The story of an 80-year-woman in HCM City caring for 50 stray cats at her home for almost half a century has moved many people. The lonely woman has spent most of her time feeding stray and abused cats with the modest amount of money she earned from selling fish sauce at the Da Kao Market.
Le Thi Quy says she cherishes the cats she's adopted over the years, and she did not have the heart to turn them away, no matter what their condition.
After her story made the news, her 30sq.m house in a small alley was besieged by visitors for several days, mostly young people who gave her money and rice, not to mention more dogs and cats. So the animals she had to care for increased and Quy's house now resounds with meaows and barks.
The sad part of this story is that being in the spotlight has not improved matters for the old woman. It has done the opposite. She had to sell the rice and sugar, gifts from visitors, as it occupied a large area and the animals had no place to sleep. The old woman, with her bent back and other health issues, is so tired after taking care of the new animals that she frequently ends up sleeping without eating.
She's had to install a sign saying is not asking for charity, that others should respect her privacy and avoid disturbing her and her animals.
Acts of kindness have become an annoyance.
Quy's experience is worth a closer look, because it casts light on some shadowy parts of charity that are all too often ignored.
Ngo Anh Tho, a representative of the Vi ta can nhau (We Need Each Other) charity group, said many people gave away things they no longer used without considering whether it would be useful for those they ostensibly intend to help.
Tho said that last year, her group received a truck full of used clothes as donation for flood victims in the central provinces of Quang Binh and Ha Tinh. She and other volunteers had to spend hours choosing clothes that could be used because much of the donated clothing was in tatters and smelt bad. A large volume, including night dresses, underwear and night gowns, was totally unusable.
"It was a waste of time!" she said, adding, "we were really annoyed with these benefactors."
Since such donations were not an isolated case, Tho has posted a letter on her group's website, calling upon people to pay attention to what they give, showing respect to those they are trying to help.
She said her group has decided to do their work differently, collecting money to buy new clothes and blankets or build classrooms for children.
"Giving is a beautiful act, and the way you give is much more important than its value," she said.
Bui Thi Hiep, deputy director of the Ha Noi-based Psychology Research Centre, said such charity reflected a shallow attitude that lacked empathy for those who needed help.
Parents who tell their children about helping others should go further and teach them how to do so effectively. And for doing this, they should keep in mind that the main aim in helping someone is to make them happy. She said that if an act of kindness did not come from the heart, it is unlikely to benefit the beneficiaries. — VNS