Viet Nam News
Tân Lộc Islet residents don’t wait around for things to get done. Instead, they take to the streets to repair infrastructure on their own. Tuấn Quang and Thu Hương report.
Despite the scorching mid-summer heat, members of the Voluntary Road Fixing Group, both young and old, remain absorbed in repairing an old, deteriorated bridge on Tân Lộc Islet in the southern province of Cần Thơ.
Lê Văn Năm, the oldest member of the group at 84, is busy sawing planks, which will be joined together to create the structure of the bridge.
“I’m old, but I have a lot of free time, so I want to join groups with other young men in order not to waste my time and to do something beneficial for my villagers,” he says.
Together with other members, Năm has fixed many kilometres of bumpy roads and many deteriorated bridges in the area, bringing great safety and convenience to the locals.
Hands-on approach: Members of the Voluntary Road Fixing Group fix a bridge in disrepair on Tân Lộc Islet in the southern province of Cần Thơ. Photos courtesy of the Voluntary Road Fixing Group
Many villagers on Tân Lộc Islet still remember seeing Trần Minh Trung riding his old motorbike along rural roads 10 years ago in search of potholes, and then filling them up himself.
Born and raised on the islet, Trung witnessed the difficulties the locals faced while riding on pothole-ridden roads or driving on narrow and unsafe bridges.
He then started to memorise the location of the potholes and unsafe bridges and began to fix them himself.
Trung is neither a road worker nor employed by any construction company. He is a contract worker and cow herder, but as long as he has saved enough money, he will continue to buy materials to fix roads and bridges, despite leading a difficult life.
“At first, many people cast doubts on my free services, but I have never felt discouraged nor have I intended to give up because I want to do something helpful for my village,” Trung said.
Inspired by Trung’s voluntary deeds, many villagers followed in his footsteps, leading to the establishment of the Voluntary Road Fixing Group. The number of volunteers has increased over the years and now includes more than 30 at present.
By joining the group, many young people also have a chance to get more life experience.
Safer streets: Members of the Voluntary Road Fixing Group at work.
“I’m very happy to help other older members of the group fix roads and bridges in my hometown whenever I have free time,” said 14-year-old Đặng Thanh Liêm, the youngest member and a seventh-grader at a local secondary school.
“I have learnt many new things, from how to do small and heavy work to empathising with disadvantaged people,” he said, adding that he has also encouraged friends to join the group.
The “headquarters” of the group is based in its leader Trung’s small old house, and the main means of transport is not a lorry, but instead a delivery tricycle, which is used to transport their equipment.
Whenever part of a road needs repaired, all the members agree on a specific time and location to assemble and then travel to the location separately. Though each one has their own jobs to tend to, they try to arrange their work to show up on time.
Moved and inspired by the voluntary work that Trung and other members of the group are doing, many benefactors and locals have offered to support the group financially.
“Thanks to their support and encouragement, we still have a budget for the operations of our group. The money that is donated and spent is listed and announced publicly to every member and benefactor,” Trung says.
People living next to the road that is being repaired by the group often cook meals and serve cold drinks or fresh fruit to the members for free. Some even invite them over for a meal. Though the dishes are simple - boiled vegetables, fish sauce and some soup - everyone seems to enjoy the food and happily chats with each other.
“Because of our busy business, I could not join the group, but I frequently support them with money and food, as well as cook for them when they repair the roads next to my house,” says Trần Văn Tiếp, a villager from Đông Bình Commune.
To get more money for the group’s operations, the members have come up with the idea of offering services to any household that needs roads or bridges built. The money will then be spent on purchasing new equipment and materials for any upcoming repair projects.
Over the past 10 years, the Voluntary Road Fixing Group has repaired hundreds of kilometres of roads and dozens of bridges on the Tân Lộc Islet.
Their most valued treasures are 32 certificates of merit from authorities at all levels, in particular those granted by former Prime Minister Nguyễn Tấn Dũng and Minister of Transport Đinh La Thăng.
To top it off, they have also received the love, trust and admiration of the local people.
“Thanks to the Voluntary Road Fixing Group, all the roads on Tân Lộc Islet have barely any potholes and nearly all the bridges have been widened, offering greater safety and convenience to villagers,” said Nguyễn Trọng Ngọc, chairman of the local People’s Committee.
“They have also significantly contributed to local development and set a good example for the young generation to follow.” VNS