Sunday, June 13 2021


When walking is really good medicine

Update: October, 02/2017 - 09:00
This way, grandma: Đỗ Anh Tuấn helps an elderly woman in Quảng Nam Province. Tuấn is one of five friends who walked from Hà Nội to HCMC, delivering free herbal medicines and providing free health checks on the way.
Viet Nam News

Hồng Vân

Five Vietnamese men ended a very long walk yesterday.

They’d been on the road for 58 days after starting on August 6 from the Hoàn Kiếm Lake in Hà Nội.

Phan Thanh Long, Lê Viết Hợp, Trầm Khương Minh, Đào Thế Cương and Đỗ Anh Tuấn are from different professional backgrounds, but they were driven by the desire to give something of value to the community.

Central to the walking project was 40-year-old herbal medicine practitioner Long, because its main activity was delivering free herbal medicines and providing health checks for more than a thousand disadvantaged people.

 “Along the way, we contacted locals, asked them to set up the venue and invite their brethren to enjoy the free service that we deliver. We would spend a whole day, serving up to a hundred of people in each locality,” said Long, who initiated the idea.

In some places, the crowd was so big that Long, who owns a herbal pharmacy in HCM City, had to call his staff to travel to the locality and support his work.

“The happiness of people we were able to help kept us motivated throughout,” said Long, a native of the central province of Quảng Bình.

Long is the only one with a background in medicine. His friends joined him to support the effort. Some of them wanted to challenge themselves, see more of the country and discharge what they saw as their responsibility.

“We get value from the community through our business, so we should have a responsibility to the community,” said Hợp.

The herbal medicines Long handed out during the walkathon were mostly those that help with treating chronic diseases like osteoarthritis and sinusitis, but there were also people who received herbs to lightening birthmarks.

Apart from medicines, the walkers occasionally gifted books to local children.

The inspiration

As a herbalist owning a pharmacy, Long had observed that many people came to his pharmacy to find out what their ailment was, but left without buying medicines because they couldn’t afford it.

“This made me very sad and is part of the reason for deciding to walk across the country and deliver free medicines and health checks up for poor people,” said Long.

Added inspiration came from an Estonian man that he met by chance at his sister’s flower shop last year, when he’d returned to Quảng Bình for the Tết (Lunar New Year) celebrations.

“A foreign customer wanted to buy some rhododendron flowers. Through my wife, who interpreted for me, I learnt that Meigo Mark, 27, was from Estonia and had been on the road for a few years, answering an inner call to walk around the world. His journey fascinated me and I kept thinking about it. My nephew also told me that Mark visited his school and shared his story, highlighting some of the lessons he’d learned.

 “Later on, I attended a self help class and the instructor asked participants to write down 100 things they wanted to would want to do before death. It was then that I realised I needed to make a trip like Mark’s.

“The instructor helped me draw out the idea. I still felt intimidated by the challenges and obstacles, but the support of family and the company of my friends made it easy to take the decision to pursue it.”

The first ten days were the toughest for the non-professional walkers.

“Our legs hurt, but l had to keep going. Then, I would think of the young Estonian man, and the happiness of the people we could help, and it inspired and gave us the spiritual strength to continue,” said Long.

Every day, the men woke up at 5am and walked until 11am, rested and continued their journey from  2 or 3pm to 11pm. “At around 6km per hour, we walked an average of 40 to 50km per day.

“I think this journey will be a good foundation for us to do more good for the community in the future.” -- VNS


Diagnosis: Phan Thanh Long (front right) checks the pulse of an senior citizen in Quảng Nam Province. Photos courtesy of Phan Thanh Long
First steps: The five friends who started walking from Hoàn Kiếm Lake in Hà Nội on August 6 and arrived in HCM City yesterday.
Welcome relief: “The happiness of people we were able to help kept us motivated throughout,”Long said.

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