Former Vietnamese teacher provides homes to lonely elderly

The woman initially wanted companionship in her old age but her kindness subsequently went much beyond that

Le Thi Kinh (standing) is seen in a house for down-and-out seniors. Photo: Tuoi Tre

A former teacher in Ho Chi Minh City has spent multiple years seeking single down-and-out seniors and helping tend them in two houses that she built expressly for this purpose.

The cozy homes, commonly known as “families for single elderly people,” are located in the southern metropolis’ District 8 and in Long An, a neighbor of the hub.

The former home now has ten dwellers while the latter has 14.

The buildings were constructed by Le Thi Kinh, a 70-year-old who used to be a math teacher in the city.

Kinh’s efforts to help homeless old people is a story of altruism and commitment.

Over two decades ago, she used the money from selling her own flat to purchase a piece of arable land in the district, which at the time lay on the city’s outskirts, had many swamps, was crisscrossed with irrigation ditches and covered with mangrove palms.

Kinh made a thatched house with corrugated iron sheets serving as the walls and then embarked on searching for those in distress.

“I was determined to find and bring destitute single old people to this place so that they could be looked after,” the woman recalled of the early days of her public-spirited act.

Whenever the area around the house was flooded, which was a commonplace, Kinh would move the old occupants in clothes-washing tubs.

At first Kinh gave home to several healthy seniors who were derelicts in order that she could live with them as family members in the hope of avoiding loneliness in her middle age.

But later she asked more people with sad plights to come, including those with disease or physical disabilities who Kinh took care of until they died.

At some point in the effort, she extended the help to several dozen homeless elderly people at the same time.

Kinh said she could afford to feed the households with her salary in the beginning but when the number of seniors received increased, she needed financial assistance from benefactors, to whom she is enormously grateful.

“But for their support, it would have been impossible for me to maintain the service at the houses during the past 20 years. Although we had our own job and life, we all shared love and respect for the old,” Kinh said.

Le Thi Kinh holds a container of ashes at a house for down-and-out seniors. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Le Thi Kinh holds a container of ashes at a house for down-and-out seniors. Photo: Tuoi Tre

She has not employed a trained caregiver for the seniors, for she wants them to take care of each other or bedridden mates as real family members when they are still healthy enough.

Nguyen Phi Long, a 76-year-old dweller at Kinh’s house in District 8, said she has agreed to stay in the building for six years because Kinh nurses her with kindness and thoughtfulness.

Kinh put the ashes of those who had lived in the houses and died in small coffin-shaped containers in a glass cupboard and referred to the deceased affectionately as her ‘sisters and brothers.’

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