Elderly masons build bridges for free in Vietnam

Some physically challenged people also offer to help the volunteering team with odd chores

The Lai Vung construction team works on the Ba Dia Bridge in the district’s Tan Hoa Commune in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap.

A number of middle-aged and elderly masons in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap have voluntarily built civil works completely gratis to ease residents’ travel.

With a passion for helping others, a group of volunteers in Lai Vung District have formed to build bridges over crisscrossing streams and rivers, ensuring greater safety for residents, particularly school students, and facilitating their business.

The youngest member of the Lai Vung bridge construction team is almost 50 years old while the oldest is more than 80.

Despite their decrepit age, the masons always push their work to a high limit and the best quality with their hardworking attitude, devotion and true community spirit.

Under the blazing sun in mid-April, the team members, all bathed in sweat, were working briskly and performing delegated tasks seamlessly at the construction site of the Ba Dia Bridge in Tan Hoa Commune.

“The new bridge will be put to use in over one month, allowing trucks ready access to residents’ farms to carry melon and veggies to the markets. Local farmers will no longer sell their produce at low prices due to transport hurdles,” Vo Van Loc, head of the team, said excitedly.

Formed in 2008 with a few dozen elderly farmers, the team now has a membership of more than 115, who work tirelessly to construct bridges and streets in Lai Vung District and other localities across the Mekong Delta without receiving a single penny of salary.

“Travel to, from and within Lai Vung was particularly difficult years ago, as makeshift wooden and bamboo bridges over intersecting streams and rivers were a major deterrent to locals and students,” Loc explained the reason for setting up the team.  

Huynh Van Dung, a seasoned member, said he and the others have grown ‘addicted’ to the job, as they feel uneasy if they do not work at the construction sites every few days.

“Many members cover a long distance to the sites every day without a single complaint, as the sooner the bridges are complete and open to traffic, the more residents will benefit,” Dung shared.

“Their jubilation is also ours,” he added.

In the early days, the team built only wooden and concrete bridges with a loading capacity of under 1.5 metric tons due to limited funding and inadequate civil engineering expertise. 

As they have gradually gained more construction experience and more philanthropists have joined hands, the team has taken on larger-capacity bridges which allow trucks to get through easily.

Several physically challenged people have also joined the squad.

Nguyen Van Khoe, an Agent Orange victim, has been on the team for several years now.

Unable to take on arduous tasks, he opts for errands, such as measuring steel poles and bringing food and refreshments to the team members.

Cao Trong Danh, chief of the Lai Vung People’s Committee Office, observed the construction team has helped improve the locality’s traffic infrastructure.

“The senior members have put forth a lot of effort and sweat to build technically ensured walkways and complete them to everyone’s delight. Thanks to their hard work, dwellers in remote areas can now travel and do business with ease, which has given a boost to the local economy,” he noted.

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