Photo: Paul Davis

Peace Through Service


What We Do

OUR MISSION: The Loving Work Foundation was founded as a means to inspire personal interest in the cultural vibrancy, the spiritual practices, and every day lives of the people of Viet Nam. We do this by supporting humanitarian programs that improve the lives of disadvantaged Vietnamese children and families, and by organizing and leading mindfulness retreats within the country, providing friends around the world the opportunity to practice together in the spirit of global community-building and engaged service.



Joyfully Together Loving Work Retreats in Viet Nam

These retreats focus on community-building through mindful work with, and visits to, local nonprofit organizations in Central Viet Nam. One or two work projects are selected each year by the director of the Foundation, in collaboration with our local non-profit partners, following an exploration with the directors of these projects about what is needed and what is achievable.


Funding for these projects comes in part from funds raised by the retreat participants (see Community Partnerships) and implemented by those who join us as part of the Loving Work Retreat team for that year.


Our primary focus in these retreats is witnessing and supporting the work of our local partners, while cultivating deeper relationships with the people of Viet Nam. We especially enjoy the opportunity to share mindful work side-by-side with local staff and volunteers, Examples from past retreats include meeting with village elders before helping to build a community playground; weeding and planting an organic garden, and meeting with the local farmers who are bringing organic farming to Viet Nam. A real joy every year is our “Play Day” with rural school children, organized by school staff and local volunteers, during which the children (and the adults) delight together in games and crafts.


Other components of the retreat include days of mindfulness, early morning sitting meditation and stretching, bicycling in the countryside, afternoon swims, delicious and fresh vegan meals, and regular Dharma Sharing.


Minimum of 10 persons.


Read more for details on how to register:

Joyfully Together Homeland

Retreats in Viet Nam

Going as a river, we travel as a Sangha, Joyfully Together, Discovering the Homeland of Our Teacher. We explore sites important in the life of the Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, as well as places and projects that reflect the general history and contemporary culture of the country. Highlights include Days of Mindfulness in pagodas, bicycling in the central countryside, a visit to the charming Old Town of Hoi An and the city of Hue, lunch on an afternoon cruise on the World Heritage site of Ha Long Bay, overnight at the base of Yen Tu Mountain, and enjoying an evening with the Hanoi Mindfulness Community.

Minimum of 10 persons. Maximum 18 persons.

Read more for details on how to register:

All of our retreats are experienced as "Joyfully Together", in honor of the retreat offered when Thich Nhat Hanh returned to Viet Nam to practice with the Sangha in 2005. We continue this tradition.   



We are happy to partner with some of the many non-profit charitable organizations doing wonderful work in Viet Nam. We prefer this collaborative approach, rather than attempting to initiate and organize projects on our own. We are fortunate to have personal contact and experience with a number of fine groups, enough to be able to determine whose goals match our own and which ones are effective.


Our friends have the option, throughout the year, to choose to financially support the work of one or more of these organizations, based on the information provided on this website. Friends can become even more directly involved as retreat participants on either or both of the annual Retreats.


Those who attend our retreats are asked to raise a minimum of 400 USD from among families, friends, and other connections. We, then, pool these funds to support local projects of our participating partners. The fund raising effort which we ask retreat participants to undertake in advance of their arrival serves to shine light on the wonderful work of local NGOs to bring education and self-sufficiency to families and children in underserved communities in Viet Nam. In this way, we continue to grow our Loving Work community.


Read about our various partners and how you can become a part of our community of people dedicated to improving the lives of disadvantaged children and families in Viet Nam.


Our Team


Our team begins with YOU !!!  Each person who participates in our Loving Work makes a difference:  come

to Viet Nam and join us on retreat, support the children, or offer financial support for the practice leaders.

Your actions make our Loving Work possible. We are grateful for your kind and compassionate hearts.


Founder and President, Loving Work Foundation, and Retreat Practice Leader

Trish Thompson, Dharmacharya

with HH the Dalai Lama

Trish Thompson, Chân An Định (True Concentration on Peace), the founder of the Loving Work Foundation, serves as its managing director. She has been living and building community in Viet Nam for over a decade, drawing on a lifetime of dedicated engagement in diverse cultures around the globe -- from "down under" New Zealand to the "roof of the world," Tibet. A native South Carolinian (USA), she has lived in Europe and in Hawaii (soon after Hawaii achieved statehood), has traveled extensively for work and pleasure, and has done social work with communities of most of the ethnic minority groups in the U.S., including many of the Native American tribes in the "Lower 48" and Alaska, as well as populations in Puerto Rico, the American Virgin Islands, and the Pacific Island nations of Micronesia, the Marianas, and Samoa.


