Đỗ Văn Út repairs a motorbike. Around him are bottles of iced tea for free for passers-by. — Photo zing.vn
HCM CITY — HCM City is known for its oppressive heat and bustling nature, as well as its small but very special alleys.
Tiên Alley is famous among many Saigonese, because in this special alley, disabled people can get free vehicle repairs, while poor people can avail of free drinking water, medicine and even coffins.
Its official name is Alley 96 in Phan Đình Phùng Street, HCM City’s Phú Nhuận District, but local residents call it Tiên Alley after a doctor who used to live there.
In 1930, a physician opened a shop selling herbal medicines in this alley and offered free check-ups to poor people in the alleyway. The impoverished people in the area thanked him by renamed the alley after him, Tiền Phong (Vanguard) newspaper reported.
“Everything I do is very small. I am also poor so I understand the hardships of people in the same situation. I am willing to help however I can,” said Đỗ Văn Út, 57, the head of a charity group in the alley.
He works as a motorbike repairman at the entrance of the alley with little income but it does not hinder his charity work.
Every day, Út spends more than VNĐ100,000 (US$4.2) to buy ice, fresh tea leaves and boils water to fill big bottles for thirsty passers-by, drivers, students, lottery ticket sellers or anyone else.
He has also repaired the motorbikes of the poor for free or even given them new tires.
The alley is opposite Phú Nhuận market, so there are many people and vehicles passing by and traffic accidents occasionally occur, so Út and local residents hung a medicine box on the wall of the alley's entrance.
The box contains bandages, painkillers and drugs for flu and diarrhoea.
Every month, locals buy more medicine to put in the cabinet.
The simple cabinet has helped many people who fell victim to accidents over the past decade.
Not only providing water and medicine for free, he has also helped poor people who cannot afford funeral expenses.
Út said he went to coffin shops and asked for help from the shop owners, and most of them are willing to pitch in because they know he is doing charity.
His phone number is written on a banner hanging on the wall at the alley entrance so anybody in need can call him.
Út said on the first day of the Lunar New Year in 2016, he and some of his friends held a funeral for a poor woman from Bình Thạnh District.
“In some cases, I receive phone calls at the midnight asking for a coffin. I immediately go there to help them. I’m willing to help if the dead do not have family,” Út said.
In the alley, there is also a group of xe ôm drivers who are ready to transport old people and people with disabilities around the city for free.
Two days a month, the poor also receive vegetarian food, sometimes clothes, rice or instant noodle from kind people living in this alley.
Út's charity work has clearly inspired many people to help the poor. — VNS