Asian of the year, humble and generous vegetable vendor, Chen Shu-chu
December 6, 2010 1:20 PM   Subscribe

Chen has a daily routine—waking up at 3am, she makes her way to the vegetable wholesaler and sets up her stall, which she tends till seven or eight in the evening. The first to arrive in the dark, damp market and the last to leave, other stall-owners have fondly nicknamed her ‘market manager.’ Chen holds the stall her father left her dearly. Yuan-Jin Vegetables is her everything. Selling at “a bundle for 30 dollars*, three bundles for 50,” Chen earns only marginal profits. Yet, her frugality has allowed her to donate about NT$10 million (nearly Rs1.5 crore) [approx. US$330,000] towards various charitable causes, including helping schools, orphanages and poor children.
posted by nickyskye (17 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
posted by oddman at 1:34 PM on December 6, 2010

Chen had just completed primary school when her mother was admitted to hospital due to difficulties in labour. The family needed to pay an insurance premium before medical attention would be given. Chen’s father asked their neighbours for the money but it was too late to save her mother.
There should have been a Chen around then to help her family.
posted by dabitch at 2:29 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

She also sleeps on the hard floor, a habit from her younger days when she first started working at the vegetable stall. The comfort of her warm bed made getting up early to go to the wholesaler very difficult, especially during the cold winter months. Hence Chen made up her mind to sleep on the cold floor, where she would not run the risk of being late.

She chooses to sleep on the floor so she won't be late for work, she doesn't waste money on non-essentials, and her profits all go to worthwhile charities. What an incredible woman.

Thanks, nickyskye. This is one of those posts that makes me look at my own life in a different light.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 2:30 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Fellow Taiwanese and Oscar-winning director Ang Lee wrote her entry personally. “Money is only worthy if given to those in need,” he quoted Chen. He also wrote, “Amazing, but of all she has given away, her greatest gift is leading by example.”
Wonderful! I love stories like this. Thanks for posting it. Glad to see some recognition for Bungon Rithiphakdee, and her organization: SEATCA, too. They've fought very hard to raise awareness about both the dangers of smoking and the region's unchecked, unregulated tobacco industry, and regularly generate invaluable reports like this one.
posted by zarq at 2:42 PM on December 6, 2010

Humble and generous vegetable vendor Chen Shu-Chu says, “It is easy to return borrowed money, but difficult to return a favour”. I like this.
posted by unliteral at 2:44 PM on December 6, 2010

Appropriate that this was posted in the middle of our most glutenous shopping season...

Thanks, a moving story and a nobel woman.
posted by HuronBob at 3:37 PM on December 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

and, of course in my dyslexic mind, noble=nobel
posted by HuronBob at 3:39 PM on December 6, 2010

in the middle of our most glutenous shopping season...
Heh! I'm off to buy some Tofurkey and mock ham for my Christmas spread.
posted by unliteral at 4:12 PM on December 6, 2010

my spelling, not so good today... I knew that word looked wrong, damn spell checker...

My apologies to all for derailing this without intending to... mods, feel free to delete anything here with my name on it... :-\
posted by HuronBob at 5:48 PM on December 6, 2010

Nooo, dear HuronBob, it's a likable misspelling in a friendly thread. :)
posted by nickyskye at 5:56 PM on December 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Reminds me of Jane Eyre's character St. John Rivers. Repeatedly impaling yourself on the spike for the welfare of others can be a noble and beautiful sacrifice but there is a hint of the cruel self-deprivation she puts herself through. People may think her a saint for her charity but I wonder if denial of creature comforts is a punishment she exacts on herself. What a wonderful thing but it does have the hint of the hair shirt to it.
posted by Foam Pants at 6:44 PM on December 6, 2010

Seconding nickyskye, I thought it was a cute misspelling and I was just having fun with you.
posted by unliteral at 6:45 PM on December 6, 2010

Wow, very humbling. Thanks for finding this, Nicky.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:54 PM on December 6, 2010

A friend of mine who is in Haiti now was in St. Bernard Parish (Post Katrina, south of New Orleans) as an electrician and volunteered there for 3 and a half years. One group of New Jersey Catholics spends their month vacation every year in four parts, each in coming to New Orleans to rebuild. Howard University sent 300 people there on spring break. I could go on and on. A lot of people and a lot of organizations do this without need of and in fact eschew attention.
Chen is great but not alone. People are better than you might believe.
posted by vapidave at 9:13 PM on December 6, 2010

Wow. That's extremely impressive...
posted by Defenestrator at 10:04 PM on December 6, 2010

Ah, the miseries of altruism. Someone send this women a set of Ayn Rand. :-)
posted by Yakuman at 11:41 PM on December 6, 2010

WWJD? This, I'm pretty sure...
posted by Harald74 at 11:44 PM on December 6, 2010

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