Two ‘grocery’ stores in Ho Chi Minh City open their doors every Wednesday and Sunday, offering needy locals the chance to pick up daily necessities free of charge.
The Youth Union in Ward 7, Binh Thanh District, has opened the charity stores so that low-income households in the community can pick up daily necessities such as cooking oil, rice, and instant noodles without spending a dime.
The two stores, one located at the intersection of No Trang Long and Nguyen Xi Streets and the other at the ward’s administrative headquarters, are open on Sunday and Wednesday, respectively.
Scrap dealers, lottery ticket sellers, and street food vendors -- occupations that tend to be held by the city’s lowest earners -- are the majority of the 1,500 regular ‘customers’ who depend on these stores to help make ends meet.
Huynh Ba Quang, secretary of the Youth Union of Ward 7, was inspired to launch the charitable initiative after witnessing giveaways of banh mi (traditional Vietnamese sandwiches) and iced tea in other parts of the city.
Knowing that needy members of his communities needed more than just food, Quang began looking for ways to help them out with daily necessities.
With the help of donors who support the stores financially and local youth who volunteer to give away the goods, the project has been a tremendous success.
“First, I looked for donations from my friends and family,” he said.
“Later, more and more benefactors began contributing after hearing about us.”
The stores are run by volunteers and all the give-away items are donated by benefactors.
Nguyen Van N., one of the volunteers, believes that consistently meeting with those who struggle in life has encouraged her to become more independent of her parents.
“Every time I participate in distributing gifts to the poor, I see many unfortunate people including poverty-stricken moms taking care of cancer-diagnosed children and wheelchair-bound people supporting themselves by wandering the streets to sell lottery tickets,” N. said.
The young girl added that working at the stores has also encouraged her to focus on choosing a career so that she can support herself in the future.
The volunteers have also become quite attached to some of their regular visitors.
“There’s a man who works to provide for his disabled child and his severely ill wife,” Hoang Anh, another volunteer said.
"He usually fails to come here early so we always reserve his gifts so they can grab them later."
In addition to the free “grocery stores”, Ward 7’s Youth Union organizes other charitable activities, such as Bua com nhan ai, literally meaning “Meal of Compassion”, in Alley 5 on No Trang Long Street, where thousands of meals are distributed along with milk and nutritious drinks