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‘Be Strong, Vietnam!’ shares love during COVID-19

‘Be Strong, Vietnam!’ shares love during COVID-19

Tuesday, August 10, 2021, 11:33 GMT+7
‘Be Strong, Vietnam!’ shares love during COVID-19
From left: Jerome Ly, Tran Ngoc Anh, Adam Koulaksezian, Executive Director of the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry (behind Anh), and the staff of Lion City Restaurant. Photo: VNOCL

A young Vietnamese woman and a Frenchman have teamed up for a meaningful project, 'Viet Nam Oi Co Len!' (Be Strong, Vietnam!), to give away more than 3,000 free meals each day for the last four weeks. 

Tran Ngoc Anh, the young woman, told Tuoi Tre News she canceled her scheduled trip to Canada at the last minute to remain in Ho Chi Minh City.

“As a resident of Saigon, I chose to stay here instead of returning to Canada,” Anh said, referring to the old name of Ho Chi Minh City.

“Vietnam is currently struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic, and I want to contribute my modest part to the war against the coronavirus.

"I hope along with others, I can help make Vietnam beautiful again and Saigon as dynamic as before."

“What can I do to help my compatriots immediately?” Anh asked herself and then discussed it with her close friend, Jerome Ly -- co-founder of Savyu Company.

They thought carefully and decided to support the unprivileged communities and frontline medical workers with free meals as a practical way of help.

“I still remember that day," recalled Anh.

"When the city was put under Directive No. 16 on July 9, I wanted to spend some days watching the situation first before doing something, but Ly pushed me to act right away.

"He said that if we did not do anything quickly, there would be more people running into trouble.

"So we managed to help people seek a way out, especially the most unprivileged."

On the following day, the two launched a kitchen preparing 1,000 meals, which surprised even Anh.

“We started with a small and humble step, without any pretension, we just wanted to help as much as possible," Ly said.

"However, it soon got bigger and drew the attention of many people, the media, and trade associations.

"Many reached out to us to either give support or ask for support.

"We got swarmed but we are still trying to do our best every day."

The members of the team ‘Viet Nam oi co len!’ prepare meals before delivering them to the needy and frontline medical workers. There are about 80 members in the team. Photo: VNOCL

'Viet Nam Oi Co Len!’ team members prepare meals before delivering them to the needy and frontline medical workers. There are about 80 members in the team. Photo: VNOCL

Although he had managed various large organizations in the past, this is the first time he has helped extremely needy communities.

“I’m learning every day and I hope to serve more and more people and bring them a small moment of happiness in their daily life,” Ly told Tuoi Tre News.

Despite his humble story, as an experienced entrepreneur with over 15 years of international management experience covering Europe, Asia, and Brazil, Ly has really become a perfect partner for Anh on the project.

From the beginning, both defined and organized the daily operations of 'Viet Nam Oi Co Len!'

He has worked hand in hand with Anh in logistics, supply chains, human resources, communication, and technology to support the project so that it could grow and benefit more people.

They called the mission 'Viet Nam Oi Co Len!' (Be Strong, Vietnam!) with the intention of supplying meals free of charge to as many needy and frontline medical workers as they can.

In the 28 days since the project launched, 'Viet Nam Oi Co Len!' has given out more than 70,000 meals including 33,800 vegan portions and 37,500 meat ones.

The members of the team ‘Viet Nam oi co len!’ prepare meals before delivering them to the needy and frontline medical workers. There are about 80 members in the team. Photo: VNOCL

‘Viet Nam Oi Co Len!’ team members prepare meals before delivering them to the needy and frontline medical workers. There are about 80 members in the team. Photo: VNOCL

'We are all behind Vietnam now'

On the first day of offering free meals to people, Ly and Anh drove around to learn what people needed. They saw a poor mother and her son pushing a cart on the street.

Anh was moved to tears looking at the boy’s empty eyes, whose despair and hopelessness could be felt.

“We can stay home if we are not allowed to go out, we can cook by ourselves," she said.

"But if we can’t buy something to eat, what can the poor -- like the boy and his mother -- do now if they don’t know where to return."

The unforgettable memory became a source of energy that made Anh and Ly continue to try their best each day to bring meals to many more people.

“I don’t know how many free meals we would be able to provide, but each day, we do our utmost to find more financial support to continue our mission,” said Anh.

Ly wants to help people and bring them some moments of joy through a healthy meal.

“Doctors fight so hard to protect us all, they haven’t been back to their home and family for months and my thoughts go to them, we are just arranging healthy food to support them," he said.

“Same goes for needy communities on the streets that were hit hard, we are here for you all, as much as we can do."

Packs of meals are ready to be carried to the unprivileged communities in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: VNOCL

Packs of meals are ready to be delivered to a hospital in Thu Duc City, Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: VNOCL

The Frenchman acknowledged that their mission can only be made possible thanks to all the amazing support from the communities and to the dedication of various organizations, including the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Vietnam (CCIFV) and the Vietnam - Hong Kong Business Association.

From the beginning, the entire French community and other large international communities were incredibly supportive of their mission, he added.

“I think they are all behind Vietnam at this moment,” Ly said.

“We all love Vietnam and want to help as much as we can.

"Many expats, French, and other nationalities contacted us to offer their support either as volunteers or meals. This is very meaningful and heartwarming."

His kindness toward Vietnamese people during the pandemic inspires Anh very much.

“As a foreigner, he tries his best to help the Vietnamese, which makes me feel heartwarming and want to try to do more despite being fatigued sometimes,” shared the young woman.  

The image of a poor mother and her son pushing a cart collecting recyclable wastes on Saigon streets made Ngoc Anh and Jerome feel bad and they decide to do something at once to help the needy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Tran Ngoc Anh

The image of a poor mother and her son pushing a cart collecting recyclable wastes on Ho Chi Minh City streets made Tran Ngoc Anh and Jerome Ly feel bad so they decided to do something at once to help the needy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Tran Ngoc Anh

'All boys his age should be playing with their friends'

I remember our first day of delivering meals, I saw a little boy with his mom pushing a cart (their home) in the middle of the street without really knowing where they were going. When we stopped, the little boy stood still for seconds with completely emotionless eyes. This gave me a strong feeling and encouraged me to do more. All boys his age should be playing with their friends, not wandering in despair in the middle of an empty street under Saigon's scorching sun!

Jerome Ly, co-founder of Savyu company

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Kim Thoa / Tuoi Tre News

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