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Small contributions, big impact

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“Changing Mindset Little by Little” is what Denise Truong, a French Chinese lady, is trying to leave through her Trash Hero Ho Chi Minh project here in HCMC

Collecting trash and learning how to recycle it were what volunteers of the Trash Hero Ho Chi Minh project did in its second event in early November.

For those taking part in the event, it was such a meaningful Saturday morning. Talking about her compassionate project, Denise says Trash Hero is an inspiring community event whose Facebook page received many likes in the first two weeks. “I hope it will attract more and more people so that we can contribute to changing mindset and habits towards trash,” says Denise.

A way of giving back

Since Denise was a kid, Vietnamese dishes such as bun thit nuong (rice vermicelli with grilled pork), pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) and cha gio (spring roll) were familiar to her as the chef working for her parents’ restaurant in France—was a Chinese Vietnamese. Denise says, “I literally followed my guts and choosing to live in Vietnam was an instinctual impulse.”

Denise has still remembered the first time she was in Vietnam. Back in January 2017, she moved to HCMC to seek a job. It was such an intensity of moment when Denise stepped out of Tan Son Nhat airport, she says. She then saw a big crowd waiting for their loved ones. Drivers shouted her offering a ride and the heat of the city’s tropical weather seemed to be more intense. “It was as if Saigon gave me a big and warm hug,” Denise says. “I fell in love with the city at first sight.”

Denise has lived in Vietnam for four years and the country has never stopped surprising and fulfilling her. “This is where I’ve built strong relationships with friends, where I discovered my true self and where I can authentically call home,” she says. That may be reason why Denise is not planning to leave her second hometown any soon. What’s more, in return for what she has received from Vietnam, Denise wants to give something back to the country by taking meaningful actions. One of these is the Trash Hero Ho Chi Minh project in the hope of changing old habits.

A right thing to do

Denise undertook the project by chance. She met Hiep Nguyen, who is the founder of Trash Hero Song Cau in Phu Yen Province, in the “Ecosolidaries Vietnam” group which promotes ecology and solidarity of which they are members. Denise says, “I prefer to do the right thing.” Trash Hero Ho Chi Minh is one of them and it is expected to expand throughout the city as well as the country.

Denise officially kicked off the project with the first cleanup on September 19 to celebrate the World’s Clean Up Day. The first time is always the hardest. There were only 12 volunteers joining her first event. On that day, the participants collected trash with non-waterproof gloves in an area of District 2 under the rain. But after all, Denise felt so happy because not only did their mission be complete on the day but she also found like-minded people.

Moreover, during the event, a local person who was working out nearby joined them without hesitation. The initial success has motivated Denise to carry out this kind of meaningful activities. Therefore, the second one taking place in Binh Thanh District in November attracted more volunteers than the first one. It was well organized as Denise was assisted by many others, such as Quynh Vo, Marily Phoutar, Lucille Sirvent, Felix Becquart and Adrien Jean. They are all Denise’s friends who want to help her promote the project.

Denise also worked with Nestor, the founder of Plastic People, to hold a workshop on how plastic waste is recycled using modern technology. “Any help is valuable for this kind of events by coming, bringing friends together with you or if you are a company, by donating tools and materials,” Denise says.

Sometimes, on the path to doing right things, the founder of Trash Hero Ho Chi Minh feels uncertain about the values she is chasing and receives criticism. However, she has strong beliefs in the positive, Denise says. “As an individual, what we can do to make a change is just to responsibly clear our own streets first and that’s when the magic happens, more and more people come to contribute to make a change.”

The project is based on the idea that small contributions can make a bigger impact, Denise says. That may not be enough to save the planet now but may change the old mindset little by little in the end, Denise says.

What are your hobbies:

I regularly go to K1 fitness & fight factory to sharpen my Muay Thai skills or for a run with my coach. I just started improvisation with a French group based in Thao Dien. On the weekends, I usually either watch movies, play board games or ukulele with friends.

What are your favorite foods and destinations in Vietnam?

A good fish barbecued in the street, wrapped with green leaves and bun (noodles) is the best meal. I love Hoang Sa and Truong Sa streets in Saigon where I can have a drink with friends or just wander along the canal. My most memorable trips in Vietnam were in Ha Giang and Ky Co Beach in Quy Nhon City.

What is your motto at work and in life?

UBUNTU is an African saying which means I am because we are.

By Vuong Anh

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