How to love your lunch

Many people contact me asking how they can get involved in volunteer work when they visit Vietnam. In all honesty, until the last few months I couldn’t have answered this question at all. I was so busy, working every day, I didn’t have the time to even think about giving back to the community. Shameful indeed.

After a pretty ugly burn-out, I decided to change my schedule and outlook. It was at that point when I heard about a project called Green Bamboo Warm Shelter (GBWS).

The GBWS is a project of the NGO Ho Chi Minh City Child Welfare Foundation. The project provides care, education, housing and other daily assistance to at-risk street boys aged 8-16. It is important that they have a safe and enriching environment where they can be provided with resources and opportunities to later integrate them back into the community, either back with their families or in a job. Last year, the project’s main donor pulled out their funding leaving it near to closure.

In response, a group of the oldest boys at the shelter decided to set up and run their own restaurant whereby all profits go to supporting the 15 boys who stay there.

It sits down a small allyway; an unassuming and modest restaurant. Inside Green Bamboo are four long metal tables that could each sit about 6 or 7. Diners are served homely portions by the enthusiastic and caring young waiters.

Each month the menu changes, but the food is generally in the style of com tam (broken rice) including chicken, pork, fish and beef. There are also noodle dishes and vegetarian options. One dish is 25,000 vnd per person, whilst the buffet costs between 50,000 and 150,000 vnd per person.

Green Bamboo is a very special place. A love permiates throughout everyone there; the waiters, the cooks, the staff, the volunteers. You can even taste it in the food. When I have finished my lunch and it’s time for me to leave, I don’t want to. GBWS gives more to me than I ever could to them, and when in Ho Chi Minh City I hope you  have the pleasure of being as captivated by this place as I am.

Green Bamboo Warm Shelter Restaurant is situated at 40/34 Calmette Street, Nguyen Thai Binh Ward,District 1, Ho Chi Minh City. Open from 11:30am  to 1:30pm, Monday to Saturday. Make sure you get there as early as possible before the food runs out.