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Jul 23, 2021 / 17:09

Community initiatives help underprivileged overcome pandemic

Many people in HCMC feel relieved of their financial woes thanks to supports from the community.

As Ho Chi Minh (HCMC) is experiencing a difficult period due to the increasingly serious Covid-19 pandemic, many community initiatives have been launched to support disadvantaged people in the city, which is going through the largest coronavirus outbreak so far.

Volunteered doctors

Doctors in HCMC set up a Facebook page named Giup nhau mua dich (Helping each other during the pandemic), which rallied numerous physicians nationwide who are willing to provide remote consultation and treatment.

Young doctor Nguyen Khac Huy, from Cho Ray Hospital in HCMC, told The Hanoi Times that he is trying his best to assist many patients in need. 

 Doctor Nguyen Khac Huy, from Cho Ray Hospital in HCMC. Photo: Anh Kiet

"Everyone can contact me via zalo [ the mobile-based free texting and calling app] at phone number 0909696899 or my messenger at https://www.facebook.com/bskhachuy. I hope to use my knowledge and energy to advise and help people overcome health issues," Huy said.

Besides, the anti-Covid-19 fight has also attracted enthusiastic participation from veterans and retired doctors.

A year after leaving the HCMC Hospital for Tropical Diseases to retire, Doctor Tran Thi Thanh Binh returned to work and joined her colleagues in saving people's lives.

“Saving people, by all means, is our responsibility. In addition to providing health check-ups for patients, doctors also provide them guidance on self-protection against the risks of Covid-19 infection while helping them remain optimistic and think positive to overcome their situation,” Binh said.

“Rice ATMs” -  dispensing machines to the underprivileged

"Rice ATM" invented in HCMC has inspired similar initiatives nationwide to help those in poverty survive the pandemic.

Hoang Tuan Anh, the businessperson behind the idea, had initially donated a batch of smart doorbells to hospitals in HCMC before turning his technological expertise to food distribution.

Concerned about the risk of queuing on streets for free food, Anh invented the automatic machine that dispenses rice in the Tan Phu District.

 A “Rice ATM” in HCMC has provided a lifeline to those in dire need. Photo: Diep Phan

The machine distributes a 1.5kg bagful of rice in one turn to waiting workers, many of whom are street vendors or people who earned a living from cash-in-hand jobs like housekeeping or selling lottery tickets.

Vu Thi Ky Mien, 43, said her family did not have enough food since she could not collect and sell scrapped bottles as the city is under social distancing measures.

"I am happy that we will be fed. As Covid-19 has put me out of work, 'Rice ATMs' and the support of local authorities have eased my concerns about my family's livelihood during the outbreak," Mien said.

“Zero-VND supermarkets” succor the poor

Along with “Rice ATMs”, “The Zero-VND supermarket” model has become popular in many wards and townships in HCMC, providing timely support for people whose livelihoods are being affected by the pandemic.

Since July 5, the “Zero-VND meal” and “Zero-VND supermarket” programs have been launched at No.13 Nguyen Quang Bich Street in Tan Binh District, to support poor households and disadvantaged people.

The programs were initiated by Dinh Vinh Cuong, a Vietnamese expat in Japan. Cuong said that he came up with the idea of delivering free meals and launching the “Zero-VND supermarket” model after witnessing his fellow countrymen going through a dire situation caused by Covid-19.

 A local resident picks basic necessities at the “Zero-VND Supermarket” in HCMC. Photo: Duyen Phan

In an interview with The Hanoi Times via phone, Cuong said his idea received much support from his family and friends as well as 50 businesses and individuals in the city. Thanks to financial support from donors, the two programs ensured the provision of adequate necessities for people until July 20.

“The zero-VND supermarket chain helped people temporarily relieve their financial woes amid the pandemic,” Cuong said.

In addition to Cuong's programs, "Zero-VND Happy Supermarket" at Vinh Nghiem Pagoda in District 3 is the latest in a series of city-wide efforts meant to help low-income residents to overcome the economic challenges caused by the pandemic.

“When I came here, everything was already in order,” said Chu Van Tai, a District 10 resident who was visiting the store to pick up groceries. “The staff was so nice about helping me get the items on my list,” Tai told local media.

Each of the stores is designed to ensure safety among customers of at least two meters, as per the Government’s social distancing mandate.

“As of right now, we plan to keep the store running for a month. We’ll likely close if the pandemic ends soon and people’s lives can return to normal,” said the Venerable Thich Thanh Phong of Vinh Nghiem Pagoda.

“If things become worse, we’ll keep operating for another 3-6 months to help people during these challenging times,” Phong added.

Community refrigerator

People take food from the community refrigerator in Binh Thanh District, HCMC. Photo: Manh Hao

Another successful charity voluntary project is the launch of a community refrigerator in Binh Thanh District. Accordingly, old fridges are placed on the sidewalks by cafeterias, restaurants, or places with electricity supply and good security. Anyone can put food in and take food out.

The project was jointly launched at No.100 Ung Van Khiem Street in Binh Thanh District by non-profit organization Foodbank Vietnam, C.P Vietnam Charitable Assistance Fund, and Food Share Social Enterprise Joint Stock Company. The fridge has provided tons of fresh vegetables and fruits to needy people.

Since the fourth wave of Covid-19 broke out in late April, Foodbank Vietnam has coordinated with food providers and restaurants to provide thousands of free lunches every day for disadvantaged workers in HCMC. The organization has also provided food and medical equipment to units working on the front line against the pandemic.

Nguyen Phuong Hoa, a freelance worker in Binh Thanh District, said that she heard about the community refrigerator via social networks. Life has become harder for her as she could not go to work due to social distance policy while her husband lost his working capacity after the stroke. Thanks to the community refrigerator, she has food to cook for her family.

“There are a lot of vegetables here, all fresh and delicious. I took a bottle of gourd and a pumpkin because they can be stored a long time and can be used for many dishes,” Hoa said.