Phương Tấn Đạt gives instructions at a medical declaration checkpoint in Cần Thơ City. — VNA/VNS Photo Trung Kiên
CẦN THƠ — Phương Tấn Đạt is not someone who hogs the limelight. The 31-year-old would rather take a back seat and avoid being the centre of attention.
But Đạt’s relentless volunteering efforts during the COVID pandemic in his home city of Cần Thơ, have earned him the National Volunteer Service Award 2021.
So whether he likes it or not, Đạt, had to take centre stage to collect this thoroughly deserved prize.
Ever since his days at school, Đạt has been volunteering to help people less fortunate than himself.
So when the call came for volunteers to staff medical declaration stations across his city, Đạt was ready to serve.
Not satisfied with just helping to take patient information, he set up the “Bếp ấm” (Warm kitchen) system to provide meals to frontline soldiers and volunteers working at the checkpoints, providing nearly 16,000 meals.
But that still wasn’t enough for Đạt.
He also helped to arrange more than 2,600 sets of gifts for poor people and delivered 238 tonnes of agricultural products for farmers who could not sell their goods due to COVID-19.
Despite participating in many activities, contributing to the city in pandemic prevention and control, Đạt said that his work is just a very small part of what the city was doing.
His memories of that time are not centred on himself, but instead the work of other volunteers he stood alongside.
He said: “The best thing for me when doing volunteer work is that I get to meet a lot of teammates and friends who have similar personalities, thoughts, and opinions.
“In difficult moments, we show determination together."
After a tough shift helping others, Đạt would take great pleasure in sharing with fellow volunteers their activities of that day.
Lại Phước Trường Thành, secretary of the Cái Khế Ward Youth Union, said: "The first thing that impressed me about Đạt was his confidence to do and make decisions very quickly.
“He had bold thoughts and is always ready to do activities no matter how difficult they are.
“For me, working continuously without rest is very overwhelming, but with Đạt no matter what, he will complete and arrange work thoughtfully.”
Joining many volunteer activities organised by Đạt in the past two years, Nguyễn Tây Du, from Xuân Khánh Ward, Ninh Kiều District, said: "Đạt has many good qualities to become a real leader.
“He has methods of calling for solidarity, so despite the heavy workload, we are still very close to each other. Along with that, he has a lot of creative ideas and I have learned a lot from him.”
Towards sustainable values
Đạt often talks about his aspirations in organising and developing volunteer campaigns, in which his key idea is "sustainable volunteering".
He said: “When I organise a volunteer activity in a place, I often find out actual needs of local residents.
“For instance, in areas with rice shortage, we bring them rice, in areas with clean water shortage, we bring them clean water. This means organising sustainable volunteer campaigns based on needs and that are effective in the long run.”
In 2018-19, he called for help to build 26 houses for poor people.
“Housing is just a step for poor households to have better conditions and have peace in their minds,” he said.
“They also need a method to get out of poverty after they have a house. Therefore, along with the construction, we help them build up a plan to get out of poverty and support their plan as much as we could.
“For example, a farmer wants to grow guava but has no seeds, we are ready to support him with seeds.”
Another activity that Đạt deploys is “Học bổng yêu thương” (Scholarship of love). In this programme students will be sponsored with scholarships of VNĐ1 million (US$43) per month until they turn 18 years old.
But the scholarship comes with the condition that they must make efforts in learning. The programme will monitor and evaluate results of each supported student every semester, requiring them to achieve better results than the previous year.
Đạt said that besides partly covering study costs for the students, the scholarship wanted to bring something more valuable, to give them spirit to overcome challenges.
In the future, Đạt is planning more activities to help blind people earn money during Tết (Lunar New Year), donate to people affected by the pandemic and help ethnic minorities.
Deputy secretary of the Cần Thơ Youth Union Lâm Văn Tân said: "The outstanding factor in Đạt is his enthusiasm, readiness to support students, children and people with difficulties.
“Đạt's method of operating and organising campaigns is solving urgent issues. Those are the qualities and expressions that make him worthy of the noble National Volunteer Award that he has just received.” — VNS