April, 03 2012 16:49:51

Orphans and aged find sanctuary together


Growing elderly: Older residents grow vegetables in the Phat Tich pensioners and career guidance centre. Earnings from vegetable sales are given to the elderly or transferred to their savings.
Inspecting the crop: Orphan children in Phat Tich Centre help in the garden. They are given free education and access to sports activities. — File Photos
A charity centre near Ha Noi provides a haven for pensioners and youths, giving them food and lodging and the chance to earn some money or gain an education. Thanh Binh reports

The more we see of the elderly chatting and drinking tea and the bright faces of children nearby, the more we respect the meaningful work at the Phat Tich, home for the aged and orphans.

The institution is located in Tien Du District's Phat Tich Commune in the northern province of Bac Ninh. It is 25km away from Ha Noi and covers an area of 12ha. There are seven houses for the elderly and six for children with an average area of around 8.8sq.m per person.

Doan Thi Loc from the port city of Hai Phong, has lived in the centre since its establishment in July 2010. She happily said: "I plant vegetables here and sell them for the centre. The money is sent to my grandchildren in my hometown." The centre aids in creating a community for the elderly, helping them not feel so lonely.

After leaving the houses of the elderly, we went to those of the children where the tidiness of the rooms was surprising. Thirteen-year-old Mong boy Sung Van De told us about his dream of becoming a musician. Before settling here, De lived in Pac Nam District's Co Linh Commune in the mountainous province of Bac Kan. His parents died when he was only one year old. His aunt and uncle had to take care of six people, among whom were De and his brothers. "With a situation like that, I hardly could achieve my dream. After learning of this centre, I immediately wrote a petition to ask to stay here," he recalled.

Nguyen Van Thang, an office worker at the centre, introduced nine-year-old Lau Mi Say, a Mong from the northernmost province of Ha Giang, someone very good at mathematics. Realising his special skills, the provincial Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs brought him to the centre. "At first, Say couldn't speak Vietnamese fluently but now he is as good as a grade-one maths student," Thang said. Pointing to a boy sitting beside him, he introduced 12-year-old Le Tien Anh, the only boy in the centre from Ha Noi. "My dad passed away when I was five years old. My mother lived with another man, then I moved to my aunt's house. When she got married, I was sent to the centre," said Anh. Being asked about his life here, he answered: "I am very happy because I have a lot of friends and can play football with them."

According to director Mai Tat To, the centre was built in the spirit of solidarity and aimed at helping elderly people and orphans. The elderly are provided with essential items as well as food expenses worth VND1 million (US$48) per month. Depending on their age and interest, they can participate in activities such as planting flowers and vegetables. Earnings from the vegetable sales are given to the old or transferred to their savings. If they have illnesses, the centre will be responsible for taking care of them.

Similarly, the children are offered free education and have a chance to take part in sports activities. The centre sends the proceeds from selling vegetables to a savings account which is accessible to the children when they grow up so that they can start up their own business.

"On the first and the fifteenth day of every lunar month, we take the elderly and the children to the neighbouring Phat Tich Pagoda. During summer holidays, the kids go to the pagoda to learn about Buddhist morals. It orients them to living a life of charity," To said.

At present, there are 42 children aged 6-14 and 14 elderly between the ages of 60-75 living in the centre. However, office workers here expressed their hope to welcome more disadvantaged people. With many years of social work experience, the centre deputy director Nguyen Quang Thang, said: "Many people are afraid of bringing their relatives to the centre although they can't afford to look after them. They fear whispers and comments from neighbours. This takes away opportunities of their family members to have better lives. My main concern is how to make the public more aware of our doings." — VNS

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