A little and poorly-equipped medical center in an rural district of a northwestern mountainous Vietnamese province is always exuding warmth thanks to its free kitchen, where people can cook their own meals while taking care of their hospitalized family members.
Most of the patients at the clinic in Muong Nhe District, Dien Bien Province come from underprivileged farming families of various ethnic minority groups such as Hmong, Dao, and Ha Nhi.
When a member suffers from sickness, it is understandably a burden for the whole family to cover the medical fees.
The medical center has dedicated a shared kitchen, where people can do their own cooking free of charge, to help patients and their families cut down expenses while staying for treatment.
The charitable kitchen is equipped with six stoves and 32 cupboards to store foods and supplies.
|Kitchen cabinets are marked with numbers to help people easily know where their foods are stored. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
“The medical center has stoves, cupboards, dishes, utensils and people can freely use any of these pieces of equipment,” Hieu, a doctor working at the center, said.
Ly Thi Dua, a local woman whose fingers were cut off by a farming machine, is receiving treatment at the Muong Nhe medical center.
As her husband now works away in a southern province, their daughter, fourth-grader Gia Thi Nhia, has to stay with her at the medical center.
“No other members of my family are available to take care of my mother, so I come here to cook for her,” Nhia explained.
“I have been cooking all the time at home, so this is not a big problem for me.”
|Gia Thi Nhia does cooking for her mother at the Muong Nhe medical center. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
Either in the morning or afternoon, people taking care of their family members at the medical center go out to buy groceries or search for vegetables in the local forest.
In the evening, they cook in the shared kitchen, and later have dinner together, sharing their everyday stories with others.
Several of them are also willing to share their small pieces of meat or fish to those they believe are more needy than them.
The little kitchen at the Muong Nhe medical center somehow brings people closer, besides helping them save some money by cooking on their own.
|Dr. Nguyen Van Hieu examines a sick child at the Muong Nhe medical center. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A mother takes care of her sick child at the Muong Nhe medical center. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|Ly Sop, whose mother is being treated at the Muong Nhe medical center, prepares dinner in the charitable kitchen. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|People smile while having their meals together at the Muong Nhe medical center. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A simple meal of a family at the Muong Nhe medical center. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A person warms up his hand by holding it close to the fire. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A man cuts the meat inside the kitchen. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A man chops some of the wood to prepare for cooking. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|Some pots have been placed on the stove for cooking. Photo: Tuoi Tre|
|A woman does cooking at the shared kitchen. Photo: Tuoi Tre|