|Charity meals being prepared at Nguyễn Hoàng Giang's charity kitchen. — Photo baophapluat.vn|
CẦN THƠ — To establish a zero-đồng cafeteria for disadvantaged people during the pandemic, 34-year-old Nguyễn Hoàng Giang did not hesitate to sell his gold and beloved antique motorbike collection and turn his garage business into a 'field kitchen'.
The idea came to him when his wife went into labour during social distancing.
Taking her to the hospital, he saw how patients and their relatives were struggling as all the nearby canteens and food stalls were closed due to the lockdown.
Giang said: "At first, I was only making 20 to 30 meals per day, but then the demand rose, and many more people needed help, so I increased the number to 500 to 700 per day."
These charity meals were made at his car repairing garage. Hundreds of meals were delivered to needy workers and students across Cần Thơ City each day.
Every day at 5am, nearly 15 people gathered at the garage to help with the cooking. They were Giang's relatives, friends and even trainees. Each person was in charge of a task, from sorting vegetables and making rice to preparing fish and dividing the food into portions.
"This difficult time was when people needed help the most, so I tried to help as much as possible," said Giang.
"I am the owner of a small business. Even though our business was sluggish due to the pandemic, I still had a bit of money from when things were going well, so I thought I needed to share and help others."
He spent VNĐ5 million to 7 million each day to prepare 500 to 700 meals. When he received food donations, his costs were reduced from VNĐ2 million to 4 million.
He covered the costs with his family's savings.
Giang said: "I don't receive cash donations or call for donors. I try to do things to the best of my capacity. If people support us by sending rice, food and vegetables, we take it but not money."
Getting the nod from his wife, Giang sold their gold and six pieces from his antique motorbike collection to cash in VNĐ300 million.
"I can always repurchase them later when I have the money. But now, when people need help, I have to help them. I would feel uneasy if I couldn't," he said.
His wife, Lý Thị Ngọc Nga, said: "When he said he wanted to sell the bikes and the gold, I advised against it. Our second child had just been born, the garage was temporarily closed, and we had a ton of bills to pay."
"But when I saw how down he felt as he could not help people, I supported him and stood by his side."
Giang's warm, sincere goodwill towards the disadvantaged is easy to understand.
An orphaned child who experienced tremendous hardship growing up, he was lucky to have people who lent him a helping hand and took him in. He always told himself that he would do more charity work to support the less fortunate when his life was more stable.
In addition to his charity meals, he has taught 20 young people how to repair motor vehicles while also offering them a place to stay.
The menu was continually innovated in the kitchen to have diverse and nutritious meals delivered to those who need them.
Giang also bought farm produce to give to poor people, alongside numerous grocery donations he delivered to people stuck in quarantine zones.
"This is what I did to help people when the outbreak was tough. If the situation permits, I will keep doing this when the pandemic ceases, but more professionally," he said.
"In the future, as we have a big garage, I want to open a foreign language centre for disadvantaged children and take in orphans in Cần Thơ City." — VNS