PHU YEN — As scheduled, hundreds of patients in central Phu Yen Province's General Hospital gathered in the Charity Kitchen for free meals before lunch time today.
Volunteers prepare meals for poor patients at Phu Yen General Hospital. The kitchen serves between 250 and 300 free meals worth more than VND2 million ($96) each day. — VNA/VNS Photo The Lap
In a long queue, patients and relatives waited their turn. Everyone smiled happily when they were given the box of food from volunteers.
"Most of people are from disadvantaged mountainous areas of Song Hinh and Dong Xuan districts or they are without relatives," chef of the Charity Kitchen, Vo Thi Minh Trang said.
Some had no money left for meals after paying medical treatment fees, she said.
Trang said the hospital, together with HCM City-based Hoa Sen Company, established the kitchen in 2002 and provided VND5 million (US$329 in 2002) for her to cook up to 100 free meals every month.
In 2004, the Swiss Red Cross provided $35,000 to enlarge the kitchen and purchase cooking equipment. Five years later, the hospital invested VND1 billion ($48,076) to upgrade the 100sq.m-large kitchen.
After 10 years of operation, the kitchen now serves between 250 and 300 free meals a day, worth more than VND2 million ($96). The kitchen also spends VND200 million ($9,600) annually to help them pay hospital fees.
Both international and domestic organisations and individuals contribute to the fund.
Thiem Tien, a chronic renal failure patient from Tuy An District's An Dan Commune, said he received free meals during his five years of treatment in the hospital.
The meals, including vegetables, rice and meat, have partly eased the financial burden of hospital bills, Tien said.
Tran Minh Tam, deputy director of the hospital, said that the kitchen has brought happiness to thousands of patients who still face a lot of difficulties.
Trang, as well as 19 other volunteers, have worked in the kitchen without payment for years. They also refuse to have meals at the kitchen as ‘someone will be hungry if we eat here'. The meals are for patients only, they said. — VNS