An elderly Vietnamese woman has spent most of her life seeking scrap at dumpsites to earn a livelihood, a job that is proving increasingly difficult in her old age.
At noon of a recent day, Nguyen Thi Hue, who goes by the nickname Ba Liu, was seen laying down a rake and began having her meager lunch with rice and fermented bean curd in the shade of a tree at the Phu Hung Landfill in Ben Tre Province, located in the Mekong Delta.
The 77-year-old said after getting married at 19, she worked as a wet market sweeper while her husband became a porter in rice paddies in the province in order to feed their six children.
The couple could barely make ends meet, and received no financial support from their parents, who also lived in poverty.
At around 34, Hue switched to the job of scavenging scrap at different local garbage dumps.
The Phu Hung Landfill is the third she has visited to make a living, and will probably be the last dumping ground she works at before dying, she said.
“I’m very frail now. I’m alive today but I may die tomorrow," she said. "I have to work whenever I’m alive.”
Her children are now all married but cannot help her much since they are beset by penury.
Every day, Hue rises at 6:00 am and pedals for over half an hour from her house to the landfill before rummaging through the vast field of garbage for materials that can be sold.
She has had to utilize a rake to find scrap lying in lower layers of trash instead of picking up visible stuff, as the landfill has been closed for over two months.
The manual job, which usually earns her VND100,000 ($4.3) a day, once caused her to fall unconscious on garbage, but a 66-year-old female co-worker quickly came to her help.
Hue without hesitation got back to the search after her recovery.
The Phu Hung Landfill used to have scores of scrap-seeking laborers but most of them have been admitted to its new facility as workers since the landfill was shut down, leaving Hue and her co-worker unemployed due to old age.