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VietNamNews

Bridges change lives in the Mekong Delta

Update: October, 30/2016 - 09:00
Easy does it: Children smile as they ride bicycles on the newly-inaugurated Khang Linh Bridge in Thiện Trung Commune, Cai Be District of Tiền Giang Province. —Photo Courtesy of Nam Phương Foundation
Viet Nam News

A bridge can make a huge difference for a community.

Especially if it means people no longer need to risk their lives to cross rivers.

Young people in Ho Chi Minh City have been building bridges for communities in the Mekong Delta who need them.

Their project started when a brother and sister were horrified to see a report on television about children who drowned on their way to school.

They decided to do something to help and it has been a great success.

By Bạch Liên 

A new life began for residents of Thiện Trung Commune last August.

About 2,000 residents, young and old, were all smiles as they watched the inauguration of the Khang Linh Bridge in Cái Bè District, Tiền Giang Province.

The bridge was a dream come true for them.

It meant they no longer had to cross the river on wobbly ferry boats, an everyday danger that became much more risky during the flooding season.

The bridge was constructed at a cost of VNĐ2.7 billion (US$121,500), and residents contributed 40 per cent of the money.

The remaining 60 per cent came from the Build a Bridge project implemented by the Nam Phương Foundation (NPF).    

With the inauguration of the new bridge, the foundation has, in the three years since it was established, helped build ten bridges in the Mekong Delta (Tiền Giang, Bến Tre, and Long An provinces).  

Build a Bridge rose from the desire of a young woman, Đinh Thị Nam Phương, and her teen brother, Đinh Bá Khang, to help improve the lives of poor communities in the Delta.

Phương, 23, has just graduated from the Philosophy, Politics & Economics Faculty of the Oxford University in the UK, and Khang, 18, is studying economics at the University of California Los Angeles after completing his high school at the International School in HCM City. 

Build a Bridge project is the first philanthropic project in Việt Nam that is run entirely by students from different parts of the world who share the goal of bringing out a “permanent, positive change”.

The idea for setting up the foundation was born one evening when Phương and her family were watching a TV report about students who drowned as they tried to cross the river to go to school.

The images haunted Phương and her brother, and they decided to something about it. Encouraged by their parents, they set up a foundation to build bridges to help students and poor communities in the Mekong Delta.

They solicited support and donations from parents, friends and companies. It was not easy. The lack of previous experience was difficult to overcome. The foundation’s activities depended on the efforts of unpaid volunteers who were unable to stay for a long time with the foundation.

But, as more people learnt about the organisation, greater support poured in from volunteer student ambassadors, celebrities, individuals and companies worldwide including Air France, Masan Group Corporation, and the Kinh Đô Company.

Hollywood director Phillip Noyce, one of the celebrity ambassadors of the project, said:

“I’m very glad to be part of Nam Phương’s Build-a-Bridge project, and we discussed how I can personally get involved to make a difference. What a gift to the children of Việt Nam! What a gift to all of us to be able to be part of this dream of improving the life of local people!”

Vietnamese singer Phương Vy, Winner of Vietnam Idol Season 1, 2007, one of the celebrity ambassador of the project said:

"I fully support this noble cause, which has been started by a group of very young people. So I want that each of us will do our bit to help build these very necessary bridges for rural, distant areas to help people move around easier, and bring happiness to children who can commute to school daily without dangers or fears.”

More than bridges

The foundation sees the project doing more than just building bridges. Its work offers opportunities for those in need to better their lives.

“Hundreds and thousands of children in rural areas drown each year on their way to school, since the only path often involves crossing rivers via hazardous old boats, flimsy self-built bridges or even swimming, with heavy books and shoes as anchors, unwittingly increasing the danger,” Phương said.

“Building a simple bridge can create an enormous difference for these communities. Not only will young children not be forced to face danger on a daily basis, a bridge will help improve the local socio-economic situation and transform a community,” she added.

Eighty-year-old Trần Văn Luỳnh of Lợi Nhơn Village became emotional as he talked about a new bridge, Ngọc Hoàng, also in Tiền Giang.

“The bridge is very beautiful, the children can go to school and we can move around more easily,” he said.

Lê Ngọc Hân, a 10-year-old student of Tân Tây school in Thạnh Hóa District,  Long An Province, said that she enjoyed walking on the new Thủy Tân Bridge. "Before, I used to walk on the bamboo bridge. I was scared because it wasn’t steady.”

Rewarding work

Phương said "doing charity doesn’t just mean giving. It also means receiving a lot and learning a lot from other people."

While working on this project, she said she’d been lucky to meet with several generous people who are not wealthy, but ready to spend their own money and effort building bridges for poor people in Bến Tre Province.

In the future, besides helping build bridges, Phương wants  to help poor children who have had to drop out of school because of the dire financial straits their parents are in. VNS

About Nam Phương Foundation and Build a bridge

The Nam Phương Foundation, working with local governments, is dedicated to improving the lives of communities through micro-infrastructure projects that are low cost, high impact, and long term. The foundation aims to reduce water-related dangers facing young children, and improve the socio-economic situation of a community as a whole.

