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May 31, 2021 / 17:55

Humanity in Vietnam’s Covid-19 epicenter Bac Giang

Many people are doing charity in their own ways to help Covid-19 victims in the hotspot of Bac Giang.

In the midst of partial lockdown in Bac Giang, charitable donations by people from different parts of Vietnam have rehabilitated the pandemic-ravaged province, helping thousands of quarantined people make ends meet.

Since the start of the fresh coronavirus outbreak in Bac Giang a month ago, Nguyen Minh Phuong, a local resident, has never left his phone vibrated or in do-not-disturb mode or got up late, a habit that the businessman used to practice for working late at night.

Starting a day by checking emails, calls, and messages sent from donors across the country, Phuong, who initiated a charity campaign for Bac Giang, makes an overall daily plan for a philanthropic organization set up by the partnership between his company Bac Giang Media Group JSC (BGG), Newland Group, the Vietnam Cross Society (VCS) – Bac Giang, Ve Pagoda, and nearly 100 volunteers.

 Nguyen Minh Phuong and his car that accompanies him in the charity work. Photos: The Hanoi Times

“The plight of thousands of people who are suffering from different levels of isolation has directed our efforts toward relieving their difficulties,” Phuong told The Hanoi Times. “Few of us can be unmoved by the hardship of residents and workers in the midst of lockdown.”

“I want to do the best I can to return part of the fruits I have reaped in doing business in the homeland,” Phuong said emotionally.

To smooth the charity, Phuong works as a coordinator of the philanthropic organization, connecting all donors and charity organizations nationwide and monitoring all work from arranging transportation and delivery to ensuring the relief reaches the right and needy people.

As directly handing over relief to beneficiaries, his group covers the delivery of personal protection equipment (PPE) including face masks, hand sanitizer, thermometers; and essential goods like instant noodles, rice, cooking oil, eggs, veggies, drinking water, fruits, among others.

Sources of the donation are from Newland Group itself, the VCS Bac Giang, and a number of individuals and organizations at home and abroad.

So far, the group has mobilized donations both in cash worth more than VND500 million (US$22,000) and in-kind with value tripling the amount in cash from more than 30 individuals and organizations, not to mention free transportation of goods to the affected areas.

To date, the group has delivered goods and cash to more than 50 places across the province.

Notably, the group’s balance sheet is made open and updated every day with details of donors and recipients. The professional and transparent modus operandi has earned them the trust of donors, enabling them to continue their work and aid the fierce fight against Covid-19.

Phuong said the transparency responds to the organization’s principle that aims to make every penny spent being justified to “operate not only in Bac Giang but other places across Vietnam in the fight against Covid-19.”

Taiwan-based Tzu Chi Foundation offers donations in Bac Giang during the pandemic. 

Over the past month, many domestic and overseas donors, including Taiwan-based Tzu Chi Foundation have contacted his group, expressing their desire to contribute, making the fund and the volume of goods bigger. To support the distribution of goods, monk Thich Thanh Tuan, abbot of Ve Pagoda in Bac Giang City, warmly welcomed the volunteers. The pagoda yard soon turned into an entrepôt of donated goods. Essential items, food, and personal protection equipment (PPE) from there are distributed to every corner of Bac Giang.

Since then, the monk has supported the volunteers in distributing donated goods and joined the team in the charity work.

The monk has devoted himself to the current mission as he keeps in mind that charity is compassion in action, acting with love and empathy towards those living in difficulties.

“Being a monastic, I have laid my stress on the virtue of generosity as the Buddha teaches all his disciples, whether monks or laymen, to practice giving, to be generous and bountiful,” said the monk.

With an aim to make the charity growing “more widespread and faster than Covid-19”, the organization has closely partnered with the VCS Bac Giang, the agency that assumes responsibility for bringing assistance to the needy in order to protect life and health in the midst of the pandemic.

The partnership cannot be effective without the role of the agency’s head Le Thi Duyen who underlined the need to offer the relief timely as she experienced first-hand how the coronavirus lockdown altered the normal life when Covid-19 attacked Vietnam in 2020.

But the ongoing coronavirus outbreak in Bac Giang has brought unimaginable change to the way people live and the situation in affected areas now absolutely requires the human connection.

“We’re so grateful for the donation by individuals and organizations from every part of the nation and hope for further support as the number of people in need remains high in the battle in Bac Giang that might last long,” Duyen exclaimed.

