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​Young Vietnamese woman offers free ‘banh mi’ to low income workers

Saturday, January 13, 2018, 08:27 GMT+7
​Young Vietnamese woman offers free ‘banh mi’ to low income workers
Ha Tran Tieu My hands a loaf of bread to an elderly man. The first three lines on the paper respectively read “Warm Sunday Morning,” “Banh mi” and “Free”. Photo: Tuoi Tre

For one young Da Nang City resident, Sunday mornings are a time for giving back to the community by providing fresh Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches for local low income workers.

Ha Tran Tieu My, 23, has spent the past year familiarizing herself with the faces of her neighborhood’s workers and elderly residents thanks to her free Sunday morning street-side banh mi stand.

As early as 6 a.m., senior citizens, lottery ticket sellers, motorbike taxi drivers, and street peddlers shouldering a bamboo pole yoked with baskets of good on either end make their weekly pilgrimage to My’s glass-sided stand to sample one of the 150 pre-prepared sandwiches awaiting the neighborhood’s needy.

For aged late-comers living in the labyrinth of back alleys nearby the stand are hand-delivered the weekly meal by My and her partners at the Han River Charity.

The banh mi, worth approximately VND10,000 (nearly $0.5) a piece, taste well-above their value, according to the praise received from locals for its taste and the hygienic conditions in which the food is prepared.

“Her banh mi are stuffed with pork and slices of cha [pork ham], and they are seasoned to my taste,” said Pham Thi Tuyet, a local lottery ticket seller.

Banh mi is just one of the meals served up by My.  On rainy days, banh bao (steamed pork buns) or banh beo (steamed rice pancakes) make it on the menu.  Each dish is also adjusted for taste after feedback from her ‘customers.’

Rain or shine, she and her friends have made a Sunday ritual out of rising early to buy fresh bread and prepare the sandwiches. 

The idea behind My’s initiative isn’t only to provide food, but also a pleasant atmosphere for those in need.  Offering food with two hands, a welcome smile, and amiable eyes is a reflection of politeness and respect that remind many of the beauty of Vietnamese culture.  My’s reflection of that culture is just part of how she lends her hand to those in need.

“As I see it, financially disadvantaged workers need an adequate breakfast, but I don't have lots of money to help them,” she said.

When My first started the project she was often left feeling sorry that many of her visitors were forced leave empty-handed after she ran out of sandwiches.  Her positive attitude, however, gave her the drive to solicit more money and allow her to increase the amount of food she is able to provide.

She hopes to set up more banh mi stands in the area to help as many people as possible.

“Life is much more beautiful thanks to My's small, kind deeds,” said Chu Cam Binh, a thirty-two-year-old woman who assists My every Sunday.

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