Lithuanian man helps clean up HCMC's canals

By Thanh Danh   August 16, 2023 | 11:00 pm PT
Lithuanian man helps clean up HCMC's canals
Arturas Balynas stands by a polluted canal in HCMC in 2023. Photo courtesy of Arturas Balynas
Lithuanian Arturas Balynas, who fell in love with Vietnam, decided to lend a helping hand to clean up HCMC’s canals.

After working in construction as a manager for 16 years in London, Britain, he found he could no longer handle the hectic pace.

He never felt truly connected with the place, and had to work virtually without any rest, he said.

During a visit to Thailand, he happened to speak with a Vietnamese café owner, who suggested he should go and live in Vietnam instead.

The thought never left his head, and he eventually moved to the country in 2019 and became an English teacher in Bien Hoa City in Dong Nai, which borders HCMC.

Balynas, 39, said he had made the right decision. He loves the peaceful life he leads in Vietnam and the sincerity and friendliness of the people. That also spurred him to explore the country and participate in voluntary work.

Earlier this year he contacted Sai Gon Xanh, a group for environmental protection, and learned about its campaigns to clean up polluted canals in HCMC.

He helped them clean up the Hy Vong Canal in Tan Binh District, which drains Tan Son Nhat Airport.

He said with its small number of volunteers the group used to collect trash from morning to night, and by the time he stopped at around 6 p.m. his arms would be numb.

In the months after that he often traveled from Bien Hoa to HCMC for clean-up campaigns. At his English center, he often has to switch shifts to accommodate his voluntary work, but his bosses are supportive.

Nguyen Luong Ngoc, founder of Sai Gon Xanh, said Balynas always surprises people with his enthusiasm.

"He does two or three times more work than other people. He shows his sincerity through his work, and language has never been a barrier for us."

Balynas has also been exploring the central region and learning about the people living in its mountainous areas and their cultures.

He said his parents and friends used to be worried at seeing him dive into the blackish waters of polluted canals, but were reassured after knowing that he was properly vaccinated and equipped with protective suits.

Ngoc said all of Sai Gon Xanh’s volunteers are vaccinated against diseases like flu, tetanus and typhoid fever. HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis is also available, he added.

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