Her spiritual quest took her to India in the mid-1990's where, for six months, as a student of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, she lived at Dolma Ling Nunnery as the first western retreatant to live with the (Tibetan) nuns. She became a student of the Zen Master, the Venerable Thích Nhất Hạnh. in 1997. She is a Dharma Teacher in the Plum Village tradition, having received the Lamp of Wisdom Transmission from her teacher (Thay). Knowing of her love for the country and her commitment to live and work there, he encouraged her to organize Mindfulness retreats in Viet Nam. She continues the social work he and his earliest students began there in the mid-1960's.

Jeffrey Nielsen, Order of Interbeing

Advisory Committee, Loving Work Foundation, and Anecdotal Loving Work Retreat Guide

Jeff is a member of the LWF Advisory Committee, with extensive experience as a visitor and volunteer in Viet Nam. He traveled in the country in 2005 and 2008 with Thay and the sangha, and he has participated in three Joyfully Together retreats with LWF. He will be with us again for the Loving Work Rereat in March 2018.

Jeff's passionate involvement as a volunteer with Peacetrees Viet Nam, a bomb removal organization operating in the old Demilitarized Zone, and his experience as a veteran of the war in that area, qualify him to guide our Loving Work group to visit Khe Sanh, near the Lao border, site of the developing Peacetrees Peace Garden initiative. He will also lead our tour of the Citadel in Hue, site of heavy fighting during the 1968 TET Offensive.

Jeff, ordained by Thay with the name, True Pure Peace, is a retired clinical Social Worker and an active member of the Heart of the Valley sangha in Norwich, Vermont, USA where he enjoys writing and gardening..

Paul Davis, Order of Interbeing

Vice President, Loving Work Foundation, and Retreat Co-Practice Leader

Paul Davis, Chân Pháp Đường (True Hall of Merit) has been a student of Venerable Thích Nhất Hạnh (Thay) since the mid-'90s. In 1997, while attending his second retreat with Thay, he took refuge in the Three Jewels and the Five Mindfulness Trainings. Over the years, his practice deepened, and in 2008, he was ordained by Thay into the Order of Interbeing while on retreat in Hanoi. Being ordained in Hanoi had special significance for Paul; he was a Marine in Vietnam in 1966, the year Thay created the Order. Since the conclusion of the American War in Vietnam, he has returned to the country four times. In 2005, he was a member of the lay delegation which accompanied Thay on his return to Vietnam, after his exile in 1966. On both trips, with Thay and the Sangha, he traveled with Sr. Chan Khong to visit projects supported by Plum Village. 

Paul is a retired clinical social worker and as a volunteer, he leads mindfulness groups for veterans with PTSD.


As a documentary photographer, Paul has combined his passion for photography with his love for Thay, to create a pictorial record of his travels with the greater Plum Village Sangha. Paul lives in Cincinnati, Ohio USA where he facilitates Being Peace Sangha.


Linh Phan Khanh

Retreats Coordinator / Bookkeeper, Loving Work Foundation

Linh Phan Khanh, Loving Care of the Heart, first met the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh in 2005 when she joined the Hanoi Sangha founded by Trish. She says she always knew how important a mindfulness practice was, but the conditions for her to become a true practitioner were not sufficient.

Even though, in her work as a journalist, she had a chance to interview Thay in 2008, she

did not fully commit to the practice until 2017 when she served as Retreat Coordinator for

the Homeland retreat. Along with other friends, she received the Five Mindfulness Trainings in Dieu Tram Nunnery during the Homeland Retreat.. Since that profound ceremony and her experience of practicing with the Sangha, she is realizing her passion for living a meaningful life for the benefit of herself and others. Linh loves traveling the world, working with different groups of people, and being involved in bringing people to her beautiful and vulnerable Viet Nam. As a freelancer, she can choose work that speaks to her heart. She says the opportunity to combine her passion for practice and working to create the best experience for those who join our retreats is her dream job.

Trang Vu copy.jpg

Trang Thuy Vu

Registrar, Loving Work Foundation

Vu Thuy Trang, Full Opening of the Heart (Tâm Khai Mãn) is a native Hanoian with a strong background in both the arts and business and commerce. She is an accomplished calligrapher, for which she learned Han Chinese characters and those of Nom, the ancient language of Viet Nam. As the assistant to our dear friend, Suzanne, at Gallery Art VietNam, Trang organizes, curates and attends art exhibitions and visits art fairs, galleries, and museums in US, Singapore, and Hong Kong. Her experience gleaned from her interactions with both local artists and international clients qualifies her for the responsibilities of Registrar for our retreats. She is our friend of many years, and we are delighted that she is now a member of our team at the Loving Work Foundation.


