|Goodness: A motorbike taxi team that transports emergency patients and offers other assistance for free wait to pick up passengers along the highway in Ha Lam Town. — VNS Photo Lac Tien
by Dao Phan-Lac Tien
A group of motorbike taxi drivers, divided into different subgroups, stand by along Highway 1A passing through Ha Lam Town, Thang Binh District, Quang Nam Province, every day.
They are easily distinguished by their blue shirts emblazoned with the words "Motorbike taxi team transporting emergency patients within Ha Lam Town" as they wait to pick up passengers or help people involved in traffic accidents along the highway.
Nguyen Van Minh, head of the group, said the area had seen a number of traffic accidents over the past few years.
"Whenever an accident occurs, we take the victims to the hospital to save their lives," he said.
The team was founded by the Ha Lam Town Red Cross Society in June last year. As many as 34 local seasoned motorbike taxi drivers volunteered to join the team. The team was divided into two small groups, which are posted at six sites across town.
Every month, each member contributes VND30,000 (US$1.4) to visit traffic accident victims.
Over the past year, the team has helped hundreds of victims but has never received any payment or gifts from them.
Le Van Xuan, a team member, recalled how two sisters driving a motorbike had met with an accident when passing Ha Lam Town over a month ago. It was 11pm and there were few passersby. Xuan and two other members took them to the Thang Binh District Hospital for emergency treatment.
Three days later, the mother of the girls approached them to offer a gift of VND3 million ($140) in a show of appreciation, but they refused it.
"We do not have a monthly salary, but our conscience is always on alert. We are all dedicated to putting our hearts into helping the residents. If anyone takes advantage of the residents, seeking profit, he will be weeded out of the team," Xuan said.
At night, four to six members of the team take turns in patrolling the streets, often stopping robberies in progress.
Le Thang's case is a typical one.
In May last year, Thang was travelling from Gia Lai of the Central Highlands Province to Thang Binh District to perform religious rites with his relatives. He got off the coach and took a motorbike taxi from Ha Lam Town to his home. When the time came to pay the motorbike taxi driver, he discovered that his wallet and mobile phone were missing. Upon hearing Thang's story, all of the team members tried to help him.
Thang recalled that he had placed a call before getting off the coach and that three others had gotten off the coach with him.
After discussing the situation, the team split into four groups. The first group chased after the coach to check it, while the other three groups tracked down the other three passengers.
One of the three passengers acted suspicious when questioned by the team and eventually admitted that she had stolen the items. She handed over Thang's VND13 million ($600), two mobile phones and some other papers.
Since the woman was a local resident, Nguyen Van Hoa, the team member questioning her, decided not to take her to the police.
Hoa said, "She committed the crime because she is very poor. We apologised on her behalf and spared her. If she had been taken to the police, her children would have been miserable."
During the recent Lunar New Year festival, which fell in February this year, the team's night patrol caught a man in the act of stealing a bicycle. Unarmed, the team apprehended the man and took him to the police. The Thang Binh Police's investigation revealed that the man had stolen more than 20 motorbikes and bicycles of residents in the district.
Phan Thanh Ngac, deputy head of the Thang Binh District Police, said that most of the motorbike taxi team members were poor, but they did not hesitate to help residents despite the danger they faced. They even used their own money to help victims.
"Since the team was founded, the number of robberies in the district has dropped sharply; the investigation of crimes is also smoother thanks to their co-ordination efforts," Ngac said. — VNS