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Introducing cinema to mountainous region in central Vietnam

By Quynh Nguyen   July 18, 2022 | 09:10 pm PT
Introducing cinema to mountainous region in central Vietnam
Ho Hoang Liem watches a cartoon with students of Tak Po school in rural Nam Tra My District, Quang Nam Province, May 2022. Photo courtesy of Liem
When the opening scene of a cartoon appeared on the screen, children at Tak Po school in Quang Nam Province screamed with delight and Ho Hoang Liem smiled with satisfaction.

It was the third time Liem, 33, and his friends were screening movies for children living atop mountains.

In January they set up mobile movie stations for students at the Vu A Dinh Ethnic Minority Semi-boarding school in Tra Don Commune in Quang Nam Province's Nam Tra My District, and in May in Canh Tien village in Binh Dinh Province's Canh Lien Commune.

This time nearly 100 students at Tak Po elementary school watched animated movies for the first time in their lives.

To set up the mobile movie station, Liem's group has to transport projectors and screens hundreds of kilometers from Da Nang City up to Quang Nam's Tra Tap Commune.

The climb is hazardous, and vehicles can only go up to a point, from where the group had to lug the equipment up to the top.

Liem says the idea of showing children living on mountains movies came to him two years ago when he was watching a video clip.

In it he saw some children bewildered by seeing the sea and cars for the first time. One boy pointed to a tall building and asked, "What is this?"

"Since children in mountains live in rural areas, they only know about buffaloes, chickens and streams. So cinema is something they have never experienced before.

"Besides introducing them to modern technology, I hope my action also gives them a memorable childhood," Liem stated.

Tra Thi Thu, a teacher at Tak Po school, was touched to see the kids' eager, excited faces on seeing cartoons for the first time in their lives.

"Earlier they had to imagine the outside world through stories from their teachers, but now they can see it for themselves.

"In addition to providing entertainment, projectors are a modern teaching tool, allowing us to provide more visual lessons and attracting more children to school."

She says while many charity groups help build schools and donate food and supplies, Liem's group is unique for focusing on children’s "mental well-being."

"Besides showing movies, they also gave the children kites, toy cars and teddy bears, earning them the nickname 'toy gods’.

"From students to local residents, everyone appreciates what the group has done for them."

Liem was born in Da Nang in a poor family. Since he was young he and kids in his neighborhood often waited in line from early morning to afternoon to get food and toys donated by charitable organizations.

"The kids in my neighborhood were always overjoyed to receive the gifts. So I told myself I would do a lot of charity like those aunts and uncles when I grew up."

So he became involved with many school volunteer groups while in college. He and some close friends also formed their own charitable group, 'Cau Lac Bo Nu Cuoi Hong Da Nang' (Da Nang Pink Smile Club), for assisting disadvantaged people and poor students in remote areas in Quang Nam Province.

Since they did not have sponsors in the beginning, they raised funds by selling candy and flowers on the streets.

They also organized street music nights.

After around five years people began to know about the charity group and started to send in donations.

The group decided to find schools in remote areas to install solar power and water purifiers and build kids’ playgrounds.

Members of Liems charity group bring solar panels to a remote village in 2017. Photo courtesy of Liem

Members of Liem's charity group bring solar panels to a remote village in 2017. Photo courtesy of Liem

"The more I travel, the more I notice that many remote areas still lack electricity, clean water and modernity. I want to help them achieve positive changes."

In 2016 Liem and 13 of the group’s members took turns and carried four solar panels weighing more than 100 kg across four mountains to Village 5 in Quang Nam's Nam Tra My District.

Villagers and members of Liem's group cried and jumped with joy after the first electric light bulb came on a few hours after installation.

"Thanks to Liem's group, people no longer need to use kerosene lamps or candles," Ho Van Ven, secretary of the Tra Don Commune Party Committee, says, adding that the solar panels have been providing adequate lighting for the villagers.

The group has also installed solar panels in 16 other places in provinces like Quang Nam, Quang Tri, Kom Tum, Gia Lai, Quy Nhon and others, lighting up schools and villages.

Besides, it organizes surgeries for children with cleft lips and palates with assistance from sponsors in the country and abroad.

To keep things completely transparent, the group sends invoices for surgical and other costs directly to sponsors to make the payment.

Liem and his colleagues also help families in difficult circumstances send their children to school and support orphanages.

During the Covid outbreak they organized a so called ‘zero dong’ market in Da Nang.

On average he organizes two or three humanitarian programs a week while also doing his day job.

"I am fortunate to have the support of my family, which enables me to do charity works," he says.

Liem (first left, second row) poses for a photo next to children in a mountainous region in Quang Nam Province on June 23, 2022. Photo courtesy of Liem

Liem (second from front) poses for a photo with children in a mountainous region in Quang Nam Province on June 23, 2022. Photo courtesy of Liem

During his 12 years of volunteering, he has been in many dangerous situations. He nearly drowned when doing charity work in the central regions during historic flooding in 2020.

Liem's wife admits that she is really concerned about his safety after learning that he had narrowly avoided death several times.

He always assures her and continues his volunteer works, knowing that there were still many difficult lives in need of assistance.

Liem reveals that plans to install one more mobile movie theater next September, but this time in a province in northern Vietnam.

"I don't mind traveling long distances or working hard; I'm just worried that I won't be able to help everyone who needs it."

 
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