The Build a Bridge project builds bridges to link localities in the Mekong Delta region that are divided by the distributaries of the Mekong River. They work closely with local administrations to assess the needs of each community and discuss how to help locals benefit most from the bridges that are constructed.

The foundation usually contributes 70 per cent of the total expenditure for building a bridge, and the local commune and government is responsible for the remaining costs. This can be contributed in cash or in kind, through labour, transportation, accommodation, meals for construction workers and other activities.


 

GLOSSARY

A new life began for residents of Thiện Trung Commune last August.

Residents of a place are people who live there.

About 2,000 residents, young and old, were all smiles as they watched the inauguration of the Khang Linh Bridge in Cái Bè District, Tiền Giang Province.

An inauguration is a ceremony to mark the beginning of something, in this case the bridge.

It meant they no longer had to cross the river on wobbly ferry boats, an everyday danger that became much more risky during the flooding season.

If something is risky there is a good chance of things going wrong. In this case it would be that the boats could capsize (turn over) in the water.

The bridge was constructed at a cost of VNĐ2.7 billion (US$121,500), and residents contributed 40 per cent of the money.

Constructed means built.

Contributed means gave towards something. In this case it was towards the building of the bridge.

Build a Bridge rose from the desire of a young woman, Đinh Thị Nam Phương, and her teen brother, Đinh Bá Khang, to help improve the lives of poor communities in the Delta.

A desire is a wish.

Phương, 23, has just graduated from the Philosophy, Politics & Economics Faculty of the Oxford University in the UK, and Khang, 18, is studying economics at the University of California Los Angeles after completing his high school at the International School in HCM City. 

To graduate means to pass a course at a college or university and be awarded a certificate for having done so.

Build a Bridge project is the first philanthropic project in Việt Nam that is run entirely by students from different parts of the world who share the goal of bringing out a “permanent, positive change”.

A philanthropic project is one that aims to help others and make the world a better place rather than to help the people who go about making the project happen.

A goal is something to aim to do or achieve.

The images haunted Phương and her brother, and they decided to something about it. Encouraged by their parents, they set up a foundation to build bridges to help students and poor communities in the Mekong Delta.

Images are pictures, whether they are physical, such as on paintings or photographs or if they are  just things you “see” in your mind.

If images haunt you they stay in your mind and make you feel uneasy.

The lack of previous experience was difficult to overcome.

If there is a lack of something there is little or none of it. In this case it is little or no experience.

To overcome something means to win over it.

The foundation’s activities depended on the efforts of unpaid volunteers who were unable to stay for a long time with the foundation.

Volunteers are people who offer to work without asking to be paid.

But, as more people learnt about the organisation, greater support poured in from volunteer student ambassadors, celebrities, individuals and companies worldwide including Air France, Masan Group Corporation, and the Kinh Đô Company.

 
 
 

Ambassadors are people who represent organisations and institutions, including governments.

Celebrities are famous, popular people.

Hollywood director Phillip Noyce, one of the celebrity ambassadors of the project, said:

Hollywood is the movie industry in the United States.

 “So I want that each of us will do our bit to help build these very necessary bridges for rural, distant areas to help people move around easier, and bring happiness to children who can commute to school daily without dangers or fears.”

Rural areas are places in the country and not in the towns and cities.

Distant areas are places that are far away from any big centres.

To commute means to travel between work, or school, and home every day.

Its work offers opportunities for those in need to better their lives.

Better, in this case, is a verb that means “to improve”.

“Hundreds and thousands of children in rural areas drown each year on their way to school, since the only path often involves crossing rivers via hazardous old boats, flimsy self-built bridges or even swimming, with heavy books and shoes as anchors, unwittingly increasing the danger,” Phương said.

Hazardous means dangerous.

Anchors are things that act as weights in the water, causing whatever they are attached to, not to float around too much.

“Not only will young children not be forced to face danger on a daily basis, a bridge will help improve the local socio-economic situation and transform a community,” she added.

To transform a community means to change it from one thing into something else.

Eighty-year-old Trần Văn Luỳnh of Lợi Nhơn Village became emotional as he talked about a new bridge, Ngọc Hoàng, also in Tiền Giang.

To be emotional means to have feelings for something and show them.

While working on this project, she said she’d been lucky to meet with several generous people who are not wealthy, but ready to spend their own money and effort building bridges for poor people in Bến Tre Province.

Generous means to be unselfish and willing to give.

In the future, besides helping build bridges, Phương wants  to help poor children who have had to drop out of school because of the dire financial straits their parents are in.

To be in dire financial straits means to have desperate money problems.

WORKSHEET

State whether the following sentences are true, or false:

  1. Nam Phương’s parents thought it would be a good idea for her to set up a foundation.
  2. Trần Văn Luỳnh is ten years old and attends Tân Tây school.
  3. The new Thủy Tân Bridge has replaced one made of bamboo.
  4. Singer Phương Vy supports the bridge project.
  5. Build a Bridge project is the fifteenth philanthropic project in Việt Nam that is run entirely by students from different parts of the world.

ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. True; 2. False; 3. True; 4. True; 5. False.

 

 

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