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With unassuming enthusiasm, Vietnamese man supports the lonely elderly

Thursday, December 21, 2017, 15:20 GMT+7

A Vietnamese man has devotedly come to companionless senior citizens' rescue over the past several years, despite his average income.

Ngo Duc Thang, born in Kien Giang Province, boasts no wealth but has become a familiar benefactor to whom many people of advanced years are beholden for his public-spirited deeds in Can Tho City.

He was determined to embark on tiding over incapacitated or lonely elders living below the poverty line after working multiple times with poverty-afflicted people in 2012, as an employee of a pharmaceutical company.

Having received information concerning isolated people in their old age, he extends his assistance to them in various ways.

A case in point is the provision of a “Common House,” as called by its occupants, in which five seniors live after staying alone for quite a time, beset by the plight of poverty.

This collective label was originally applied to a decent place Thang temporarily rented for Ho Thi Ba, 82, who had led a solitary existence in her ramshackle wooden shelter with no electricity and running water, before enjoying company with the other four fellows arriving later.

Subsequently, after Do Thi Giau, the owner of a construction material dealer in the city, bought housing land as a present for the aged women, Thang took them to the new building erected on it, which now welcomes more members.

“Always regarding us as his relatives, Thang is very considerate toward us,” said Ha Thi Si, a half-year occupant here.

He has also solicited more financial help to provide adequate housing for those in similar situations who cannot live in the Common House, with the result that 15 houses have hitherto been constructed for them.

The all-female elderly group in the Common House in Can Tho City, southern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The all-female elderly group in the Common House in Can Tho City, southern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

In another way, Thang creates a 'salary' fund from part of his modest earnings and his friends' donations, destined to benefit seniors in dire need.

Two years ago, this idea produced VND80 million (US$3,515), which covered the treatment fees of Nam, 80, who was suffering from an opening in his chest.

During the past two years, Thang has doled out a constant sum of VND300,000 ($13) from the fund to around 20 elderly lottery ticket vendors each in the city on a monthly basis.

He even uses his own money on rainy days to buy their remaining tickets, many of which are then purchased by his friends.

“It's painful to see the elders struggle with difficulty and in isolation,” Thang said.

A Facebook fan page named Nha Chung (“Common House”) has been created by him, with a view to encouraging the community to join hands in promoting the cause, according to Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper.

“It would be, well, quite inappropriate to call what I've done acts of charity, because I have an empty pocket. Actually I'm just soliciting money from others, and distribute it to those in penury,” Thang said with modesty.

“I was dispiritingly greeted with defamation on a large number of occasions, and intended to abandon the seniors, but I didn't. If I had done it, who would look after them?”

His motivation may have stemmed from formative years of childhood in a disadvantaged family, with his father making a livelihood by catching fish on rivers, and his mother selling in the market from dawn till dusk, both managing to barely afford an education for Thang and his two siblings.

However, their meager earnings were insufficient to deal with all household expenses, which meant the children had to rely on many people for help, while the family lived as temporary tenants without rental on another person's premises.

“Not long ago, as a student I had to beg for clothes for myself to save money,” he said smilingly.

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