Hanoians help disadvantaged survive COVID-19

October 29, 2021 - 12:56

The capital's residents have found different ways to support seasonal workers and people living in difficult situations during the strict social distancing and even after that.

Bảo Hoa

Hà Nội has lifted most of the strict coronavirus prevention regulations and is establishing a state known as "new normal". But the two and a half months that safety rules were implemented are hard to forget.

The capital's residents have found different ways to support seasonal workers and people living in difficult situations during the strict social distancing and even after that.

Many people and organisations in the capital have called for donations, prepared meals and shared medicines and essential items with those who needed them most, including charity “ẤM” (Warmth), which has been helping vulnerable groups by supplying meals and essential goods for poor and homeless people in the capital.

During the recent social distancing, nearly all social activities were suspended and people were only allowed to go out to buy food and other essential items. A lot of migrant workers, labourers, scrap dealers and vendors lost their jobs.

For these seasonal workers, most of whom live paycheck to paycheck, being out of work left them high and dry. While for some the biggest discomfort was not being able to leave their homes whenever they wanted, others struggled with more basic needs such as having enough food to eat.

Acknowledging their vulnerabilities, ẤM helped provide about 10,000 meal portions, each worth VNĐ25,000-30,000, to the homeless and people living in difficulties in Hà Nội.

Volunteers at the ẤM (Warmth) charity prepares meals to deliver to the homeless and people in difficulties. Photo courtesy of ẤM

Hoàng Thảo, the ẤM project initiator, said the group called for donations from the community and worked with non-governmental organisations like the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation to identify people that needed help. The food was cooked at a certified food establishment, then delivered to the needy through a network of volunteers.

“Our project received a lot of support from the community, from those who are well-off and students who donated their savings for us to buy food and fruit, or simply volunteered to help prepare the meals,” Thảo said.

“To me and everyone working on the project, that’s the best illustration of humanity, and we are trying our best to share with people living in difficult circumstances so they know that they are still being cared for, loved and supported a lot. Together we will overcome everything.”

Vũ Trung Anh, a member of the group, said he felt regretful in cases of homeless old people who were still facing miserable conditions even after social distancing.

"There is an old woman who we are now trying to help who was abandoned by her children and had to live in streets," Anh said. 

"During the quarantine time, we provided her meals every day. After that, one of her sons came to take her home for care but was also very poor and could not support her for long. Recently she became sick and is being treated in hospital, so we are trying to cover all her fees."

He said that despite the city nearly returning to normal, the group had to limit the number of volunteers, so sometimes not as much charity work was done as before.

Fortunately, the number of homeless people in the city has now decreased so the group can increase the quality of donated goods. The group also plans to provide shelter and seek jobs for them so that they can support themselves, according to the volunteer.

Collective efforts

Hà Nội's Department of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs says that there are about 106,000 migrant workers living in the city without registering their temporary residence with the authorities.

This prevents them from getting financial support from the city authorities and the Government since proof of residency is  required for them to be eligible for aid.

Aware of this situation, participants at the Development Incubator Fellowship, funded by Oxfam and the People’s Participation Working Group, have supported migrant workers by giving them money or relief packages containing food, medicines and essential items, each worth VNĐ1 million.

Out-of-work migrant workers in Hà Nội receive cash support and relief boxes from the Development Incubator Fellowship. Photo courtesy of the organiser

 “They actually picked up the phone, called the migrant workers they knew through previous social projects and asked them about their situation,” said Vũ Văn Toàn, the project coordinator.

“Collecting and verifying information was the first thing we did, and it played a very important role in our activities. It ensured that we supported the right people and really met their needs."

The money and gift packages were sent to 157 migrant workers with letters of encouragement, phone numbers of doctors, and addresses of locations that provide free medicines.

“What we give is not as important as how we give. When supporting people, we need to pay attention to actually calling them, talking to them to enhance connections emotionally, not just financially," Toàn said.

"We want the connection, companionship and support from these activities to help remove the distance between people despite social distancing, so the pandemic will not divide us but unite us.”

Từ Thanh Thúy, 20, a second-year university student also participated in charitable activities. She gave food to out-of-work and homeless people in the streets that didn't have the means to ask for help.

“I thought of the scrap dealers, who, no matter how much they earn during the day, still have to pay rent,” she told the Urbanist Hanoi online newspaper.

“But in the middle of the pandemic, they couldn’t earn much, so I decided to help them. Because they are the ones that don’t know what social media is; some don’t even have a mobile phone.”

Second-year university student Từ Thanh Thúy prepares food bags to give to the disadvantaged in Hà Nội. Photo courtesy of Từ Thanh Thúy

Thúy and three friends started their charity at the beginning of August. They called for donations from friends to buy food, then prepared bags of dried food which consisted of rice, fish sauce, salt, canned fish, shredded pork, peanuts, sometimes vegetables, and hand them out.

 “One time I gave food to an old man in Ô Chợ Dừa Ward, and he exclaimed: ‘Oh, you’ve got rice and eggs, how lucky I am! I’ve been hungry for days, I only need rice now. Can you give me more rice? You don’t have to give me vegetables. Rice and eggs are good enough for me,’” Thúy said.

“I felt so sorry for him, I said: ‘No problem, please take the vegetables.’ But he insisted on not taking it, and kept asking for more rice." - VNS

An elderly scrap dealer receives food  from Thúy. Photo courtesy of Từ Thanh Thúy