'Grandma Diệp' provides free rooms to students for 30 years

May 25, 2023 - 11:01
Diệp started helping poor students in 1991. At that time, she noticed the difficulties faced by out-of-town students coming to Huế for university entrance exams, particularly in finding affordable accommodation.
In October 2022, Huỳnh Thị Diệp was honoured with the "Outstanding Woman for the Community" award 2022 for her charitable actions. — Photo baomoi.vn

THỪA THIÊN-HUẾ — Huỳnh Thị Diệp, 91, has provided shelter and support for hundreds of poor students from various provinces across the country who came to study in Huế City.

Diệp started helping poor students in 1991. At that time, she noticed the difficulties faced by out-of-town students coming to Huế for university entrance exams, particularly in finding affordable accommodation.

Determined to make a difference, she decided to turn her house into a place for these students to stay.

According to Diệp, she is very sympathetic to parents who struggle to support their children's education, having to bring their children from remote rural areas to Huế for exams and even sell their assets to afford education expenses and seek a better future.

Understanding these hardships, she decided to welcome impoverished students into her home and provide them with free accommodation until graduation. Even after completing their university education, many students who haven't yet found their way can stay at her place.

"In this house, none of the students are my biological relatives, but they are the ones I have taken under my care," said Diệp. "Despite that, they always treat each other as siblings and work together to overcome difficulties and nurture their dreams of escaping poverty."

The reason why Diệp feels sympathetic with the students is that she has a hardship story of her own: she had to go to work at the age of 17 in a cone hat workshop, and by the time she turned 24, she followed her cousin to a parish to work as a kitchen assistant for the clergy.

Too caught up in her work, Diệp did not even think of starting her own family.

Although Diệp didn't marry nor have children, and her relatives live far away, whenever she falls ill or needs assistance, she still has the students in her home taking care of her.

When asked if she had any desires or aspirations, Diệp said: "All I need is for the students to be there, to care about and to talk with me. That brings me joy and happiness. My only wish is for the students to study well and succeed in the future."

'My second grandma'

Phan Văn Chiều, 24, came from Nghệ An and graduated after two years. Although his study is finished, he still lives in Diệp's house, continuing to learn work skills.

According to Chiều, the love and care Diệp has for him and many other students is immense. In the past, when Diệp was still healthy, she advised him and other students to study diligently and strive for improvement.

She emphasised the importance of not being distracted by frivolous activities, warning that she would sternly discipline them if they didn't listen. Because of her strictness, all the students in the house focused more on their studies, leading to their excellent academic results.

Chiều also mentioned that there are currently four students living with Diệp. The boys sleep in the loft, while the girls stay in the room next to Diệp's. In addition, there is a shared room for studying and communal activities.

On a daily basis, they take turns going to the market and cooking for Diệp and everyone in the house. Whenever they go out for leisure, they inform Diệp in advance to put her mind at ease.

With her profound love, tolerance and compassion, Diệp has provided care and support to countless underprivileged students from different provinces such as Thanh Hóa, Nghệ An, Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Nam when they come to Huế. Among these students, many have achieved remarkable success.

According to Diệp, Trần Văn Dung, who is now the Director of Melody Huế Music Centre, is one of the individuals who grew up under her loving care.

"Back then, Dung, just like the current students, faced difficult circumstances, so I let him stay with me," Diệp shared. "Nowadays, during holidays, he would visit me and bring gifts to help me support other students."

According to Chiều, he and the others consider Diệp as their second loving grandmother.

"As Diệp is older, she faces some mobility difficulties, so the other students and I are always there to support her in daily life," said Chiều.

"However, recently, she has been experiencing frequent illness, falls, and insomnia due to old age, which has affected her health. I sincerely hope that Diệp will regain her strength to continue this meaningful work."

Trần Thị Ngọc Ánh, another student living at Diệp's house, mentioned that since Diệp's fall, every night she and the others pay attention to the sound of Diệp's room door opening to be able to assist Diệp if needed.

Mai Khắc Phục, Chairman of the People's Committee of Kim Long Ward, expressed high appreciation for Diệp's meaningful charitable activities.

"Having been aware of Diệp's circumstances, the local authorities regularly show concern, encouragement, and support," said Phục. "The students living with Diệp are also wonderful; they take turns caring for her attentively and wholeheartedly, treating her like a family member."

In October 2022, Huỳnh Thị Diệp was honoured with the "Outstanding Woman for the Community" Award 2022 for her charitable actions. — VNS