobs during the summer when I was a University of Washington student, the money I earned wasn’t enough to pay for room, board, and books. If not for the UW’s tuition scholarship for international students that I received during my junior and senior year, I would not have survived. I always think that if I didn’t get help for my education, there would be no Assunta Ng.
In gratitude, the Northwest Asian Weekly has given scholarships to high school students who have made a difference in diversity and excelled within our summer youth leadership program.
In addition, I have raised scholarship funds not only for the UW but also for Washington State University, Seattle University, and foster children. It’s amazing how people respond to our plea for support with generosity, even in a short amount of time.
Buffett’s way of giving
Billionaire Warren Buffett donated $31 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I was curious what he required from the Gates Foundation in order for it to receive his money?
“Nothing,” said Bill Gates Sr., who volunteered for his son’s foundation.
What, no conditions?
Buffett’s graciousness and capacity to give are beyond what any of us could understand. He never demanded his name to be on such-and-such grants. He didn’t care about getting thank-yous from receivers. He didn’t dictate any specific terms on how his money should be used.
He could have left more money for his children. Instead, he gave his wealth to a foundation that he trusts, with no questions asked. This could be a lesson for some Asian families that would rather give all their money to their kids than donate it for public good.
Sad to say, inheritance causes rivalry among siblings. It doesn’t inspire kids to work hard in their life. Asian culture has taught us to help family members, not strangers. There’s no Warren Buffett in the Asian community yet, but the Asian community has tremendously improved in the amount and scope of its capacity to give.
There are many ways we can give. Let me share with you my ruby story.
In 1998, I bought a ruby ring in Bangkok. The price was $2,000. My friend, who spoke Thai, was able to bargain it down to $650. I bought the ring. The moment I came home, I put it in a deposit box inside a bank. That ring never saw the light of day for the next 10 years.
Enter the Michael Verchot, of the UW Business School, who, in 2008, told me that there were undergraduate scholarship endowments for Blacks and Latinos, but none for Asian Americans. (I had donated money to the Latino and Black scholarship endowments before.) They asked for my help. I donated the ring.
Most people would react with “Are you crazy?”
The ring was made up of tiny rubies in a heart shape. It was appraised by Ben Bridge Jeweler, pro bono, for $3,200 before I gave it up.
The ring was sold for $4,000 at an auction dinner, and thus I helped raise $51,000, enough for an endowment. Do I think about the ring? Yes, but I don’t miss it.
In 2010, I received a letter from an Asian American student thanking me for raising money for his scholarship. I still have the letter. Months later, I saw him giving a speech at a UW Business School dinner. I finally saw what the recipient looked like. I never introduced myself. It was hard work to raise money, but when I saw him so poised and articulate onstage, with a bright future ahead of him, everything I did for that endowment appeared worthwhile.
Through the newspapers, I have given back to a level that I could never have imagined. The Northwest Asian Weekly has broadened my vision of giving, sharing, and empowering others with confidence, conviction, and commitment. My ‘baby’ has made me a better human being! That’s not something I would have expected from her. (end)
Read part 4 of this series next week. And save the date for our anniversary celebration: Oct. 18 at the Seattle Sheraton.
Assunta Ng can be reached at email@example.com.