Sapa is known as the most renowned majestic landscape in Northern Vietnam. Visitors are acquainted with Sapa through its majestic mountain ranges, terraced fields of golden ripe rice, the Love Market, and the convergence of various ethnic groups living together: Black H’mong, Red Dao, Tay, Giay, and Xa Pho. Each ethnic group represents differences in attire, lifestyle, customs, agricultural methods, along with their unique, rich, and mysterious cultural identities.

Behind the natural beauty bestowed by nature lies another perspective on the lives of the people in this region. During a visit to Sapa, Mr. Dan On, the Chairman of Dan On Foods Corporation cum Dan On Foundation, coincidentally visited the Tả Van boarding school – home to nearly 1000 students, with 350 of them residing on campus. He arrived during one of their simple lunches consisting of plain rice and an egg, and he observed the school’s very basic infrastructure. This deeply touched him. He asked what their wishes were. One student quickly and unabashedly replied that they only wished to visit Sapa once. Despite Tả Van being merely 12 km away from Sapa, it sounded incredibly distant and unattainable to them.

Our team with 12 people from Ho Chi Minh

Therefore, in the end of 2023, Mr. Dan resolved to swiftly implement two significant programs with the principal and students of Tả Van:

In mid-November, he led a delegation of businessmen from Canada to donate 10 computers/laptops to the school.

Immediately after, the idea of Christmas for children in the highlands was discussed and promptly executed by Mr. Dan and his employees at Dan On Foods. An inspiring journey and event organized by members of the Dan On Foundation warmed the hearts of the little ones in that remote highland area.

Ta Van School with over 750 ethnic students

And we all would like to share our unforgettable moments about our trip to Sapa:

We warmly welcomed Santa Claus from the North Pole to Hanoi on December 4. Twenty-two of Santa’s assistants travelled to Ta Van, a village situated in the Sapa valley, via a five-hour sleigh journey.

The stage was prepared, a freshly cut Christmas tree was procured from the forest and decorated, and Santa was assisted in transporting and positioning thousands of presents beneath the tree by local volunteers from the Rock Church. The scenes appeared extraordinary in appearance.

We began preparing food for one thousand children.

Happy on their face

On Monday evening, thousands of small tummies were warmed with Tomato Scrambled Eggs, Mapo Tofu with pork, and a soup. The children gushed about how tasty the supper was.

Early after 6 pm, fog descended, and we were forced to evacuate; failure to do so would have prevented us from returning to Sapa. Under such conditions, a 30-minute bus journey would have lasted between 45 and 60 minutes, putting the lives of 22 volunteers at risk.

We returned to Ta Van School on the morning of the 5th in order to prepare a barbeque and serve these children substantial pho and beef noodles prepared in an oil cylinder. We ignited a fire on the grill after acquiring two barrels of charcoal and beginning to prepare hamburger and rotisserie chicken.

Ten volunteers and three hours were required to prepare one thousand buns, patties, tomato slices, lettuce, cheese segments, and mayonnaise and ketchup spreads. Mr. Dan was an expert griller and poultry chef.

750 students stormed out of their classrooms by 11 a.m., sparking an unanticipated disturbance. It had never occurred to these children to consume a hamburger, rotisserie chicken, or French fries accompanied by ketchup. Each individual was provided with a maximum of one litre of freshly purchased milk to consume throughout the month of December. 

Surprisingly, these children could consume anything, including beverages; they were not timid and repeatedly requested more. They did not enquire or speak; they simply assumed they were being cheated. The children’s conduct is profoundly discouraging in nature, primarily attributable to poverty and inadequate educational opportunities. This is unfortunate. Children merit a better existence because they represent the future.

Gifts for every Children
After lunch was over, New York-based Iron Chef Michael Bao prepared a delectable meal for the twenty-two of us. The remainder of the staff was preparing a traditional Vietnamese dinner consisting of pork belly braised in egg and tofu, daikon, which was accompanied by rice, and tomato egg flower broth. Once more, these children had never before ingested a substantial portion of pork; this, along with Coca-Cola and Dan D Pak snacks, was a delight for them. And the special thing with all the kids began with the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” 
Following an announcement in which Mr. Dan presented gifts to thirty-five instructors, the denouement began with gifts for each child. Each participant was awarded one pair of runners, five pairs of socks, a gift, a pen, and two books from Mrs. Santa. One thousand joyful features could be observed. Although these children were acquainted with the tale of Old Man Noel, they were not aware that they would be receiving gifts from Santa Claus.
Santa Claus and Ms Santa give gifts to children

It’s an unforgettable experience for all of us
We had the privilege of touching the lives of countless young people, igniting their hopes, fulfilling their ambitions, and bringing them joy. That is the very essence of the Christmas season.
It was a scene out of a fairy tale when, after seven o’clock at night, we departed the foggy town where these children were still racing around in their new shoes and playing in the yard..
Let look back this meaningful Sapa trip with us