Behind the Green Apron: Three Starbucks partners share how Asian culture and teachings inspire them to give back to the community

This week, Hanh, logistics service rep in Toronto, MJ, store manager in Calgary, and David, barista, share how their culture, teaches and upbringings inspire their desire to give back to the community


In the Vietnamese and Chinese culture, friends and family are very important.  Our friends are treated like family members, and when they come to our home, they are welcomed with love and are fed with delicious food.  There were times when we did not have much food on the table, but our bellies felt full because our hearts were filled with laughter and joy with our friends and family company.  

My mom was the sole financial supporter for my four siblings and me. She worked on an assembly line where 95% of her coworkers were Asian, so there were very few opportunities to speak English. This became a challenge when one of my sisters was diagnosed with epilepsy and developmental delays and it was difficult for my mom to navigate the system to find support for her.

At the age of 12, I would attend my sister’s appointments with mom. I helped translate English to Vietnamese/Cantonese so my mom could understand what the medical teams needed to support my sister. Seeing how strong, loving and appreciative my mother was, even with the circumstances, made me feel grateful for everything around me.

As a teenager, my sister tried fitting in with kids her age, but was often bullied and taken advantage of because of her vulnerability, which led to a diagnosis of psychotic depression. This made me very angry and I became her advocate and protector. 

I think these experiences helped instill my love for people and strong desire to support the most vulnerable in our communities. Even when the whole world seems dark, if someone showed that they care about me, that would make me feel hope to get through another day. This is what drives me do the same for others. 

Throughout my journey at Starbucks, I have taken opportunities to volunteer and organize events that bring a light of hope to people who need it most and help them believe that they can get through the toughest of times. Most recently, our Starbucks Canada Pan-Asian Partner Network (PPN) donated care packages to Asian seniors to help lift their spirits at a time when they really needed it. Being part of the PPN allows me to learn more about the Asian culture but also gives me an opportunity to support those who are most vulnerable in our community.

I hope that my story will inspire more people to think about what they can do for their community to make that one person smile and feel important. The smallest action of care can truly make someone feel like they are worth it!


I grew up in India, and when I was young my father and grandfather introduced me to this Mantra from The Bhagwat Gita, the Hindu holy Book, and it stuck with me forever: Karmanye VadhikarasteMa phaleshou kada chana. In Sanskrit, the world’s oldest language, this means: keep on performing your duties without expecting for any reward in return, leading a selfless life! This is the main principle of Karma.

I witnessed my father live by this Mantra, often going out of his way to help others in need, despite our financial hardship. I also have a fond memory of accompanying my grandfather to the local community Bazaar and watching him buy vegetables that were nearly rotten from a vendor, who had no customers, so that the vendor would be able to buy food for their own family. This always got him in trouble with my grandmother, but that didn’t stop him from doing it again, and doing his part to give to others. This is how I was seeded with a lifelong purpose of making a difference in the community where I live.

In 2007, I was hired to join the Starbucks team in India, but when the launch was delayed, a life changing moment happened, Starbucks Canada offered me a temporary position as a store manager in Calgary, Alberta. When I arrived in Canada in 2008, I was on a two-year work permit and had planned to return to India, but my experience in this beautiful country, and at Starbucks, made me move my home 11,000 miles away!

From the very beginning of my 13-year Starbucks Canada journey, I committed myself to my family and cultural values that were seeded very early in my life and to our Starbucks mission – To inspire and nurture the human spirit – one cup, one person and one neighborhood at a time. This is why my team and I stay up-to-date and make ourselves available for any opportunities to give back and make a difference in our community. Whether through supporting sustainability, health and inclusion initiatives, or helping to fight food insecurity, I feel fortunate that we have had the opportunity to partner with organizations in our community doing great work to make our neighbourhoods a better place for everyone. Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, World is one Family.              


Growing up, my parents always reminded me to ground myself in my values. So, when I faced any adversity, I could lean on who I was and continue to strive for success. As a child of immigrants, I saw the strong work ethic my parents required to become established in Canada. They faced issues like trying to find housing and jobs that would recognize their education, while attempting to make a life for themselves and trying to take care of my brother and me.

I remember my mom and dad working 16-hour days, sometimes not seeing them for days at a time. They had to lean on the Filipino community to help take care of us and find opportunities to build their new life here. Along the way, they decided to create their own business, and became advocates for the Filipino community by hiring individuals who had just moved to Canada to help set them up for success. Seeing this, my values became about work ethic and helping underprivileged and marginalized groups succeed.

As I grew into my own, I became passionate about community involvement and empowering our youth to be the leaders we need today. I was humbled with the stories my parents told me about how some areas of the Philippines were incredibly destitute and how fortunate I was to be living in Canada. With this, I knew I wanted to create a better world for everyone to be accepted in.

I started to be involved in charities and non-profits I felt were important to me and my experiences. I started to fundraise for our city’s first Youth Homeless Shelter, organized our community Terry Fox Run, and became a facilitator in a community forum about building inclusion in Saskatchewan this year, especially important with an increase in Asian hate around the world.

To me, being a Filipino isn’t just about the delicious foods that are part of our culture, but about leveraging our work ethic and hospitality so we can help those in need in our communities.