Sometimes in life, the wrong gate leads you to the right destination.
It was middle December of 2008, my first winter in the US. I was traveling to the East coast with my housemate. We were very excited at the same time sleepy during the flights. The night before the flight, we still had final paper submissions. When we were waiting for the connecting flight at Houston airport, we were unaware of going to the wrong gate. So we had to reschedule our flight. We were so messed up. At the new gate, and we just realized we hadn’t yet reserved a hotel in New York City. Then, I saw an Asian girl was working with her laptop. I asked her if I could borrow her laptop, she said yes. Thinking back on that day, it was not a safe move. It was my first acquittance with Hoa Nguyen, Chinese-Vietnamese American from Texas, a graduate student at North Carolina University. We kept in touch through Facebook and emails.
In 2013, a message popped up in my messenger from Hoa that she wanted to visit me in Indonesia. Her colleagues and doctor were freaking out about visiting me, the stranger she met in the airport for 45 minutes. Hoa came to my city, Banda Aceh. In the middle of the visit, she expressed that she wanted to make her travel meaningful by donating to unfortunate kids in Aceh. I was asking why? She said: “It is for good karma. Skipping a cup of coffee from Starbuck and eating out of lunch once a week can change people’s lives.” We spent one whole day visiting orphanages in Banda Aceh, asking what kids’ needs were. It was our first social project for kids in Aceh. Hoa as donator, I am as the donation manager. I learned a lot about managing donations: assessing what beneficiaries need, planning the distribution, and making financial reports. Besides, it makes me realize that so many unfortunate kids around me are not getting enough government support. The governments’ supports did not match their needs most of the time.
Our partnership is continued until now. We had done 15 small social projects in Aceh in the form of giving monthly stipends for foster kids, education aid packages for kids, college tuition fees for students from low-income families and orphans, and food packages for poor people and elderlies. We supported undergraduate students in Banda Aceh from low-income families during the pandemic by giving internet package aids. We distributed food packages for daily workers to alleviate Covid-19 transmission. After almost a decade, some students we supported had graduated from high school and finished college. Foster children are growing strong and intelligent. It was a great feeling seeing the kids we helped excited go to school with new uniforms, shoes, and bag packs—small kindness matters.
I am very blessed I went to the wrong gate on that day. Meeting a stranger in the airport, becoming friends, then working together to support education for kids Aceh. It is one of the highlights of my Fulbright journey in the United States. This experience makes me believe in the power of good intention and random acts of kindness.
Melvina Nasaruddin – Fulbright to USA 2008