Generosity Full Circle
“I still remember opening the door to that first house and seeing everything was laid out with all the amenities. We felt that warmth. We felt that love,” Vinh Huynh says, recalling the day his family first arrived in Birtle, Manitoba. It was 1979, and this homecoming marked the end of a harrowing journey from war-torn Vietnam. “The generosity of a small group of Canadians allowed our family to embrace opportunities in Canada and make a good life.” Although that powerful experience continues to motivate and inspire his giving today, it was far from Vinh’s first experience with generosity.
“As my indigenous brothers and sisters here on Treaty One land often say, ‘Your story didn’t begin with you, it began with those who came before you,’” says Vinh.
“My parents, grandparents, and great grandparents all led lives of quiet dignity and generosity, giving back to their communities.” It is a tradition of generosity he now carries on in his own neighbourhood. For the past 27 years he has worked as an educator and school administrator in Winnipeg’s inner-city.
Giving as an Act of Kinship
“When I arrived at my current high school as principal, I noticed a concerning number of vulnerable citizens in the neighbourhood who were struggling with homelessness and addictions,” remembers Vinh. “I asked myself, ‘How can I respond?’” One of his colleagues encouraged him to join the Bear Clan Patrol, a group of volunteers who walk Winnipeg’s most vulnerable neighbourhoods, promoting safety through strong community connections. Vinh showed up to walk, and he discovered a community of people practicing tremendous generosity despite exceedingly difficult circumstances. It changed his perspective. “Everyone is capable of being generous,” he says. “When you see someone in need and help, you are recognizing the inherent dignity and worth of your brothers and sisters. Giving is an act of kinship and love as much as charity.”
For Vinh and his wife Rebecca, that love and kinship is deeply rooted in faith. “We are followers of Jesus. That’s the key – it motivates and informs and influences every aspect of our lives,” Vinh says matter-of-factly. However, this does not mean their charitable giving is restricted to organizations that share their worldview. The Huynhs support a variety of organizations that contribute to peace and prosperity in the world. “We don’t give out of ideology, but a core belief that generosity matters.”
Giving Consistently and Faithfully
Vinh and Rebecca initially started using Abundance Canada to help streamline their generosity. “We are both very pragmatic, focused on efficiency and effectiveness,” says Vinh. Plus, their Generosity Plan™ has introduced a welcome discipline to their generosity, challenging them to keep their charitable goals on track. “We are committed to giving consistently and faithfully, so that charities can really focus on the good work they are doing,” says Rebecca.
Support for charities makes up one of the Huynh family’s biggest household expenditures, but it isn’t just another line item on their monthly budget. “We don’t see giving as being like other expenses,” explains Vinh. Giving generously is a part of their faith tradition, and the family takes great joy in sharing what they have with others.
How to Decide Which Charities to Support
When deciding which charities to recommend for support, the Huynhs take a methodical approach. Drawn out on paper, it would look like four concentric circles. “We always start by asking four things,” explains Vinh. “How are we giving to our local church and city; how are we giving to our province; how are we giving to our country; and, how are we giving to our world?”
Every year, Vinh and Rebecca review their charitable giving and ensure they are covering each of the four spheres. They have started talking about charitable giving with their children to ensure the joy of generosity, and the core values that underpin it, are passed on to the next generation. “When you give and expect nothing back, our God weaves wonderful stories without us even realizing it,” says Vinh.
Full Circle Giving
This providential storytelling was particularly evident to the Huynhs four years ago, when their generosity came full circle. Responding to the Syrian Refugee Crisis, they joined their church’s sponsorship team who approached Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) about sponsoring a family. Although initially inspired by news of the dire situation in Syria, MCC told the sponsorship group that refugees from the Congo were currently ready for sponsorship.
Echoing his family’s experience nearly 40 years earlier, Vinh and Rebecca joined with a group of generous Canadians in helping a Congolese family start a new life in Canada. “We were so grateful to be part of a sponsorship group,” says Vinh. Providentially at the same time, his youngest sister was also inspired to join a church group in Ottawa to sponsor a family of Syrian refugees and has stayed connected with them as they continue to settle into life in Canada.
We can do no great things, only small things with great love. That for me is the essence of what it means to be generous – says Vinh Hyunh, quoting Mother Teresa.
This story comes from our recent Annual Report: A World Where Everyone Lives Generously. Read more stories like Vinh’s here.