Monk Hà Văn Phụng (first, left) walks on the bridge he and Buddhist followers designed and built in Xà Xiêm Hamlet, Bình An Commune in the Mekong Delta province of Kiên Giang. — VNA/VNS Photos
KIÊN GIANG — Monk Hà Văn Phụng, the abbot of Khmer Xà Xiêm Cũ Pagoda in the Mekong Delta province of Kiên Giang, always wanted to do something to help people in his hometown.
Witnessing children and adults in Bình An Commune travelling bumpy roads covered in wild grass and passing over slippery footbridges to schools, Phụng decided to make the roads easier to traverse.
“Traffic was not convenient at all while the primary school was more than 4km and the secondary school was 5km away from the centre of the commune. It took them a lot of time to travel around,” he said.
Phụng started building the first bridge connecting the two sides of a canal in Xà Xiêm Hamlet in 2005.
He learnt to design the bridge and called upon Buddhist followers to help with building it, meaning construction costs were kept to a minimum.
It was the first concrete bridge in the hamlet.
To date, four concrete bridges and thousands of metres of roads worth more than VNĐ1 billion (US$42,840) have been built to help local people travel conveniently and safely.
Monk Hà Văn Phụng, the abbot of the Khmer Xà Xiêm Cũ Pagoda, has been honoured for his contribution to his local community.
Phụng was born and raised in Xà Xiêm Hamlet. Like most of his peers, he had to work in the fields to earn a living.
At the age of 18, he became a monk and decided to spend his life performing good deeds.
In 2004, Phụng was appointed abbot of Xà Xiêm Cũ Pagoda. Phụng thought it was time to raise his idea about the cement bridges and roads in the hamlet, a move warmly welcomed by both local authorities and citizens.
The commune’s People’s Committee donated VNĐ300 million ($12,850) to build the bridges. By doing the work themselves, Phụng and the Buddhist followers managed to return VNĐ100 million ($4,280) to the committee.
The money, he said, was returned to help other disadvantaged hamlets in the commune.
Apart from building roads, Phụng and local Buddhist followers give poor students rice and school equipment. During summer holidays, he opens Khmer language class to teach 200 local residents in the hamlet to preserve their culture.
Phụng also donated 3,000sq.m of land from the pagoda to build a primary school for children.
Danh Sô Ri Gia, head of the Fatherland Front Committee of Xà Xiêm Hamlet said Phụng created solidarity among local people and authorities by building infrastructure in the commune.
Nguyễn Hưng Tuấn, vice chairman of the commune’s People's Committee, said Phụng was very enthusiastic in rural transport work and teaching the Khmer language to children in the summer.
He also helped encourage local people to work hard and escape poverty.
Now, only 52 out of 418 households in the area are considered as living in poverty.
Phụng has been awarded many certificates of merit for his contribution to society. — VNS