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The lonely lives in a rest home in Hanoi

Monday, May 25, 2015, 20:30 GMT+7
The lonely lives in a rest home in Hanoi
Elderly people in the front garden of the Social Support Center No. 4, located in Tay Dang Commune, Ba Vi District, Hanoi

A little six-year-old girl has been counting down the days until she will be taken out of the orphanage she is living in as promised by her parents.

>> An audio version of the story is available here

She said her mother will come and take her home in four years because “my mom promised to me that she would pick me in five years when she took me here a year ago.”

An elderly woman living in the rest home, officially named the Social Support Center No. 4, located in Tay Dang Commune, Ba Vi District, Hanoi, arranges her clothes and appliances every afternoon and walks toward the gate to be driven home by her relatives. She has done this for many years.

The center, which is home to both adults and children who have no home and no relatives to take care of them, now has 327 lonely members.

“Children and lonely adults taken here have an unlucky fate.

“The kids have no relatives to take care of them since their parents are either jailed or dead.

“It’s the last step in life that they must enter here,” said Nguyen Van Bang, director of center No. 4.

Nguyen Thi Duoc, 93, is sitting and saying something to herself. She is one of the ‘inhabitants’ of the center.

Officers at the center said she does this every day, and when asked what she is doing, she replies that she is talking with her husband and son, who died when she was 25 years old.

At 5:00 pm she walks and waits at the entrance gate because she hopes her relatives will come and pick her up.

Nguyen Thi Khanh, 76, is another occupant of the center.

She is a veteran and was granted a house by the state but she conceded the 16-square-meter home in Hai Ba Trung District to her daughter and decided to live in the center.

“Staying at home with my daughter and nephew makes me happier, but I have no conditions and accept this,” she said.

Now, the center has 111 elderly people. Some of them volunteer to pay to stay there, while the remainder have no other option.

Last year, an elderly woman was taken to the center by her daughter, and she then realized that she had been cheated by her daughter, who took away the ownership of her house in Hanoi.

Many elderly people cry during their first days at the center.

Officials said most center residents are elderly or children. They often sit in the corridor near the door of their room, and they can even recognize birds frequenting the trees in the front garden.

Bang, the director, said each resident is provided with three meals a day worth VND23,000 in total, or a little bit more than a U.S. dollar.


Children play at the Social Support Center No.4 in Hanoi. Photo: Tuoi Tre

In the ward for children, visitors cannot hold back their tears when they hear stories about each kid there.

A two-year-old child knows to help others fold up their blankets and pillows after getting up.

They often rush to hold any visitors coming to their ward and ask to be embraced and held in their arms.

Nguyen Thi Thoa, a nurse at the center, said these children lack love from their parents so they embrace anyone they can.

Their memories of their closest relatives are simple. It could be their dad taking them to the center and telling them he will return and take them home in a few years.

Or a memory could be of their granddad, who took them to a park and left forever.

Chau Anh, a six year old girl at the center, tells every visitor that her mother will come and take her home in four years.

Asked how she knows this, Chau Anh replied, “My mom told me when she took me here last year. Then she told me she would return in five years. I calculate day by day and a year has elapsed.”

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