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Bringing warmth to those left out in the cold

Update: March, 15/2013 - 10:35

by Trung Hieu – Hong Nhung

"I am not an ambitious person. I simply know there are many homeless people who have very difficult lives, as well as many extremely poor people and many orphans. I wish for everyone to live a ‘warmer' life," says Nguyen Hoang Thao, the leader of a charity group named the "Warm Group".

In recent years, the formation of many such volunteer groups across cities and provinces has helped miserable people ease difficulties in their lives.

The "Warm Group", established in Ha Noi two years ago, was one of the first groups of volunteers in the capital to dedicate itself to helping homeless people.

On social networks, the group asks people to name places that homeless people stay, so the volunteers can easily find them to help.

The group has attracted not only young people but also many parents and retirees.

Every Saturday at 10pm, the volunteers gather at a cafe to sort clothes, food and toiletries donated mainly through Facebook into small packages.

Then the group divides into smaller teams of about 10 people each to distribute the goods. Each team always consists of both men and women in order to prevent any dangerous situations.

"We give gifts to homeless people from 11pm to dawn. It's only at night that we can find them where they sleep, as they work during the day," says Hoang Thao.

The group usually distributes between 20 and 50 gifts during each night-time trip. Volunteers have only a few minutes to encourage each disadvantaged person before continuing their journey.

These trips may be tiring, but everyone finishes filled with a sense of accomplishment.

"After each trip, I feel more mature and know how to love and cherish life," says Thu Phuong, a student at National University in Ha Noi. "I hope my small effort contributes to alleviating the misery of the homeless and helping them believe in life."

The group has also organised many fundraising activities to help poor and disadvantaged people, including a recent garage sale that attracted many young people because it advertised "shopping without bargaining" – that is, a situation where buyers could pay their desired price for the products offered.

The cash collected was used to purchase food, medicine, blankets and other necessities for disadvantaged people.

Another charity group, Tam Long Viet (Vietnamese Heart), has been helping the homeless for five years, although they were only officially established last October.

To come up with a list of where they could find homeless people around the city, they had to spend many nights surveying every street corner, railway and bus station.

In addition to poor homeless labourers in Ha Noi, the recipients of the group's charity efforts include poor fishermen living along the Hong (Red) River and homeless people living on an islet on the river.

"I don't want to talk much about our activities," says Nguyen Chi Thanh, 27. "Like children want to express gratitude towards a parent, we want to express our gratitude towards our country via these charity activities. We hope that our action may bring a little encouragement to these unlucky people."

Recently, the mass media have reported extensively on the charitable activities of volunteer groups, which seek to increase people's care for others in the community and link generous hearts to those who have undergone difficulties.

However, as a Vietnamese saying goes, "Cua cho khong bang cach cho" (The way you give is more important than what you give).

Thanh Vu, a veteran of many charity efforts, said that this was a point many people overlooked.

"We have received a lot of emails from young people who want to do charity, asking questions like: Where do homeless people sleep? Is it dangerous to go out in the night? They also send us old and torn clothes, or clothing that does not suit the homeless. These took a lot of time to sort. If the homeless people received these items, how would they feel?"

Voluntary youth movements benefit society and boost the spirit of national unity. However, in order to avoid unwanted risks, each volunteer should actively study and prepare well before joining charity trips. Kindness is important, but it's also important to know how to express kindness in an appropriate way.

Philanthropy and volunteerism can be viewed as a medicine to help people realise the value of life, treasure the present and strive for a better society.

During charity trips, young people can also mature personally by seeing the struggles of unhappy people. Moreover, these trips serve to bring together people who wish to contribute to a better society. — VNS

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