Friday, August 30, 2019

Character must be taught!

Sunday, 25/8/29, marked a new era for Tea Talk Vietnam. Families with young children came to celebrate the opening of Tea Talk@Ngoai Giao Doan; a partnership with Australian Skills Institute (ASI).



“Skills can be taught. Character you either have or you don't have,” claimed celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain who had bun Cha with president Obama. I personally choose to defer. Though not as easy to teach, character must be taught and cultivated. Put it in another words, character must be taught and caught.

The question is “Who are we leaving the development and cultivation of character of our next generation to?” I guess the answer is easy. Whoever spends the most time with our children. I cannot help but think that maybe Bourdain is right after all. He said “character you either have or you don’t.” Maybe he is talking of the outcome. Or is he saying that each of us are organically made to be who we are as a person; some have character and some don’t?

Researchers are discovering the importance of character development over skills development. Larry Brendtro and Dr. Scott J.Larson in the article “The Resilience Code: Finding Greatness in Youth” reported that researchers are now exploring ways to cultivate qualities such as courage, responsibility and hope. They asserted that when children have opportunities to develop belongingness, mastery, independence, and generosity, they thrive. When lacking, children are at risk.

It was February 2001, my 3 year old daughter and my wife relocated to Hanoi. I wanted to start an orphanage. After spending 6 months learning the Vietnamese language and observing the culture, I still could not find any headway to start an orphanage. I was ready to pack my bag and return to Singapore.

By August 2001, I received an invitation to volunteer at the then College of Labor and Social Affairs. It’s a state owned educational institution that trained social workers for the Ministry of Labour and Social Affair (Vietnam). That invitation launched my whole career of international social work here in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Michael, Dr. Tiệp, Dr Mai and Mr. Khoái at CoLISA
Generosity! Dr. Tiep was generous. He knew little of me. Yet he had the faith to let me teach as his college. Dr. Tiep was generous. I only have a bachelor's degree in social work from the National University of Singapore. Yet he had the courage to endorse my new teaching methodologies. Courage! Faith! Generosity! These are synonyms.

Dr.Trang and Michael at Tea Talk Ngoai Giao Doan

Last Sunday, at Tea Talk opening stood another lady. My god-daughter Linda in Singapore saw the facebook post and asked “Who is that lady standing besides me?” That lady standing beside me is the director of ASI, strategic partner of Tea Talk Vietnam. But, who is she. She, like Dr. Tiep is generous. She heard that I am back from sabbatical and offered her space at ASI to host Tea Talk. She is a woman of courage. I told her I have nothing to offer, except the spirit and culture of Tea Talk. “That’s what I want. I need you to bring back that spirit of Tea Talk.” That lady is Dr. Trang.

18 years also, Dr. Tiep offered me a position to teach at the university when I only had a bachelor's degree. I don’t think I have much to offer. Now, 18 years later. Dr. Trang, offered a space at ASI to host Tea Talk. Both Dr. Tiep and Dr. Trang are very generous.

By the way, did I tell you that they happened to be father and daughter?