|Tống Thanh Mai poses on a bridge that she raised funds to build in Tân Phú Đông Commune of Sa Đéc City, Đồng Tháp Province. — VNA/VNS Photo Nhựt An|
ĐỒNG THÁP – A woman in southern Đồng Tháp Province has won praise for donating money and raising funds to build bridges in local rural areas, connect many villages and communes in the region.
For more than 15 years, Tống Thanh Mai, 70, of An Hoà Commune in Sa Đéc City has been driving to households on an old motorbike to raise funds to build about 150 bridges.
She even visits bridge construction sites to supervise and encourage workers, regardless of sun and rain.
Năm Biết Bridge in Tân Phú Trung Commune of Châu Thành District is one of the bridges built with money raised by Mai. The bridge, which was started in March this year, cost VNĐ300 million (US$13,000).
The investment was partly paid by the Châu Thành People’s Committee and partly by Mai and the local people.
Trần Thanh Tùng, a resident of Tân Phú Trung Commune, said: "Mai made a great contribution to the construction of Nam Biết Bridge. I am very grateful to her work.”
“The new and spacious bridge will replace the previous narrow one, and make travel and transport of goods more convenient.”
Over the years, Mai has contributed more than VNĐ500 million (US$22,000) and raised funds from individuals and organisations to build 150 bridges in rural areas worth over VNĐ30 billion.
“A concrete bridge is usually 3.5m wide with 2.5 tonnes or more load. When the bridge is completed, all issues related to capital, labour days and cost of construction are public and transparent,” said Mai.
“So, donors were very confident and secure to contribute money because they know it was used for the right purpose."
Accompanying Mai on her fundraising journey are three charity bridge construction teams with 60 workers and engineers, all members of Sa Đéc City’s Bridge Engineering Association.
Mai is in charge of surveying where the bridge is needed, mobilising benefactors to support funding and organising construction.
The construction teams carry out the building, ensuring the designs, process and technique.
Nguyễn Văn Kiệt, a team leader of Charity Construction Team No.2, said: “I had worked with Mai for nearly 10 years. We work in the spirit of charity. Mai cares very much about us and works diligently and professionally."
Despite being a doctor, Mai has a wide knowledge and understanding of rural bridge construction.
She joined the revolution aged 14 as part of the student movement. Then, she was in charge of military medicine to take care of officers and soldiers.
In 1978, she studied medicine in HCM City and then returned to take the position of head of the Health Department of Sa Đéc Town (now Sa Đéc City).
A few years later, she was designated as chairperson of the Committee on Population and Family Planning of Đồng Tháp Province and retired in 2005.
Since retirement, she has participated in local social work.
Talking about the work, Mai said: “In 2007, in a visit to privileged families in Bình Thạnh Commune of Cao Lãnh District, I saw that many students had to wait for boats for hours, or for water to recede so they could swim across the river to school.”
Since then, she has tried to build bridges so that students and residents can travel safely.
Mai used her own savings and mobilised relatives and friends to contribute to building two concrete bridges in Bình Thạnh Commune, worth more than VNĐ100 million.
She continued to raise money to build bridges in the districts of Lai Vung, Châu Thành, Lấp Vò and Sa Đéc City.
In 2013, Mai was appointed as the head of the Sa Đéc Bridge Engineering Association.
Taking on a new job unrelated to her profession as a doctor was difficult in the early days.
"Initially, I had to spend a lot of time researching and studying documents related to bridge construction,” Mai said. “Because if you wanted to build a rural bridge, you must understand the structure and construction method to save costs but ensure quality. Everything is fine now."
Võ Thị Bình, vice chairwoman of Sa Đéc City’s People’s Committee, said that Mai was devoted to charity and social work, especially the bridges.
“Thanks to her cooperation and contribution, many concrete bridges have been built in the province, helping people to travel and transport goods and aiding socio-economic development,” Bình said.
Mai has still not stopped working on various bridge projects, despite her age.
"When a new bridge is completed and put into use. I am so happy," Mai said. “That has been my motivation to continue the fundraising work over the years."
Mai has received many certificates of merit and was recently honoured with the Third Class Labour Medal by the State President for her contribution to the community. – VNS