Groups of young people in Ho Chi Minh City are putting all their efforts to bring needy individuals and children meals and joys particularly for Tet, or Vietnam’s Lunar New Year.
The young volunteers, mostly from universities across the southern metropolis, are passionate about raising funds to relieve disadvantaged people’s financial difficulties on a daily basis and help ensure them a delightful Tet celebration.
This year’s Tet falls on February 16.
Their dedication and zeal are just like warm spring breezes.
On a Sunday morning, a small alley on Ta Uyen Street in District 11 teemed with commotion and laughter coming from a charity kitchen run by Nguyen Thi Ly, 62.
She and her ‘chefs’ and ‘sous-chefs,’ most of whom are students, have prepared free vegan meals for poor patients at Cho Ray Hospital in District 5 every Sunday afternoon for the past five years.
Nguyen Quang Phung, 22, a senior at Ton Duc Thang University, was having his hands full tending three large pots of rice on his own.
As a freshman, Phung undertook different tasks including dishwashing and running errands at the kitchen four years ago before being ‘promoted’ to the position of a ‘chef.’
“The kitchen cannot run properly without Phung. It’s a challenging task to cook three large pots of rice, which tend to get overcooked or undercooked at different spots,” Ly said.
“The donated rice comes in different kinds, making it an even greater challenge,” she added.
|Thuy Trang (right) hands out boxes of vegan rice to patients at Cho Ray Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Phung generally stays overnight at Ly’s every Saturday so that he can get up at 1.00 the following morning and accompany her and her daughter to the market and work until late in the evening.
Other group members, including Cat Luong and Thuy Trang, also worked non-stop from dawn to make sure all the portions were ready to be distributed to the patients with financial difficulties.
“Many have grown resourceful and improved their cooking skills. It’s like a homebound trip when I come here to help every week over the past two years,” Trang, 24, said.
“I can’t stop or even do less of what I’m doing now, as many people still count on me,” she added.
Meanwhile, Pham Hoang Than was working on a small-scale project to raise funds to help kids in poverty have a fulfilling Tet experience.
The 27-year-old, who works at a small studio specializing in taking photos of children, has backpacked to different spots in mountainous areas.
In his free time, he typically covers approximately 600km from Ho Chi Minh City to a poor village in Dak Doa District in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai to hand out used clothes and candy to the underprivileged kids there.
The young man planned to organize an exhibition to showcase a plethora of photos depicting the youngsters he had taken during the journeys to raise funds for Tet gifts.
In a similar vein, members of Chu Nhat Yeu Thuong (Loving Sunday) Club, founded by Nguyen Tu Anh, 33, have handed out around 200 blankets to the homeless and laborers one or two weeks prior to Christmas over the past several years.
His club has organized a clutch of activities to help children continue their schooling and quench their voracious thirst for knowledge by operating a program called ‘1,001 libraries’ since 2014.
Each library boasts approximately 500 books which come in a wide array of categories that cater to the minors’ levels and interests including literature, science and comics.
The group’s activities have aroused interest among netizens who contribute clothes, confectionery and books.
Anh’s group has also called for donations in recent years to build houses worth VND40-50 million (US$1,749- 2,186) each and hands them over to families of needy yet outstanding students, and supports their long-term education.
Anh and his sponsors have handed keys to six such houses, which partly satisfy the families’ needs and the children’s tastes.
They expected to complete the construction of another two houses by the end of last year.
Anh visits the children every year to see how they are doing.
Likewise, REC Club, operated by students of the University of Social Sciences and Humanities under the Vietnam National University-Ho Chi Minh City, has run an entertainment and reading program for kids in mountainous areas for the fourth time now.
“Nearly 100 club members have been engaged in various activities, including a music show to raise VND70 million [$3,061] for the program,” Nguyen Mi Dan, the club chair and a journalism major, revealed.
Several members had even put their cherished items on auction on Facebook, while others peddled souvenirs or offered simple photo-taking services for money.
|Members of Chu Nhat Yeu Thuong (Loving Sunday) Club pose in front of a house they raise funds to build for the family of a needy, well-performing student. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Their next destination in late December was an elementary school at Lam Ha District, Lam Dong Province in the Central Highlands, where they would gift the kids stationery, comics and teaching aids.
Similarly, Le Tien, 38, in charge of a charity group called Trai Tim Yeu Thuong (Love-Brimming Heart), was busy presenting scholarships to students in poverty at a university in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa, leaving his wife and two young children at home.
Over the past five years, the group has given away around 100 scholarships worth VND2 million ($87) to needy students each year.
The group’s two other fixtures over the past eight years are Xuan Ve Tren Pho (Spring on the Street) and Bua Com Dau Nam (Start-of-the-Year Meal).
With the Xuan Ve Tren Pho program, laborers and homeless people on the street are gifted VND100,000 ($4.3) for li xi (lucky money) at the end of the previous lunar year.
The Bua Com Dau Nam program, typically held following the Lunar New Year celebration, offers 50 elderly peddlers a supermarket shopping voucher worth VND200,000 ($9), a same-value (VND200,000) meal at a restaurant and VND100,000 ($4.3) in lucky money.