Samaritans help struggling HCMC migrant workers return home

By Diep Phan   August 3, 2021 | 09:00 pm PT
Thousands of people leaving Covid-struck HCMC and southern localities have been supported with meals, vehicle repair or gas money while heading home.

Last Sunday, Lieutenant Nguyen Van Quynh from the traffic police team of Dak R'Lap District in the Central Highlands province of Dak Nong received a notice from southern Binh Phuoc Province police stating a group of people was about to head towards the Cai Chanh checkpoint.

Immediately, Quynh called local donors to prepare meals to bring to the post, ready to support the group of migrant workers returning to their hometowns.

A family receives a donated meal lunch portion from medic at a the Cai Chanh checkpoint in Dak Nong Province. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Quynh.

A family receives a donated lunch from a medic at the Cai Chanh checkpoint in Dak Nong Province. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Quynh.

In the past few days, residents along National Highway 14 have become accustomed to streams of motorbikes coming from Ho Chi Minh City, Binh Duong and other localities passing through the Central Highlands and central provinces. Whatever their destination, they have been supported by both local people and traffic police.

Thousands of migrant workers from pandemic-struck southern localities have driven long distances to get back home in the central provinces and other regions as the Covid crisis worsens.

At Cai Chanh checkpoint, Binh Phuoc traffic police handed over the group of migrants to Dak Nong police. After submitting medical declarations, the group continued toward Dak Lak Province.

En route, Quynh witnessed many families carrying children just a few months old or ethnic minorities driving a broken or out of gas vehicles. He knew they had spent all their money to get tested for Covid-19 and return to their hometowns.

He subsequently called for benefactors via social media. Soon after, bread, sticky rice and other supplies were brought to the Cai Chanh checkpoint to assist passersby.

For more than a week now, in addition to regulating traffic, Quynh has helped distribute supplies. Thanks to Quynh's post, many car repair shops and gas stations on both sides of the road have also "set up field posts" to provide free support.

People passing through the Cai Chanh checkpoint on July 31 receive food donations. Video by Nguyen Quynh.

Huy Truyen, 36, from Dak R'Lap District, saw Quynh share pictures of migrant workers traveling home with their newborn babies wrapped in cloth on broken vehicles. Moved, Truyen took VND5 million ($217) and brought it to the station.

"Quynh helped me hand each passerby VND100,000 for them to use as gas money," Truyen said.

Seeing that during the day, many benefactors gave out free meals to commuters traveling during daytime, while the group that returned at night had none, Truyen had ordered more than 400 free boxes of sticky rice to migrant workers travelling via the checkpoint.

"Supporting them safely is also the province's way of assisting HCMC during this difficult time," the 26-year-old lieutenant said.

More than 200 kilometers from the Cai Chanh checkpoint, outside National Highway 1A, Venerable Thich Quang Cao, abbot of An Lac Pagoda in the south central province of Binh Thuan and local people left portions of rice, water, milk and other necessities on the roadside for those in need to pick up.

In addition to food, these samaritans also handed out envelopes with VND100,000 inside for travelers to fill up on gas. For four days now, more than 50 people have arrived to receive gifts. People who return home by car often only receive food and water, not money.

"In the midst of this pandemic, I guess people don't dare stop along the road. Moreover, there's no one around here who sells anything. I want to lend a helping hand because I know the way back home is still arduous," said Thich Quang Cao.

Ngo Thi Bich Thuyens zero dong food support station on National Highway 1A in the territory of Song Cau Town, Phu Yen Province. Photo courtesy of Thuyen.

Ngo Thi Bich Thuyen's 'zero dong' food support station on National Highway 1A in the territory of Song Cau Town, central Phu Yen Province. Photo courtesy of Thuyen.

The section through Song Cau Town in the south central province of Phu Yen also boasts nearly a dozen gift stations insupport of passersby.

Ngo Thi Bich Thuyen, a local resident, has called on her friends to cook more than 200 servings of rice a day to give to people passing through this section.

Choose a location near a traffic light, Thuy's group is on duty from 5 a.m. til late at night. There, she puts up a table with boxes of cooked meals. Seeing many families carrying their children, she also prepared diapers, milk and boiling water. She also gave out face masks for them to change after a long journey.

Not daring to stand next to the table to hand them out directly for fear of being infected, Thuyen often watches from afar. Whenever she saw motorbikes carrying people and their belongings, she waved her hand. As the group approached, she backed ten meters away so passersby could get what they needed.

"If I leave the food there without waving, people will be afraid to come in when they see no one there," she explained.

"It's the first time I've seen so many motorbikes with number plates from different localities passing by. I don't blame or discriminate against people coming from epidemic areas, I just feel sorry for them. They accept food and then bow their heads to thank me. It made me very emotional," Thuyen said.

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