Rosi Happi, Founder of The Happievent and The Social ChangeMakers
After living in Europe and Australia for a decade, I decided to return to my roots for a couple of months in March 2020. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, my partner and I were forced to reconsider our lives in the bustling Ho Chi Minh City.
Armed with a background in events and marketing in both hospitality and social work, I cut my teeth into Saigon’s events industry as the events organiser, together with my Melbourne-based event business, The Happievent, which now operates in Vietnam as a social enterprise hosting community events that raise awareness and funds for a good cause. Notable events that The Happievent has organised include the Saigon Dance For Kindness Flashmob and Pink Night Dem Hong where all funds raised were used to help flood victims in Vietnam as well as the Breast Cancer Network Vietnam.
At the beginning of 2021, I founded Social ChangeMakers, a non-profit which aims to create social impact and raise awareness about social issues in Vietnam such as at-risk communities and mental health through a series of entertaining and engaging community events. I hope to be a driving force of positive energy and light for many amid an anxiety-stricken country. To date, we have raised more than 180 million VND (8,000 USD) and worked with noteworthy companies such as NashTech Vietnam, FoodBank Vietnam and Red Cross HCMC.
How has the pandemic affected at-risk communities and charities that you were previously working with?
Needless to say, at-risk and vulnerable communities continue to suffer the most due to little or no government support provided. At the same time, businesses are either forced to close or have their operations put on hold due to the persistent lockdown orders. NGOs, NPOs and charities are exhausting their resources to provide help to people in need.
Unsurprisingly, the situation at hand has resulted in an array of financial, mental and physical strains that have left many charity groups and the communities they support on the brink of collapse.
What are the things that people on the ground are struggling with the most?
Food, medical supplies and essential items.
Directive-16 restrictions entail people to stay in their homes with limited access to food and medical supplies.Even with the help of the military under the current martial law, factors such as limited government resources and multi-generational living make it difficult for many at-risk communities to access food, medical supplies and essentials.
Furthermore, mental health issues have also soared within the community. This is something we really hope to tackle given the extended periods of isolation and daily stress and uncertainties regarding one’s livelihood and future.
Can you share some of the most heart-warming stories during the pandemic?
- A SOS call was made for 12 families stuck in an isolated area with no access to food or resources since June. Due to the isolated area’s remote location and uneven terrain, it was nearly impossible for the volunteers to reach the families, which turned out to be 60 instead of 12. The van had to stop at the leg of a bridge between Nha Be and District 7 where residents then came in motorboats to pick up the donation packages to distribute to the at-risk families. Together, both volunteers and residents worked together to make this operation happen and when it did, the families said it was a blessing to receive the gifts and have enough food for their children to eat!
2. We work with Food Bank Vietnam as well as different charity groups and local authorities in Vietnam to arrange food and transportation for our charity activities. Whenever possible, I personally partake in these charity field trips to bring Covid relief packs to people in need. One day I was informed that one of the drivers that I was in contact with tested positive for COVID which made me a potential F0 case. Despite the unfortunate news, he remained very calm and optimistic and within a few weeks, he and his entire family recovered from the virus. Now, he is back on the streets and continues to support the different charity groups in Saigon. Such an inspiring person.
#StayHomeTogether Online Series - An Initiative That Keeps People Connected While Raising Awareness and Funds for Charity
How did you come up with the idea of #StayHomeTogether and what are the goals?
By July 2021, we had conducted several networking events centered around social impact as well as bi-weekly mental health talks to help the community navigate through the pandemic. However, as the lockdown extended, I thought why not run a series of engaging virtual events that would not only help people stay connected but also raise awareness and funds for those in need.
So, I reached out to my network and those who wanted to get involved and launched the #StayHomeTogether campaign featuring different events every week from virtual tours in France to productivity and marketing workshops. All proceeds go toward our Covid Charity Fund and support our Saigon #LockdownKindness efforts in helping at-risk communities during the pandemic.
So far, we’ve organised 40 events, which have garnered over 180 million VND in donations from the community. Translated into at-risk families helped, that’s almost 1,250!
What are some of your favorite #StayHomeTogether events?
I remembered reaching out to my friend in Australia about the idea and he was very excited to host an event. Despite not having been to Vietnam, he wanted to contribute and share, so I proposed ‘Why not share about Australia?’ knowing there’s a strong interest from Vietnam in Australia. Excitedly, he put together a presentation and hosted a talk where he shared about his country to raise money that he has never been to. That was amazing and sparked a weekly cultural talk for people around the world to do the same.
Another was a morning workout led by Hustle Thao Dien which saw 36 people come together at 8am to sweat it out. On that day, we got many donations and after, Hustle Thao Dien even teamed up with the pandemic-born fitness group, Saigon Online Community, to host weekly free workouts to keep locked up residents active and motivated.It’s nice to see that our actions have inspired others in the community to do the same.
But the most memorable event for me was during one of our Mental Health Open Talks where a lady who has been stuck in her apartment for months with no work or food opened up about her situation. In the end, she mentioned she was feeling a ton better knowing she was not alone. Stories like these and feelings of gratitude from the community inspire my team and I to keep going.
With the ongoing lockdown, how do you intend to keep the community engaged?
It’s not easy to get people to join virtual events especially when they spend all day on their screens. Moving forward, we’ll break down our events into three topics namely - (1) monthly networking and panel discussion about social issues such as COVID in Vietnam, environment, (2) bi-weekly mental health open talk and of course the (3) #StayHomeTogether online series.
I hope by segmenting the different charity initiatives into topics we can appeal to different people with different interests while encouraging learning and community-building. With this said, while I will continue with the #StayHometogether virtual events, I am also looking forward to a well-deserved break for the team.
Why do you continue to do what you do and what are you trying to achieve?
I am committed to creating a positive social impact in society and building a community of like-minded people who want to do the same. Of course, my passion for event management helps. Ultimately, I believe “Happiness is when you give happiness” and that everyone can be a social changemaker.
Social ChangeMakers Network is a Saigon-based community with a mission of connecting NGO, NFP, social enterprises, charity groups, innovators, thinkers, creatives, industry leaders, social pioneers, sponsors, donors and volunteers. Started in Jan 2021, the non profit organization Social ChangeMakers has created social impacts, hosting several activities to keep the community motivated while raising funds to support the vulnerable communities during lockdown in Ho Chi Minh City.
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