by Xuan Hiep & Thanh Thuy
Squatters use suburban villas as shelters
Poor migrant workers in Ha Noi have found a new rent-free home: unfinished villas outside the city that have been left incomplete because of a lack of investment funds.
Often covered with moss and grass, the deserted villas are located in new urban areas like Ha Dong, Tu Liem and Gia Lam districts and are close to newly expanded roads, schools, supermarkets and hospitals. Most of them, however, have no electricity or water supply.
Migrants who use the villas as temporary shelter or live in them sell goods, grow vegetables and store waste materials. Unfortunately, the villas have also become havens for drug users.
Some of the villa owners had tried to lease their properties, but very few people agreed. Thus, the villas have remained vacant, and most migrants have refused to pay rent.
Nguyen Thi Kim Huong, a soft-drink seller at a deserted villa in Ha Dong District, said she had been selling drinks for three years at a villa.
"I don't see a villa owner asking me for payment or to move," she said. "If they asked, I would just move to another deserted villa, and there are many of them. I've moved several times. I receive only a little profit. How can I afford the rent of VND10 million a month?"
Construction on many of these villas discontinued because investors lacked sufficient capital, according to the Ministry of Construction.
Memories of Da Lat SOS Village's early days
The SOS Village in Da Lat celebrated its 40th anniversary on Tuesday, and the Vietnamese-French couple who raised most of the money to build the village vividly recall that difficult but inspiring period.
To raise funds, Prof Le Kim Ngoc, chairwoman of AEVN, and her husband, Prof Tran Thanh Van, sold packages of 10 Christmas cards for $2 in front of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on cold winter days. Moved by their good deeds, many people followed suit at other churches.
Most of Viet Nam's SOS Children's Villages were established by SOS Kinderdorf International, a non-profit organisation. However, the Da Lat SOS Children's Village was established and funded by AEVN, a French-based charity organisation that helps Vietnamese children.
The $1-million Village opened in 1974 but had to close one year later. It opened again in 1989 after AEVN spent $300,000 to repair the facility.
As of September last year, at least 275 children were living at the Village in 14 family houses, each of which caters to 10 children.
The SOS mother in each house must be single, have a good background, and possess specialised skills in caring for children.
The children attend the Da Lat SOS Kindergarten and Da Lat Hermann Gmeiner School, and receive healthcare services at the SOS Medical Centre.
The Village's SOS Youth Facility also accepts young people from poor families who have excellent academic performances.
There are 16 SOS Children's Villages in Viet Nam, including one in Ha Noi, HCM City and Da Nang.
SOS Children's Villages International was founded in Austria by Hermann Gmeiner in 1949 and is now active in 133 countries and territories. — VNS