Danna Zelenka, Order of Interbeing

Secretary / Treasurer, Loving Work Foundation, and Retreat Co-Practice Leader

Danna Zelenka practices in the tradition of Thích Nhất Hạnh (Thay) and is a student of Dharmacharya, Eileen Kiera. She practices regularly with Mountain Lamp Community in Northwestern Washington state.  She began practicing in 1991 as a result of being deeply touched by Thay’s writing and teaching.

For her,  the practice offers a calm, fulfilling  way to live in the world.  Danna was ordained into the Order of Interbeing in May, 2013 by Dharmacharya, Eileen Kiera and was given  the dharma name, True Sky of Spring (Chân Xuân Thiên) by Thay.


In June, 2016 she retired from a 36 year career teaching preschool through fifth grade students in special education in both the public and private sector.  She volunteers in the local schools where she lives and happily assists students with reading.  Danna feels her service in education has cultivated a deep love of children and greater insight into herself.   


Ava Avalos, Dharmacharya

Retreat Co-Practice Leader, Loving Work Foundation

Ava Avalos, MD/Chan Hanh Bi (True Compassion in Action), was ordained  as a Dharma Teacher in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh in 2018, after 20 years of study and Zen practice. Ava facilitates the Tshedisa Sangha and teaches yoga, as well as leads dance/meditation retreats in Gaborone, Botswana where she has lived and worked in a professional capacity as an HIV/TB specialist physician for the past 18 years.She was a member of the lay delegation that accompanied Thay on his triumphant return to his homeland in 2005. She fell in love with the country, and is happily anticipating her own return in 2020.

Some Changes In LWF Leadership Roles


Loving Work Foundation Advisory Committee: Lynne Kaufman, Margaret Alexander, Jeff Nielsen, Ron Landsel, and Sylvia Aurora.

Members of our Advisory Commitee actively support the mission of the Loving Work Foundation by serving as its representatives. They offer counsel to the Director of the Foundation Board of Trustees and her designee(s), providing recommendations, suggestions and constructive feedback in the areas of networking, dissemination of information, website content, fundraising, and other areas relating to the work of the Foundation. We are grateful for their compassionate hearts and dedicated service.

Margaret 1.jpg

Margaret Alexander, True Autumn

Lake, loves serving as a volunteer,

a family tradition that began in her

childhood. She has participated

in five consecutive Loving Work

Retreats. Margaret volunteers with

the Mindfulness Bell. In her spare

time, she is researching the early

connections made by our teacher,

Thay TNH.


Jeff Nielsen, True Pure Peace,

returns to Viet Nam every year,

volunteering with both Peace Trees

International and the Loving Work

Foundation. He especially loves

supporting the children.

(See his bio above)


Ron Landsel, True West Lake,

actively supports his Southern

California Sangha, as well as Deer

Park Monastery, and he teaches

meditation in the California prison

system. A retired social worker,

Ron is a veteran of the Viet Nam/

American War. He is a real friend

of Viet Nam, having returned on

numerous occasions during the

past 25 years.


Sylvia Aurora is a meditation teacher,

a yoga teacher, and instructor in

Qigong in Oceanside, California.

She is a passionate advocate for

social justice, with an emphasis on

issues affecting indigenous people,

refugees, and women and children.

Sylvia and her husband, Peter

Andrew, travel the world, leaving

behind a wake of goodness. They

are solid supporters of the work

of LWF, especially projects

concerning children.


Lynne Kaufman, True Unfolding Dharma Bridge, is an active member of the Desert Cactus Sangha in 

Phoenix, Arizona. She is a member of the area Threshold Choir and, twice a week, sings bedside to the dying. Lynne has joined LWF retreats in Viet Nam for the past four years. 

She generously serves as liaison between LWF and the supporters of needy school children in Quang Nam province.


Join a Retreat in Viet Nam

The Loving Work Foundation organizes annual mindfulness

retreats celebrating the cultural vibrancy, historical, and spiritual

roots and everyday lives of the people of Viet Nam. We hold

these retreats in Viet Nam, with the goal of building a global

community that connects to the Homeland of our teacher.

