Ho Chi Minh City's expat community has always been good for raising funds in the name of a cause. From orphanages through to development foundations, the likes of Loreto Vietnam and Saigon Children's Charity (SCC), many organisations and NGOs have benefited from its help.

But the fundraisers in this city have long been a disparate bunch, often working in their own groups or cliques and rarely coming together in the name of a larger, more universal need.

Which is why the recent Christchurch Earthquake fundraiser was such an eye-opener. Not only was it organised in record time ― the first conversations about doing something took place on a Saturday afternoon with the event happening on the following Thursday ― but it also brought together a range of people from all nationalities to try to help raise money for victims of one of New Zealand's worst disasters in living memory.

That the event was a success was inevitable. But the fact that it enticed over 500 people through its doors and raised US$67,000 in ticket sales and an auction was unprecedented. According to one of the organisers Matt Millard, virtually every person he and his team phoned asking for support replied with an unequivocal yes, donating prizes and other services in the name of the cause. Many fundraising teams and committees spend months planning an event in this city, struggling to get support for their work. Here, regardless of the gravity of the disaster, it was instant.

Then there was the event itself. A minute of silence was held and a pre-recorded piece of footage from the Mayor of Christchurch was broadcast. There was even a letter of thanks from the New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key. He was supposed to broadcast live to the expectant audience, but with such a busy schedule ― "He probably hasn't slept for the last week," said one person ― just couldn't make the time.

NZ lawyer Mark Fraser speaks at the earthquake fundraiser in the Caravelle Hotel, Saigon

The fact that he planned to make such a broadcast, and the fact that the Mayor of Christchurch managed to, says a lot. They sincerely appreciated the efforts of everyone involved, no matter how big or small. If it was the British government on the same platform, you'd be lucky to even get a thank you, and definitely not one from the Prime Minister. Yes, it's true, the UK is a much larger country with 14 times the population. But still...

We need more events like these, more events where everyone comes together without affiliations in the name of a wider cause. But with NGOs and charities having to compete for limited funds and with fundraisers often tending to work within their own groups, it is difficult to see how this will happen. The only hope is that a lesson has been learned from the Christchurch Earthquake fundraising event. And if it has, then it will be good for everyone.

The Mayor of Christchurch broadcasts a thank you message to Saigon

Nick Ross

Chief editor and co-founder of Word Vietnam, Nick Ross was born in the humble city of London before moving to the less humble climes of Vietnam. His wanderings have taken him to definitely not enough corners of the globe, but being a constant optimist, he still has hopes.

Website: twitter.com/nickrossvietnam

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