by Thu Anh
The heart of the matter
"You might not believe me, but I found myself through charity work," says pop and movie star Ngo Thanh Van of HCM City.
"No real magic has happened in my life. But I know that I can help others have magical things," Van said at her recent charity event that raised funds for Heartbeat Vietnam, a programme begun by VinaCapital Foundation in 2006 to offer heart surgery to needy children.
As the fund's ambassador, Van met with more than 500 foreign and local guests at the event, including young artists of the local entertainment industry.
For US$1,000, you can save and change the life of a child forever.
She also introduced the fund's website http://www.heartbeatvietnam.org, which features stories about the children.
Through Van's event, more than $120,000 was collected, which will be sent directly to Heartbeat Vietnam. The money will cover surgery for 120 kids with a congenital heart defect.
"I want to encourage young people to offer more support to our fund's kids and disabled children in general," said Van, who is nationally famous for both her career and compassionate nature.
Sharing her thoughts with her fans, who are mostly youth, Van once wrote in her blog that she was alone in her room every night after work, feeling empty.
"One day I realised that I should go out to help needy people instead of sitting there wailing over my inner problems. Glory is nothing if you lived selfishly," she wrote.
Another celebrity, Miss Viet Nam 2007 Mai Phuong Thuy, is also devoting time to charity work.
After spending time travelling and giving donations to poor kids in remote areas, she has said: "Happiness is sharing."
Van and Thuy are two of dozens of young celebrities who have been participating in charity programmes run by local organisations and associations.
Through their work, they have been able to learn more about the world and other people, and improve their own lives.
With today's developing economy, youth can earn a better income than in previous decades. As such, they often think their hard work and self-sufficient living gives them the right to spend a lot of money on high living.
"Our programme attracts many wealthy youth, including businesspeople and artists, because they can learn how to live more responsibly and contribute to society,"said Van.
"I wasted money shopping and traveling to show off my style," said a young businessman from the city's Tan Binh District, who participated in Van's charity event.
"Helping the disadvantaged is rewarding. That's now my style," he said.
Seizing the day
In pursuit of physical and spiritual well-being, thousands of HCM City residents head each morning to parks to begin their day by doing various forms of exercise.
While young people prefer jogging and aerobic dance, the elderly choose to practice breathing exercises.
Phan Hong Long, a businessman of District 3, says that he usually wakes up at five o'clock to play badminton with friends at Tao Dan Park.
"My friends and I always work in buildings with air-conditioning. The fresh air is very important for our health," he said. "I choose to play badminton in the park because it's appropriate for the mornings for a middle-age and pudgy man like me."
People who play morning sports or exercise have free admission to parks.
"My family goes to Le Van Tam Park three times a week. My husband and I jog together while my two kids, the oldest son 15 and younger daughter 12, practises aerobics," said Tran Thi Van Anh, a resident of Phu Nhuan District.
"Urban children today eat too much fast food and get fat and ill too easily. Morning exercise is the best way to improve their health," she adds.
Why are the parks special? "We love to be outdoors instead of in muggy sports clubs. And we can meet many people and form good relationships. It makes us more cheerful to face a new day," explained Anh. — VNS