On the weekend before Ho Chi Minh City’s shelter-in-place mandate took effect, Michael, a 30-year-old Filipino, received rice, spices, sauces, and vegetables from a local charity group near his home in Thu Duc City.
Michael’s family of four, including a five-year-old and a ten-month-old, has struggled to survive the pandemic since he and his wife became unemployed two months ago.
Only days ago did Michael learn about Tam Long Chung, a charity that has been helping local residents survive the pandemic, and decide to contact them for help through their Facebook page.
“The situation in my home country is not so good, so we have to try to stay in Vietnam," he told Tuoi Tre News.
"We have children to take care of so any support means a lot to our family.
“I’m so grateful for the package and the enthusiasm of these young Vietnamese people.”
Meanwhile, Karen Tacmo, another Filipino, reached out to Tam Long Chung in order to seek out help for a friend.
“I still have some savings to rely on, but I wanted to find help for my friend,” Tacmo explained.
“Both my friend and I are very grateful for the support we’ve received from Vietnamese people.
"Hopefully the pandemic will end soon, both here and in my hometown.”
Calls for help
Michael and Tacmo are just two out of dozens of foreigners from Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines who have received assistance from Tam Long Chung.
Prior to the current stay-at-home order, which took effect on August 23 and is expected to last until September 6, the group had planned to provide essentials for over 50 foreign families across the city based on requests received through their Facebook page.
The requests followed the group’s post about their activities to give free meals to foreigners on the streets.
“Each time the city is hit by the pandemic, our group tries to help vulnerable people, regardless of whether they are Vietnamese or foreigners," said Phung Thi Thuy Nga, a member from the group’s organizing board.
"Everyone deserves help.
“In an earlier event to help homeless people, we happened to meet some foreigners so we started to plan how to help more.
“But we don’t focus on specific groups.
"We just try to help everyone affected by the pandemic.”
Nga added the messages she and the group receive from helping people make the hard work worth it.
“They tell us how valuable support is during these difficult times and always wish us good health,” Nga said.
“If we were in their shoes, living in a foreign country, we’d also need a little help to survive the situation.”
|A foreigner in Ho Chi Minh City receives a package of groceries from Tam Long Chung charity group at home. Photo by courtesy of Tam Long Chung|
After receiving a request for help, Tam Long Chung creates a plan to find volunteers and deliver groceries to those in need.
“We work hard to find groceries and mobilize volunteers in order to support as many people as we can,” Nga explained.
According to Nga, the group’s volunteers are required to wear protective gear, take a quick test for COVID-19 every three days, and have received at least one vaccine shot.
The group’s members also carry the necessary documents to pass through checkpoints on the streets.
Most of the foreigners who have contacted her group are teachers, nannies, or waiters who have been deeply impacted by the fact that all non-essential services have been shuttered since the newest wave of the coronavirus hit in May, Nga said.
While making purchases has not been easy due to movement restrictions, language barriers have posed challenges for those foreigners to reach for help from local charity groups, she added.
“Our package is modest but it does include some essentials which can be hard to buy during this period. We hope it helps people overcome the current situation,” Nga said.
|Filipino Febegen Catig, who is living in Ho Chi Minh City’s District 7, receives groceries from Tam Long Chung charity group at home. Photo by courtesy of Tam Long Chung|
The language barrier sometimes led the group’s volunteers to wrong addresses, Nga added, but that has not stopped the group from reaching those in need.
“Our young volunteers are very patient and never complain while helping others,” she said.
Currently, the group is planning to ask Vietnamese people who are able to provide free accommodations for foreigners so as to help them cut down the rent.
In addition, they are trying to find jobs for those who have lost their employment.