Our Loving Work Retreats partner with humanitarian projects

throughout Viet Nam, engaging in service projects at a grass-

roots, hands-on level.

Our Homeland Retreats take us to sites of spiritual and historical

significance related to our teacher and our Buddhist roots.


Join one or both of these retreats, and qualify to join our

special 2019 Togetherness Retreat, a week in Plum Village

Thailand”. We make all the arrangements and take you there.

Loving Work Retreat

March 6 - March 20, 2020

Togetherness Retreat

March 19 - March 28, 2020

Homeland Retreat

March 27 - April 12, 2020


A Culture of Financial Transparency

The Loving Work Foundation is committed to sustainable resource management and community building, working through grass-roots community partnerships to ensure that donations we receive are unitilzed in the most impactful way possible.  

We maintain a culture of financial transparency so that our donors can see how funds are allocated. Please contact us at if you would like to request a financial statement.

Support the Children

Supporting a child is a wonderful way to water seeds of happiness in ourselves and in others. Through a relatively small annual contribution, we can transform the life of a disadvantaged child, providing access to education and opportunites for a bright, healthy future. Commitments with our partner organizations range from $50 - $720, annually.

Your gift can make all the difference.

The Loving Work Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization. Our sole means of financial support comes through donations made by compassionate supporters of our work and any small profit made from our retreats. The majority of our operating budget is comprized of donations made by each retreat participant as part of the registration process. We gratefully receive support from friends around the world and welcome online contributions. Some of the funds we receive go directly to cover costs associated with the service projects in which we participate during the Loving Work Retreat or that we visit on the Homeland Retreat, including reasonable fees for our Retreat Coordinator and our Registrar. We endeavor to keep administrative costs as low as possible, on average only 10% - 15% of donations received are used for adminstrative purposes.Our practice leaders receive no fees for their work. Any funds not spent on work projects or adminstrative costs are allocated to a Descretionary Relief Fund, from which we can offer additional financial assistance in circumstances of need brought to our attention by our partnering community agencies. Our aspiration is to make the greatest possible impact with the generous donations we receive.


Thank you for your support.

Make a Donation


When making your gift, please be sure to email us

and let us know it's on the way.  And, if you'd like to designate your gift for a specific purpose, or to honor

an individual,  please note it in your email.

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Our Roots in Mindfulness

Our two primary teachers on this Path are the Zen Master Thích Nhất Hạnh (affectionately called "Thay", meaning Honored Teacher) and the most elder nun in our tradition of Budhhism, Sister Chân Không. Others have influenced us; others have been and continue to be exemplary teachers for us; however, Thay and Sister Chân Không have been the Lights shining most brightly on our Path, showing us the way to transform our suffering into happiness and joy. Their teachings are most evident in how they live. We aspire to do our best to continue their example..

Thay, a monk since the age of 16, began in the early 1960's to teach the importance of service to one's community. His was a compassionate response to the suffering of the people in his war-torn country. He coined the phrase, "Engaged Buddhism." Sister Chân Không began her social work as a teenager in the 1950's in the Mekong Delta of Viet Nam. Our Loving Work is an extension of their work.  Most of what we do is in Central Viet Nam, an area in which they both worked extensively during the war.

The retreats we offer contain the basic practices that support our commitment to be free (of doubts and worries), to be truly alive in the present moment. Loving Work is Mindful Work. We give our time and resources, with the clear understanding that the giver and the receiver are One. Our Homeland Retreats are modeled after our teachers'  2005 three-month tour of Viet Nam, during which 200 of us - both monastic and lay friends - "went like a river," mindfully and joyfully together, experiencing the country and the people.

Mindfulness as a Path asks us to practice Love and Compassion for all of Life. We avoid doing harm - to ourselves or to others. Our retreats are therefore, alcohol and tobacco - free, featuring only the freshest, most delectible plant-based food.

Mindfulness is a Path, one to which we have been dedicated for the past 26 years. Every moment of our lives is an opportunity to practice being present for what is happening inside and around us. We do our best to stay in our bodies, in touch with our breath, with the thoughts in the mind, and with the feelings in the body while aware of the elements and energies in our immediate environment. This is a demanding practice. We simply do our best in whatever circumstances we find ourselves. Our best is good enough!

A reminder: Anyone can practice Mindfulness.

Breathing and Smiling, Mindfully Sitting and Walking,

Being in the Present Moment – these practices do not

require us to be a "This" or a 'That." Everyone who finds

our program appealing is welcome to join us.