Before I joined the Rise Against Hunger and Zambrero 2017 Vision Trip, Vietnam was just another Asian country I knew of through friends from school and the countless Vietnamese restaurants scattered all throughout Sydney. I knew it was poverty stricken, just like the Philippines, the motherland in which my parents grew up and where I still have relatives living today.
I knew of the great work Rise Against Hunger is doing in partnership with Children of Vietnam through the countless photos and videos of previous Vision Trips.
To some degree, I thought I knew what I was in for — a reality check, an emotional rollercoaster and an opportunity to meet and see the beneficiaries of the meals donated as a result of the work I do behind a clean white desk, in an air conditioned office surrounded by a great team working toward donating 1 billion meals by 2025.
Looking back at what I knew before the Vision Trip and comparing it to what I know now, my view of poverty and the mission to end world hunger was very two-dimensional. It made me realize I knew very little, and that the perception I had of what we were working towards only ran skin deep.
The 2017 Vision Trip was an emotional rollercoaster, it was a reality check and it provided me with a three-dimensional view of the task we have at hand.
I can’t seem to stop looking back and remembering the smiles, the laughter and the joy in the children’s faces from the schools we visited. Nor can I forget the tears of a single mother who shared with us her daily struggle to collect waste to sell, just so she could care for her ill father, pay her son’s tuition fees and put food on the table.
One of the highlights during the our five-day trip was our visit to the warehouse used to store and distribute Rise Against Hunger meals. It was the day we got our hands dirty, manually loading the trucks and vans destined for the schools and villages that needed them most. The whole team got involved, and even our video crew lent a hand. We were hurting, drenched in sweat as we helped load the thousand or so boxes, weighing up to 30 lbs. in 95 degree heat and 80%+ humidity.
As we stopped to take a break, I took the opportunity to pause and look around. We were surrounded by fathers, sons, brothers and uncles, even members from different religious groups of all ages, all dedicated to getting these meals to where they were needed. It brought light onto the unsung heroes — those who live and breath the fight to help end poverty. They are those who we don’t really read or hear about, those living in poverty but bringing the fight to break the grip poverty has on Vietnam.
At Zambrero, Plate 4 Plate is our initiative to help end world hunger, calling on our customers to “Join the Movement” by simply enjoying a burrito or bowl which donates a meal to Rise Against Hunger. The Vision Trip has cemented in me that the “movement” is real; it’s not just a buzzword, it doesn’t just include or stop at Zambrero, our customers or our partnerships. It is a movement that includes everyone involved, near and far, young and old, it’s larger than us all. If we are to overcome the task of ending world hunger and ending poverty, we can only do it, together. Join the movement.