|Helping hands: Han (third from left) during a charity trip with her classmates.
by Quang Loc and Trung Hieu
Trinh Thi Han, 25, a final-year student of FPT University, spends several hours every day working as a domestic help.
However, she does not spend the money she earns on herself.
She buys rice with it, makes rice balls with salted peanuts and sesame, to give to homeless people in Ha Noi.
The places with several homeless people that Han often takes food to include Ha Noi Railway Station, Giap Bat Bus Station and the areas under Long Bien and Chuong Duong bridges.
"Each rice pot has 7kg to 10kg of fragrant rice," she said.
To have enough money to purchase a full-size electric cooker, she saved the money earned from her extra job for more than a month.
After rice was cooked, Han and her friends put the rice balls in each box carefully, along with a small bag containing salted sesame and peanuts.
In the summer heat, the shirts of everyone in the group were damp with perspiration, once the job was done. But their faces were radiant with joy.
At 11pm, with more than 60 boxes of rice arranged neatly on their motorcycles, Han and her friends set off to places that had homeless people in Ha Noi.
Han said they distributed the rice on Tuesdays and Fridays, from 11pm to 2am the next day.
Their first destination was the Ha Noi Railway Station.
|Sustenance: Han delivers rice balls to homeless people at night.
While giving the rice boxes to the homeless, Han and her friends always smiled and said, "We apologize for coming late today. We wish you a good appetite."
Han said her group always reminded each other that it required a sincere heart to offer food to the poor, and to make them receive the meals.
A member of the group, Nguyen Thi My from Bac Giang Province, who is an accountant in Ha Noi, smiled and said, "This work is hard but meaningful. We can help the less fortunate people. When we give the rice to the homeless, and see them respect the portion and smile, we also feel good."
The group then visited Giap Bat Bus Station, and Long Bien and Chuong Duong bridges.
By 1am, Han had only one rice box left.
As her friends had gone home by then, Han reached Ba Trieu Street alone.
"I brought this portion for an old woman living in front of the Vincom block of apartments in this street. Whenever I distribute rice balls, I always reserve a box for her," Han said.
The old woman is Duong Thi V, 67, a native of Ha Tinh Province.
On seeing Han, she smiled and said, "Today is Tuesday. I knew for sure that you would come. I had wanted to buy food, but I didn't."
"The rice is still hot. Please eat first, then we'll talk," Han said.
She said last month, during a similar trip to Ba Trieu Street, she had found Nguyen Thi Que (born in 1981) from Thanh Hoa Province, who was nearly nine months pregnant, and her two-year-old child wandering in the street, and sleeping on the pavement.
Han not only gave food to the woman and her child, she also left her phone number and told Que that she could call her in case she faced any trouble.
Several weeks later, Han received a call for help from Que who was going to give birth, but didn't have any family members nearby.
|Having a ball: Han prepares rice balls for homeless people. — VNS Photos Quang Loc
As Han did not have any money, she borrowed VND4 million from her friends and took Que to a maternity hospital.
"Fortunately, she gave birth to a baby safely. I was happy."
Ngo Thi An (from Hoa Binh Province), a homeless woman who picks up bottles and waste everyday around Ha Noi Railway Station, said, "I have received rice balls from Han several times. After talking to her, I understood her circumstances. I am moved and am grateful to her a lot. Thanks to her rice, I am not hungry at night," she said.
Looking at the young girl with a smile on her lips, few people realise that she has gone through a lot of pain.
Han spoke in a low voice about herself. She was born in 1990 in the northern province of Bac Giang.
When she was 18 months old, her parents died in an accidental fall on a mountain. They left behind four small children, with the eldest being seven years old, and the youngest just six months old. Her paternal grandmother died when Han was 16. Then she moved to live with her maternal grandmother.
After finishing high school, Han was helped by a cousin to live in Russia, where she stayed for four years. Then in 2011, she felt nostalgic and decided to return to Viet Nam.
She studied and cleared the entrance exam to join FPT University.
Han said since her childhood, she and her maternal grandmother had been poor.
Thus, more than anyone, she always has empathy and compassion for disadvantaged people.
During her time in the university, Han has been working as a domestic help to make money for her charity activities.
Han earns approximately VND2 million to VND3 million each month. As her employers know why Han works as a help, many of them also help her.
Han also actively encourages people to donate warm clothing and books for children in upland regions.
Last October, she brought more than 10 bags of clothing and books worth nearly VND20 million for children in Lung Tam Village in Ha Giang Province.
In April this year, Han and a guitar club jointly organised a cultural show and donation for dialysis patients in Ha Noi.
"I hope I am able to open a rice restaurant that sells cheap meals for VND5,000 each for poor people in the future, so that they can have delicious, nutritious and cheap meals," Han said about her simple dream. — VNS