DUNG (pronounced “Zoom”, 11 years-old, in blue jacket) joined one of YWAM Mercy’s community-based Children’s Homes last October. He is one of 15 children who entered the three Homes in 2021. His life has been difficult up to this point. Knowing his mother had disappeared when he was 4 and that his father was often ill, neighbors kept an eye out for Dung and his 7 year-old brother. When they realized his grandmother who lives nearby was not able to care for and supervise the boys, they reached out to local leaders. They recommended the boys be cared for in the Home YWAM Mercy helps the community run with support of generous sponsors.
“Tet” or Lunar New Year is the most important holiday in Vietnam. Dung and his friends in the Children’s Homes received many Tet gifts from YWAM Mercy and the local District Steering Committee. When the children visited their extended families over the holiday, they had sticky rice, dried fruits, Chung cakes (that they made themselves), candy, biscuits and jelly to share with their relatives.
For Dung and other children who are having their first Lunar New Year in the Homes, this may also be their first time making Chung cakes. YWAM Mercy wants children in our care to stay connected to their community and extended family, and to have the skills to make traditional foods like many other children growing up in Vietnam. Chung cake is a traditional Vietnamese food that most families eat at Tet because it can be cooked ahead of time so no cooking needs to be done while celebrating. The rice, dried green mung beans, and pork are wrapped in DONG leaf, a type of leaf that gives Chung cake its distinctive color and flavor.
The staff, and older “brothers and sisters” in the Home, taught Dung and his friends how to properly make the cakes.
When I see Chung cake, I think of Tet.
Dung paid close attention, learning how to measure the rice and fold the leaves correctly. He and the other members of the Home wrapped the cakes carefully and placed them in the pots of boiling water. Then, on this cold winter day, they gathered around the blazing fire and the smoky CHUNG cake pots, to talk and laugh as they tended the fire, sharing their hopes for a prosperous and peaceful New Year full of friendship and love.