Lao students sign up to become frontline pandemic fighters in Vietnam

By Binh Minh   June 19, 2021 | 05:39 am PT
Lao medical students studying in Vietnam have volunteered to become part of the frontline forces battling the new Covid-19 wave.

Late May, when surfing on his smartphone to get information on the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak in Vietnam, Yenh Xua Ly, 22, a sophomore at the Vinh Medical University, was impressed by the story of a 28-year-old doctor in Ho Chi Minh City.

The young doctor was having his head shaved as he prepared for his trip to fight Covid-19 in the northern province of Bac Giang, pandemic epicenter in the fourth wave to hit Vietnam. To work better in their protective suits, many medics decided to shave heads or cut their hair as short as possible.

Inspired by the strong will and the bright smile of that doctor, Yenh wanted to do the same thing: be on the frontline, fighting the pandemic.

Vinh Medical University is in Vinh Town, the capital of Nghe An Province.

Earlier this month, when the neighboring province of Ha Tinh recorded its first local infections in the fourth wave that broke out in Vietnam on April 27, Yenh decided to apply to be part of the volunteer medical force to fight the pandemic.

Lao medical student Yenh Xua Ly. Photo by Yenh

Lao medical student Yenh Xua Ly. Photo courtesy of Yenh.

"Both Laos and Vietnam have been hit by the pandemic. I cannot participate in the fight against it in my home country now, so I will help protect Vietnam," he said.

Before submitting his application, Yenh thought that his ability to speak Vietnamese could be a barrier, but then changed his mind.

"I think it’s no big deal. If I don't know something, I will ask people to explain it to me in detail. By volunteering, I’ll have a chance to meet more Vietnamese people, which would help improve my Vietnamese language skills."

Another sophomore at the Vinh Medical University, Som Oh has also volunteered to be part of the pandemic-fighting force, hoping she can learn from the experiences of others who’d joined the fight earlier.

Lao medical student Som Oh. Photo by Som

Lao medical student Som Oh. Photo courtesy of Som Oh.

Though friends told her to carefully consider the decision, Som is determined.

"I still want to go and help. As a medical student, I want to share the hardship that other medics out there have suffered, having to work with protective gear in the hot weather."

In her application, Som wrote in Vietnamese: "As the pandemic is still developing unpredictably, I as a medical student would like to contribute to protecting public health and contain the disease within the community."

Nguyen Anh Duc, a teacher at their school, said more than 1,000 students have applied as volunteers to be part of the Covid-19 frontline force. Of more than 100 Lao students, more than 10 have applied, too.

He said the university regularly organizes exchange activities between Vietnamese, Lao, Thai and Cambodian students to strengthen friendships and have cultural exchanges among regional nations.

"I am touched by the affection of the students from our neighboring country. They have been through a lot as many haven’t been able to return home to Laos after the pandemic broke out," he said.

For now, it has not been decided who among the 1,000 applicants will go to the frontline as they wish.

Neither Yenh nor Som have talked to their families about their application because their loved ones might worry about such a move.

After arriving in Vietnam in 2018, the two spent the first nine months studying Vietnamese.

As scholarship recipients, they are granted tuition exemption and allowed to stay for free in the school’s dormitory. They also receive a monthly stipend of VND2 million ($87).

So far, Vietnam has recorded more than 9,600 community coronavirus infections in 41 of 63 localities in the latest Covid-19 wave that began April 27.

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