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Volunteers offer porridge to Saigon’s needy

Friday, November 20, 2020, 13:14 GMT+7
Volunteers offer porridge to Saigon’s needy
Volunteers of a charity group called Bat Chao Tu Tam (Porridge of Love), based in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, help prepare and cook rice porridge on a Saturday night. Photo: Thanh Chieu / Tuoi Tre

Late at night, while most people are fast asleep in the comfort of their homes, members of a Ho Chi Minh City charity group are busy preparing porridge and other vegan dishes to share with the homeless.  

Saturday nights at Hua Huu Nghia’s home in District 8 are often filled with laughter as he and other members of the Bat Chao Tu Tam (Porridge of Love) prepare more than 1,000 free portions of rice porridge to feed the city’s needy.

The group gathers at Nghia’s house every other Saturday and begin preparing the meals at about 8:00 pm. In the morning, after a long night of cooking, they head out across the city to deliver the freshly cooked food.   

Huong, a resident of Cu Chi District, is one of many Ho Chi Minh City residents who have turned to Bat Chao Tu Tam in a time of need. The freshly cooked porridge he received from charity groups during the time he spent tending to his sick father at Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital played a key role in keeping his stomach full and his spirits up.

“It’s not about the value of what they gave. It’s their kind hearts that touched me deeply. The meals really meant a lot during that tough time,” Huong said.

To ‘pay it forward,' Huong decided to join Bat Chao Tu Tam, making his move from beneficiary to benefactor.  

Bat Chao Tu Tam was founded in 2015 by Tran Huu Phuc, a resident of Dong Nai Province, neighboring Ho Chi Minh City.

Now, five years and 92 cooking session later, the group has delivered hundreds of thousands of portions of free porridge to seen citizens in nursing homes, poor laborers, and caregiving relatives at local hospitals.

“The smiles from those we help are all the payment we need for our work,” Phuc explained.

After their most recent cooking session, the group members gave away nearly 1,400 such complimentary portions.

Among them 800 portions went to patient caregivers at Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital, 300 were given to members of an elderly resident association in District 8, and the remaining were donated to poor laborers near Nghia’s home and senior citizens at Ngoc Quang Pagoda, located in the same district.

All the beneficiaries are grateful for the meals.

“My husband is a vegetarian, so I really appreciate the free vegan food. These charitable meals really help low-income individuals like me by alleviating our financial difficulties,” shared Pham Thi Hong, from Tay Ninh Province, approximately 100 kilometers away. 

“Such good deeds inspire others to do the same.”

Thanh Bao, a resident in District 11, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam stirs the porridge in one of the group’s four large pots. Each member takes turnings stirring the pots to make sure the meals comes out perfectly

Thanh Bao, a resident in District 11, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam stirs the porridge in one of the group’s four large pots. Each member takes turnings stirring the pots to make sure the meals comes out perfectly.

Portions of tasty porridge are packaged and ready for delivery by 4:00 am

Portions of tasty porridge are packaged and ready for delivery by 4:00 am.

The group members rush to load a truck with free portions of porridge so that they can reach recipients as soon as possible

The group members rush to load a truck with free portions of porridge so that they can reach recipients as soon as possible.

Eight hundred free portions of porridge and more than 25 boxes of milk are packed into plastic bags right in front of Ho Chi Minh City-based Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital, Vietnam

Eight hundred free portions of porridge and more than 25 boxes of milk are packed into plastic bags right in front of Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.

Tran Quang Chieu travels more than 130 kilometers from Vinh Long Province to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to distribute free porridge portions at Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital. Chieu shared that he finds the deed greatly meaningful and will stay active in the group’s charitable activities in the future

Tran Quang Chieu travels more than 130 kilometers from Vinh Long Province to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to distribute free porridge portions at Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital. Chieu shared that he finds the deed greatly meaningful and will stay active in the group’s charitable activities in the future.

Patient caregivers at Ho Chi Minh City-based Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital, Vietnam receive free porridge portions through the hospital gate due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic social distancing

Patient caregivers at Pham Ngoc Thach Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam receive free porridge portions through the hospital gate due to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic social distancing.

The free tasty porridge pairs well with vegan meat

The free tasty porridge pairs well with vegan meat

Thirteen cans of rice, each able to hold 250 grams, and two cans of glutinous rice, are prepared for each large pot to make sure the porridge comes out tasty and nutritious

Thirteen cans of rice, each able to hold 250 grams, and two cans of glutinous rice, are prepared for each large pot to make sure the porridge comes out tasty and nutritious.

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