Beyond gratitude

Jacqueline Chang and Lewis Fong

One day a few weeks ago, my 10-year-old son who held the elevator door for two men to alight, told me: “Mummy, they didn’t even say thank you.”

He was right.

In today’s society, simple gestures or words like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ seem to have lost their way.

While I try to teach my two sons the act of gratitude by saying these little magic words, I am reminded of a conversation with someone who went beyond gratitude.

The name Jacqueline Chang may not ring a bell for most people, but her act of giving has touched many, all in the name of gratitude.

The hairstylist and mother of two founded Bon Appetit, a charity mobile food truck which helps feed the less fortunate in certain areas in Kuching. She took that first step after being crippled in debt for seven years.

Chang was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She worked part time as a hair assistant in a saloon when she was 15 to earn pocket money.

It was the experience which sparked her interest and she decided to pursue it as a career after completing her studies.

Together with her husband, Lewis Fong, they opened a hair saloon in the early 2000s and business picked up. They added six branches and were doing fairly well until the financial crisis hit them almost a decade later.

“Everything went downhill from there. We closed most of our branches and kept only two. It was tough,” she said.

For seven years, there was never a day they had debtors calling seeking payments.

“We were about RM1 million in debt. We just had so much to pay. I prayed to God every day for it to be over. I told myself that this was not what I had planned for.

“It took a toll on me emotionally and mentally. So we worked really hard to earn money to pay back every sen we owed,” she said.

Fast forward seven years, Chang remembers that relief of making the last debt payment to a supplier.

“I almost cried. In a way, I felt grateful that this dark episode happened when I was still quite young. I could pick up the pieces and move on,” she said.

That was the time she felt she had to give back to show how grateful she was for getting a second chance. She had fallen and managed to get back up again.

She decided to buy a used truck in 2016, modified it and decided to cook and distribute food to the less fortunate.

Today, Bon Appetit is operated by working volunteers twice a week to distribute food to the less fortunate families, focusing particularly on children and senior citizens.

“This was one way for me to show my gratitude to the one above for helping me get through the past seven years,” she said.

Bon Appetit is believed to be the only charity mobile truck in Kuching which goes to areas with many poor families.

Jacqueline Chang
Chang distributing food to school children.

“Kuching people are very charitable and I think with God’s grace, He has been helping me to make sure things go smoothly.

“After all that happened, I realised that we must always be grateful with what we have, and that we must help others. So I told myself that before I die, I’d better do something good,” she said.

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