Viet Nam News
On top of their regular charity work, police officers from the district of Mỹ Tú, in the southern province of Sóc Trăng, have added an extra duty to their daily routine: cooking up a hot meal for patients at the local hospital. Phương Hà reports.
At four every morning, policemen on duty in the district of Mỹ Tú, in the southern province of Sóc Trăng, embark on the first job of the day: preparing a big pot of porridge to take to disadvantaged patients at the local hospital.
Holding his steaming bowl of porridge, Đặng Văn Biền from Thiện Mỹ District could barely contain his happiness.
“Many poor patients come to Mỹ Tú Hospital, and they are always grateful to receive the meal from local policemen. Their charity really warms our hearts. The porridge is delicious and hot, so we all feel better after tucking in,” he says.
“I thought that such a delicious porridge must have been cooked by professionals, but it turns out that it’s all made by the local policemen,” he adds.
The idea of offering porridge to poor patients was thought of by Colonel Trần Quyết Liệt, who is also the head of the district’s police department.
“On beginning my duties in the district, I surveyed the local area and found a great many disadvantaged people being treated at Mỹ Tú Hospital. Many were surviving on just plain rice and vegetables for their meals, and others had only rice porridge or plain vegetarian food for breakfast,” he recalls.
Born into a poor family himself, Liệt was greatly moved by the plight of these patients.
“I thought I had to do something to improve their diet, which in turn would improve their health. I immediately held a meeting with the managers of Mỹ Tú Hospital and discussed ways in which we could help those in need. Thankfully the hospital authority was very supportive of my proposals.”
“Since then, my colleagues and I began to cook meat porridge for the patients every morning,” he says.
The budget for the ingredients is made up of contributions from local policemen, their acquaintances, families, and Col Liệt’s own pocket as well.
Holiday happiness: Poor villagers in Mỹ Tú District receive gifts from the local police department during the Tết holiday.
Soon after the first bowls of porridge were handed out, word spread about the initiative among businesses in nearby Huỳnh Hữu Nghĩa Market. Local tradespeople were keen to support in any way they could; like donating money, rice, fuel or selling ingredients at low prices.
According to Liệt, each person from his department was assigned a different task, like buying the ingredients, preparing them, washing the rice, or lighting the fire. The officers work as a team to have the 60-litre pot of porridge ready by 5:30am.
As soon as the clock strikes six, the pot of porridge will be carried to the grounds of the hospital in a police car.
“The quality of the ingredients is given priority, so that the porridge is delicious and nutritious. We prepare the meal as if the recipients were our own family members,” Liệt says.
According to the colonel, just 50 patients registered for the meal in the first few days. As patients praised the taste, the number increased steadily, and eventually 100 to 120 patients were enjoying the hot breakfast.
Many former patients, who used to eat the police’s porridge every morning, have become enthusiastic contributors and even called on others to help out. The reputation has spread far and wide. Now the porridge pots of the Mỹ Tú District Police have attracted donations from people around the country, and even from Vietnamese citizens living overseas.
“Every time we cook the porridge and deliver it to the poor patients, we feel more sympathy for their plight. We therefore feel that we are responsible for taking care of them, like our relatives,” one official from Mỹ Tú Police says.
Besides cooking porridge for the poor patients, Liệt and his men have also launched annual charity campaigns to buy gifts for the poor around the Tết holiday. At the beginning of the school-year, they use donations from the community to buy equipment, like new notebooks or bicycles, for poor students.
“We are always impressed when we see the policemen in uniforms carrying the huge pot of steaming porridge to the hospital every morning,” says local Huỳnh Thị Phương Thảo. “They are so busy with ensuring the security and safety of local people, but they haven’t forgotten the poor. Their porridge initiative and the donations have shown their steadfast dedication to serving local people.”
The good deeds of the local police have been highly praised by the managers of Mỹ Tú Hospital.
“The free meal has helped poor patients, by alleviating financial difficulties and improving their attitude towards convalescence,” says Nguyễn Thanh Tào, the manager of the department of organisation and administration at Mỹ Tú Hospital.
Col Liệt explains that the voluntary work aims to sympathise with disadvantaged people and students, increasing understanding about the work the police do, which will hopefully contribute to social security.
“That explains why no serious criminal cases have occurred locally in recent years. By winning the locals’ trust, the police also earn their support in ensuring safety and security for all,” Liệt says. VNS