Award-winning pianist Van-Anh Nguyen and cellist Chris Howlett.
Being born in Sydney gave me an appreciation of the opportunities afforded to me, compared to those from my homeland of Vietnam. This has resulted in a deep sense of responsibility to do what I can to help those less fortunate than me.
From a very young age my parents always encouraged us to give back. They came from humble beginnings travelling to Australia with not much more than a bag of belongings.
The first time I went back to Vietnam was in 1994 when I was 6 years old and at this young age did not think much of the differences between the two countries. I only knew that I enjoyed being in Ho Chi Minh City especially because of family and of course the Vietnamese street food like ‘bo bia’ (rice paper roll with egg & Chinese sausage). As I grew older, I began to realise that aspects like health, hygiene, caring for the elderly were severely lacking when compared to Australia.
At 17, I was invited by the Australian Embassy to come back to perform for Australia Day for the ex-pats in Vietnam and it was here that I met quite a few people working in charities, helping build schools, medical clinics and funding education for remote areas of Vietnam.
One particular experience that impacted me was working alongside a charity where I would visit a deaf and blind school in Ho Chi Minh City performing for them on a keyboard. They would sit quietly, listening to my performance and give applause at the end. They would also perform for me on traditional instruments, guitars and sing.
What shone through was the incredible smiles they had on their faces. It was incredibly touching to see how happy and content they were even though there were obvious struggles and disabilities. It reminded me that we are so fortunate to be living in Australia where we have a robust health care system and where clean water is something taken for granted.
Having just returned from Vietnam and seeing some of the poverty right at my doorstep, I feel a sense of duty to raise awareness of the wealth disparity between countries, particularly in this generation where kids take so many things for granted. I look forward to being able to share my love of music to an audience and being able to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.