Nguyen Dinh Phung, 80, a retiree and war veteran in Tam Ky City, Quang Nam Province, central Vietnam, has used his family’s money to fund the construction of 30 bridges over the past seven years so that his community can safely travel around the area.
The bridges were named after himself and his late friend, Hiep.
Phung’s most recent bridge was presented to residents in a village in Thang Binh District, Quang Nam.
“The bridge is small and not very expensive, but it brings people great joy. Seeing them happy is inspiring,” said Phung.
Phung funded his first bridge in 2016 in Quang Nam’s Thien Phuoc District, some 40 kilometers from his home.
Since then, he has been on a bridge building spree, having built 30 bridges and hanging photos of each bridge and the residents in the communities he has helped on the walls of his home.
Phung, who served as a court official in Tam Ky, was inspired by his late friend Hiep to build bridges across the province.
According to Phung, it was Hiep who had a passion for building bridges for local communities.
During his lifetime, Hiep built several bridges and Phung happily donated time and money to his efforts.
On his deathbed, Hiep asked Phung to continue building bridges until he reaches the number of 50 bridges.
“I thought he was just joking because he knew my family’s pensions was just VND15 million [US$614.7] per month and we don’t receive much money from our children. How could we build 50 bridges?” Phung said.
Instead, much of the money for the bridges comes from one of his three sons who is a successful businessman in Ho Chi Minh City.
“I am happy as my son accompanies me to dedicate to our homeland. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to build so many bridges,” Phung said.
“I have already built 30 bridges. I never believed that would be possible.”
Though many believe the money Phung used to build bridges in Quang Nam came from his incomes during his days at the court, he adamantly denies those thoughts.
“The country faced so many difficulties while I was a court official. [Because of those hardships,] I never would have dreamed of taking anything from local people. Sadly, that is all too common nowadays.” Phung said.
|Residents travel on a bridge funded by Nguyen Dinh Phung. Photo: D.P. / Tuoi Tre|
Phung has no plans to let naysayers get in the way of his 50-bridge goal.
“I am 80 years old now, wealth means nothing to me. I cannot bring [my money] with me when I die, so I want to leave something so that others will remember me,” he said.
Nowadays, in the peaceful villages that surround Tam Ky City and Thang Binh and Phu Ninh Districts, it is common to come across bridges named Phung-Hiep, all of which have the same design.
The most expensive of these bridges cost VND90 million ($3,688) while the cheapest was built at a cost of just VND60 million ($2,458).
Prior to building a bridge, Phung meets with local residents and authorities to find out the needs of each community.
“The local residents help me a lot. They support my projects," he said.
"Everyone are pleased that they are beautiful, economical, and effective.
“Each person has their own way to enjoy their old age. For me, building bridges is my happiness.”
When he is not building bridges, Phung spends his time helping low-income families, orphans, and poor university students.
The chairman of the veteran association in An Xuan Ward, Tam Ky City, where Phung is residing, called Phung a 'special man.'