|The SV07 volunteer group recently held a singing competition for blind children in Tây Ninh Province. Photo courtesy of Châu Thành Toàn|
HCM CITY — SV07 is not a professional music group, but they regularly sing for love.
Their story is simple: the humble volunteer group sings on the streets to bring warmth, shelter, food and support to people in need.
Established in 2007, the group initially started with 10 student members who had all participated in the annual Mùa Hè Xanh (Green Summer) programme.
Châu Thành Toàn, 35, the leader of the group, has been through thick and thin with SV07 since the very beginning.
“I’m very particular when it comes to recruiting members for the group. They have to be sincere and should not do it for fame or a school grade,” Toàn told Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper, adding that more people joined the group as the years passed.
The volunteers have travelled to many places and carried out numerous activities to collect funds for the poor and unfortunate.
For some cases that need immediate funding, Toàn and his members sing on the street.
“We’re not great singers, but we try to sing from our hearts. We sing multiple genres, such as nhạc vàng (golden music) and pop music, and even songs that we compose,” he said.
So far, the group has produced more than 10 songs.
Toàn recalled the first time when SV07 “debuted”. “Though I had rehearsed two to three days before the show, I was so nervous I forgot the lyrics during my performance.”
“That time, we sang to help a poor couple Lượng and Đào. Since Đào was pregnant and her fetus was diagnosed with Down syndrome, we ended up raising VNĐ6 million for her hospital check-up,” he said.
“Some aunties who listened to our music joked that no one would give us money because we sang badly, and some uncles asked if we had nothing to do but sing on the streets,” Toàn added.
“It was a nerve-wracking experience and we were afraid of being penalised by the police. Luckily, we’ve never been caught!”
Hải Nhi, who has been with SV07 for five years, has some unusual experiences to tell.
“There was one time when some men yelled at us ‘Get out!’ Of course, I was embarrassed but what I did was just smile, apologise and leave,” she said. “However, another time when we visited Long Hoa Market in Tây Ninh District, we got lucky and raised VNĐ7 million after three hours of performance.”
“A kind auntie at the market gave us VNĐ500,000 and said that her child, who had passed away, used to do volunteer work like us,” Nhi added.
On Christmas Eve, while many dressed up and went out for the occasion, the SV07 volunteer group performed at an eatery on Street 7 in Hiệp Bình Chánh Ward in Thủ Đức District in an effort to buy 13 Martin 107 bicycles for poor students in Hưng Phong Ward in Bến Tre Province’s Giồng Trôm District.
The group brought a microphone, speaker box, a certificate from the Central Committee of the HCM City Communist Youth Union, and an empty donation box which said “Tây Ninh Red Cross, SV07 Volunteer Group”.
Toàn started off the show with the message: “SV07 would love to send our warmest regards to everyone: VNĐ2,000, 5,000 or 10,000, though little, might help poor students in need. We appreciate all your support!”
Toàn, dressed up in rolled-up khaki pants, t-shirt and checkered scarf, is usually the main vocalist, while Đình Phúc, having joined the group for over six years, performs as backup.
Phương Hoa, who recently graduated from the HCM City University of Economics, and Hải Nhi, 27, who is working in Gò Vấp District, are other members of the SV07 group.
Two of the members were at a Christmas Eve event where Hoa was responsible for showcasing the certificate and Nhi for holding the donation box.
Hoa said that they had to bring along the certificate to assure people that SV07 was not a scam.
“I had never seen a volunteer group singing to collect donations, until now,” said Lan Anh, a student from Sài Gòn Gia Định College, who witnessed the Christmas Eve show
After that event, SV07 collected VNĐ2.1 million.
Besides singing, the group also organises singing competitions for blind or visually impaired students, cooks for patients at rehabilitation centres and students living in rural areas, and encourages locals not to litter on Nguyễn Huệ Pedestrian Street, among other tasks.
Toàn and the group have supported thousands of cancer patients and people who need prosthetic legs at the HCM City Hospital of Trauma and Orthopedics in District 5, and have helped build 14 charitable houses.
They have gifted 130 Martin 107 bicycles to poor students and collected VNĐ1.456 billion to buy gifts for patients who are in rehabilitation, among other achievements.
“I’m glad we have some generous sponsors who’ve helped us realise our targets,” Toàn said.
SV07 has a Facebook page (@SV07volunteerclub) that is updated regularly and followed by more than 1,500 people. Take a look and be ready to be touched by SV07’s great but humble stories. – VNS