by Megan Montgomery
Have you ever met someone who challenged you in the best of ways? Someone who made you want to give more, love people deeper, and live for something beyond yourself?
April Tam Smith is that type of person, a person whose radical giving, passion for empowering people, and infectious joy made me walk away from our encounter deeply reflecting on how to give more.
April credits her parents with instilling a strong sense of gratitude in her, as well as the responsibility to pay it forward. When her mom was 11 years old, her mom was working in a clothing factory in Hong Kong to provide for her family. When April was 11 years old, her family immigrated to the US where April eventually had the opportunity to attend MIT, then get her MBA at Columbia and start a career in investment banking.
April then started volunteering at a number of charities in NYC helping survivors of human trafficking, the formerly incarcerated and the homeless, as well as serving with charities abroad in Haiti and South Africa and kept hearing the same thing from everyone, “I just want a job.” She also had a friend now turned business partner who saw her passion for giving and a number of causes and suggested that they start a small business to fund all these causes that she was so passionate about.
With no prior restaurant experience, April took him up on the idea and decided to start a restaurant that would create meaningful work for people who need a job while donating 100 percent of the restaurant’s profits to charity. She also decided to make the restaurant vegan to provide food that was good for both the environment and the body and P.S. Kitchen opened its doors in August 2017. Located in the heart of Times Square, after less than two years of existence, P.S. Kitchen was recently named one of the top vegan restaurants in New York City while providing jobs for more than 40 people in need of a second chance.
“We can’t control the circumstances or family we are born to, but we are all called to share the time, talent, and resources we have to help others,” says April. “If we all sat down to a family-style dinner and I got a huge plate of food and you got two tomatoes, of course I would say you should have some of mine. It’s up to each of us to give generously and when you give generously God surprises you because it’s really all His anyway, so you can be bold in really stretching yourself in giving.”
April still works full time in investment banking and both her and her partner don’t take any salary from the restaurant. She is also still active in volunteering for a number of other non-profits. When I asked her how she does it all, she explained that it’s really the joy and passion of it that keeps her going. “If it was out of a sense of obligation, it would get old really fast,” April says. “When you really get to know the people you are serving, they move from being statistics to real people. That motivates me to work even harder at my day job so that I can earn more so that I can give away more.”
April is very diligent with scheduling her time to fit in everything and shared that it is so easy to waste your time, money and resources if you’re not careful. As busy as she is, she’s never too busy to pray. “You get so much more productivity when you take the time to pray and invite God into the situation,” says April. “When you try and do things on your own without seeking His guidance, then you can easily waste your time like a hamster in a wheel. God can be so creative with both time and money.”
April has big dreams about continuing to empower others both in the U.S. and abroad and encourages everyone to challenge themselves through radical giving. “Start investing in others even if you are starting off small and then continue to deepen your giving and experience the joy of what giving in a radical way that’s scary and others-centered can do,” April says.
Watch Asian American Life’s video profile of P.S. Kitchen here.