SEAMAAC’s “Jook Breakfast” was created in May 2007 to help Southeast Asian elders have a dignified and healthy aging experience, by reconnecting them with each other and with the younger generation of people in the community.
SEAMAAC’s Executive Director Mr. Thoai Nguyen who came up with the idea for the Jook Breakfast program, taught me and other staff the recipe for Jook. His idea was to serve a traditional Asian food that was associated with health and healing. In the first year Mr. Thoai woke up at 6:30 am every Tuesday morning to begin the cooking, and later on another staff and I would come to his kitchen at 7:30 am with chicken meat that I have already marinated the night before to add to soup. The recipe is simple but nutritious, all fresh ingredients, with no MSG or too much salt. Mr. Thoai always joked that the main ingredient in Jook is “love”, he said “if you cook like you are cooking for your own parents then it will always be good.” I agree with him.
After we serve Jook also we provide social services to the elders and that is why the elders are really happy and appreciate coming to SEAMAAC. The more they love the program the more they helped us recruit other Elders to come to Jook. Currently we have about 140 Vietnamese and 70 Lao unduplicated elders participate in the Jook breakfast.
Usually, breakfast starts at 10:15 am after we make activities announcement, but most elders come early to have hot tea and coffee with their friends. During the time they are having coffee and tea they have the opportunity to communicate and share stories and build friendly relationship with each other. The Vietnamese and Lao elders began to sit together and they can communicate with each other as well. Most of the elders have told me that they really love every Tuesday.
The greatest challenge and most rewarding experience for me is building the trust with the elders, and serving them with patience and respect. When helping them and working with them, I know I must always be aware of their culture, their habits, and their traditions to understand what they need and why. The elders are happy with Jook, with SEAMAAC and continue to come to SEAMAAC because we provide good services, communicate with them well, and engage them in activities that are healthy for them and for their community.
My fondness for the Jook breakfast comes from the bottom of my heart and I consider all of the elders like my parents. It gives me great pleasure and a warm feeling every Tuesday when I am serving them to be able to see them chit chat with each other with cheerful smiles on their faces. I love them all.
I hope that SEAMAAC will be able to continue to work well together to improve our program services to help the elders to live healthy, happy lives and to strengthen their community.