Samaritans provide shelter to Covid-19 vulnerable

By Nhat Minh   April 23, 2020 | 01:00 am PT
The recently unemployed and homeless have been given a helping hand as Covid-19 affects livelihoods.

Tran Quang Duy, 36, does not want to talk much about the ups and downs he has experienced.

He was born in a low-income family in Ho Chi Minh City and raised by many people, including a monk at a local pagoda, who always told him to help others.

Several years ago, leaving the southern metropolis for the Central Highlands province of Kon Tum, Duy and his wife opened a pharmacy and real estate business. In 2017, they built a house in Dak Ha Town, including four rooms for the poor. One year later, Duy bought another plot and built eight rooms. People experiencing difficulties can stay here for free and only pay for electricity and water. 

"Houses for rent with love," Duy's signboard outside the 12 rooms read. Each is 36 meters square with an indoor restroom. There is also a playground for children and a garden for adults who want to grow flowers. Construction cost him about VND3 billion ($128,112) in total.

"I said I would only stay for a year, but I am still here," Phuong Le, a tenant, told Duy.

Phuong Le at home with her children. Photo courtesy of Tran Quang Duy.

Phuong Le at home with her children. Photo courtesy of Tran Quang Duy.

"If you have difficulties, stay here. You are young, so challenges are normal. Just try, and God will give you what you deserve," Duy responded. 

According to Le, her husband used to work as a truck driver and had an accident, making him jobless during the Covid-19 pandemic. The mother, staying home to care for their two children, has been struggling.

"Duy is one of a kind. If we were not allowed to stay here for free, our whole family would be homeless," Phuong said.

Nguyen Kieu Oanh, 28, is also living in Duy’s house. Since she was a child, Oanh had to take care of her mentally ill father. In the last three years, the family spent all their funds to save Oanh’s brother from systemic lupus erythematosus and chronic kidney disease. 

Several days ago, her sister in law vanished with her children, leaving Oanh alone with the financial burden.

"I have to go to the hospital to take care for my brother and cannot work. We owe Duy. He is kind, friendly and always supports everyone," said Oanh, who works on some local farms to earn money, while her husband delivers fish.

The entrance gate of Duys houses. Photo courtesy of Tran Quang Duy.

The entrance to Duy's house. Photo courtesy of Tran Quang Duy.

In the coastal town of Nha Trang of southern Khanh Hoa Province, Nguyen Thi Huong covers rent for many poor locals.

Huong pays over VND6 million ($256) per month to rent two rooms for 20 people unemployed due to Covid-19. She also supports them with meals and lends each VND1-2 million ($43-85.5) to support family members.

Fifteen of them are Huong’s colleagues, who lost their job but could not return to their hometowns. Others used to work with her and became jobless during the social distancing campaign.

"I see them as family members, so when they experience difficulties, I cannot just ignore them. Behind these men are their wives and families," said Huong, 38, leading a team of stonemasons.

Working in the stone industry for over five years, Huong and her husband have never faced such upheaval. They had to borrow money to support their neighbors.

"At first we had fish and meat. But the pandemic kept raging, and I had to go to the beach to buy fresh and cheap seafood, or use vegetables and eggs to cook for others," Huong noted.

She also introduced the jobless men to local fishers so they could earn some cash.

"I am lucky because Huong and her husband support me, helping me with accommodation and food. I would not know how to live without their help," said Lo Van Duc, 35. His hometown is 200 kilometers away, but there is no bus, which made him decided to remain.

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