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Samaritans provide free roadside assistance to returning migrants

By Pham Nga   October 11, 2021 | 06:52 am PT
Huynh Van Hoai Han and friends have been offering free vehicle repair services to returning migrant workers in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap.

When the hotline of SOS Thap Muoi Rescue Team rang at 10 p.m., Han and two friends quickly put on raincoats, and rushed to National Highway N2 six kilometers away. While the team was fixing three flat tires under the pouring rain, Han urged the delegation of more than 30 people to temporarily take shelter at the nearby checkpoint.

The three men turned on a phone's flashlight to work as the rain tore their thin raincoat apart, leaving them shivering in the cold for near an hour.

Han and team members help people repair motorbike with punctured tires on National Highway N2 in September 2021. Photo courtesy of Han

Han and team members help migrants repair their motorbikes on National Highway N2, September 2021. Photo courtesy of Han

"In the group there were old people, a few children and pregnant women. Everyone's hair was tangled because of dust mixed with rain water. They kept bowing their heads and said thank you. I was just glad to be able to help them out," Han, 28, said.

Since Lunar New Year (in February), he and his close friends have used their own money to buy water and bread, handing them out to migrants workers who returned home from southern industrial hubs.

Seeing many suffering breakdowns along the way, Han's group discussed setting up a vehicle repair team.

"In the past, when I went to school in Saigon, I used to ride my motorbike back to my hometown. My motorbike broke down all the time, so I understand their feelings," he said.

In February, SOS Thap Muoi Rescue Team, led by Han, was born, operating from 8 p.m. until midnight daily.

Since early October, when provinces began to ease travel restrictions and many people returned to their hometown, Han's team has been operating 24/7.

SOS Thap Muoi Rescue Team distributes gasoline into bottles to supply passersby on October 2021. Photo courtesy of Han

SOS Thap Muoi Rescue Team distributes gasoline to passers by, October 2021. Photo courtesy of Han

The team now has 18 members, including two professional mechanics, divided into four shifts, said Han. Up to now, the group has supported more than 800 breakdowns along the way.

Tran Thi Ngan, 22, a worker in Long An Province is one of the returning migrants that received helped from Han's team while riding her motorbike alone back to Dong Thap.

Plunging into a pothole, Ngan's bike rattled to a stop. She managed to push the motorbike to the quarantine checkpoint for help and was given the hotline number of SOS Thap Muoi Rescue Team by the traffic police.

Like hundreds of people who returned to their hometown to avoid the epidemic, in addition to helping repair cars, Ngan was given gasoline, bread and drinking water by the team.

"Everybody goes in groups so they can support each other. But I travel alone, I don't know what I will do without you guys," she said on Oct. 8.

In order to have funds to help people like Ngan, members of the rescue team initially asked relatives and friends for money. When the groups of people returned to their hometowns grew larger, the team mobilized more benefactors to sponsor more tires, gasoline and other kinds of vehicle parts.

Ho Van Tai, Deputy Secretary of Doan Thap Muoi District, said he visited Han's team to learn how they operate.

"They were dedicated and polite when supporting people regardless of day or night. When Dong Thap was isolated and people did not travel, they were on duty at checkpoints," Tai said.

While supporting those in need, Han said he "found the meaning of his life."

Han added he chose to farm like his parents and remain close to home.

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