WOODSIDE (KPIX 5) Knowing that a simple act of kindness can change a person’s life inspired this week’s Jefferson Award winner to help low-income Bay Area seniors realize their dreams.
Thuy Truong was just 6 years old when she fled Vietnam for a better life in the United States. The experience was difficult, but Truong found hope in the kindness she was shown by strangers in her new home country. Even a simple home-cooked meal seemed extraordinary to the scared little girl.
“Those were priceless moments,” explained an emotional Truong. “It (made) me feel complete.”
As the years passed, Truong found inspiration in those simple moments. And in the spirit of paying forward the good will she received, the internet entrepreneur spent decades volunteering in the Bay Area, Vietnam and beyond. And although Truong served children and the homeless, her heart was always with the elderly. So in 2016, she started a non-profit specifically to help senior citizens.
Truong’s non-profit organization is called Metta4Life. Metta stands for kindness. Truong says her own father’s memory is at the heart Metta4Life’s mission. The two were close, and Truong was devastated when he passed away in 2010. Truong misses her father still, and says she sees his face in so many of the seniors Metta4Life helps.
“It’s such a tragedy for me if I see seniors that don’t have family, don’t have someone to help them,” said Truong.
Over the past two years, Metta4Life has granted 23 wishes, everything from trips to the San Francisco Symphony, family reunions in Florida, even whale watching on the Monterey Bay. Metta4Life is a kind of “Make a Wish” for seniors who either don’t have a family or the money to see a simple dream fulfilled.
Such was the case for Suu Tsingo, a low-income Vietnamese immigrant living in high-cost San Francisco. Truong takes Tsingo for regular lunches at her favorite restaurant in the city: Waterbar along the Embarcadero.
The 68-year-old works full time to support her three grandchildren, who were left without parents when the children’s own father killed their mother, Tsingo’s daughter, nearly ten years ago. Money in the household is tight, so Metta4Life helped Tsingo purchase a plane ticket to Vietnam. It’s a trip Tsingo would never have been able to afford with Truong’s financial help. Tsingo was especially grateful since it may very well be the last time she is able to see her own 98-year-old mother alive, in their home country of Vietnam.
“She have big heart. Look like ocean, her heart look like ocean, big one,” Tsingo said of Truong. “When I get old, I pass away, I bring her my love, my heart. Put in my heart, I never forget her.”
For Truong, Tsingo’s trip, and the other wishes Metta4Life has fulfilled are her dream come true.
“That simple act of kindness can make someone’s life just a whole lot better even for that moment,” said Troung. “It’s not meant to change their life, for that moment it gives a sense of hope.”