Working in the Red Cross society for years, she understands that the basic needs for people in grief-stricken places are sometimes as simple as sanitary napkins.

The situation is true for some groups of female workers in Van Trung commune, Viet Yen district, and those in the Bac Giang General Hospital and the Bac Giang Hospital of Endocrinology. They have received what they need after some phone calls to the organization. Hong Ha, Sales Director of Newland Group, was the one who bought such essential items for women and girls amid the lockdown.

  Voluntary transporters – warriors in the epicenter
 Voluntary vehicle fleets transport goods at Nhu Nguyet Bridge, an entrance to Bac Giang City. 

The operations of the philanthropic organization cannot be done without the participation of dozens of vehicle owners when shipment of essential and donated goods is the only kind of transportation allowed in isolated areas like Bac Giang.

The situation makes the role of voluntary drivers more important than ever.

Monitored by Pham Thanh Minh (aka Minh Rau), a fleet of nearly 30 motorized vehicles including pickups and trucks have no single day off work since the outbreak has flared up in Bac Giang in early May.

 The vehicle fleet in the charity campaign.

The fleet is run by nearly 50 drivers, including women like Lan, Nguyen Ninh, and Nguyen Mai, and especially those outside Bac Giang namely Tran Long from Thai Binh Province and Dang Hai Phong from Nam Dinh Province. Notably, Phong vowed to pursue the charity campaign in Bac Giang "until the pandemic will be bought under control."

Respectably, the drivers joined the campaign for a month with no payment other than petrol fees. Tai, a business director in Luc Nam District, Bac Giang cited his compassion for affected people in the month-long charity work.

However, their support went beyond transporting donated goods as they brought agricultural products for sales outside the province. It’s very kind of them to directly harvest farm produce in isolated areas and they themselves find customers for local farmers.

So far, the fleet has reached almost every corner of the province, including remote areas.

Minh said he couldn’t stay at home as if nothing happened outside or pretended that the outbreak is leaving little impact on locals. “The pandemic has hit thousands of people in my homeland and I want to join hands with the local government in the common fight,” he told The Hanoi Times.

The most admirable trait of the drivers was their courage. They showed no hesitation going through the epicenter’s hardest-hit part of Nui Hieu Village in Quang Chau Commune, Viet Yen District. Bringing goods to residents and workers there could expose them to Covid-19 more than anywhere else in Bac Giang. But facing such risk did not dishearten them, despite making contact with the carriers day and night.

Working upon the request by the VCS Bac Giang and donors, the team has devoted itself to the delivery regardless of the distance or topography.

Young driver Quang Tu expressed that “We simply show up wherever others need us. Our day is never divided into shifts just to deliver items as quickly as possible as we know that timely support is sometimes better than the values.” 

In the spirit of handling goods to needy people as much as possible, Le Thi Duyen, Head of RCS Bac Giang, said she feels thankful for the driver team which is a not-for-profit community.

“We cannot manage to distribute a huge amount of goods without the support of the voluntary drivers amid the movement restrictions,” Duyen said. 

Notably, their professional working style with daily well-prepared plans has come along with VCS Bac Giang’s principles of devoting for others in the most effective way.

“They are true ‘warriors’ as they risk their lives to get to affected areas and feed isolated residents with basic items like water, rice, instant noodle, veggies, and fruit,” she exclaimed. 

 Volunteers wearing personal protection equipment in delivering donated goods. 

When being asked about the risk of going to the pandemic-stricken places, Tran Long, one of the oldest and most seasoned drivers, said he did not bother with it as long as precautionary measures are strictly complied with. “Working for long-distance driving services for years, I have faced so much danger on-road and now I appreciate life more and wish to do for others as much I can,” he shared with The Hanoi Times.

Scorching weather recently has not deterred the drivers from moving ahead with the work that they have maintained for a month and they vow to pursue the mission that not many people choose to get involved in. 

To serve the long-run mission, the team needs to test for coronavirus every week and be disinfected each time finishing a shipment to grief-stricken areas.

Showing the negative testing results, Phuong, who is chairman of BGG, said keeping the team safe is indispensable when offering donated goods to residents and fuels hope that the fight against Covid-19 in Bac Giang won’t be overloaded. 

“We’re committed to delivering relief but not virus for others when pursuing charity work in the fresh outbreak,” Phuong noted.