Volunteering on a daily basis is already a difficult task, but volunteering during a pandemic is ten thousand times more difficult when the dangers of being infected with the disease are always lurking and the city is under strict social distancing measures. However, hundreds of charity groups are still active, soup kitchens are still on fire, the buses are still running frequently amidst all the difficulties, because…
“... there are many people who are in need of a meal, a place to stay, and above all, need to feel cared for in times of tribulation. These groups of people in need are inherently small, even invisible. If the pandemic did not happen, poverty would just blend into the hustle and bustle of the city. The pandemic has brought this misery to light, but even so, these people were very lonely.”
This sharing of doctor Hai Oanh, representative of the Mỗi Ngày Một Quả Trứng (One Egg A Day) project, perhaps is also the heart of many benefactors and charity units who are persistently helping the community from day-to-day.
Vietcetera had a special conversation with the people behind projects supplying food and necessities for the disadvantaged, which are Sài Gòn Chợ Lạc Xoong (lit. Lac Xoong Market in Saigon), Nắng (lit. Sunshine), Mỗi Ngày Một Quả Trứng (One Egg A Day), Sài Gòn Bao Dung (lit. Generous Saigon), listening to them telling stories of kindness, hardship, and warmth in these tough times.
“If we are one minute late, the poor will be hungry for one more day”
For most charity groups, moving around the city is the most difficult problem in the situation of social distancing. “Normally the poor neighborhoods are already located in remote areas, or somewhere deep inside the alleys with sloped terrain. In the situation of pandemic prevention and control, transportation will take a lot more time due to being stopped at checkpoints, or having to take a further detour of about ten kilometers,” said the representative of Mỗi Ngày Một Quả Trứng group.
Sharing the same thought, Bui Vinh The — leader of the Sài Gòn Chợ Lạc Xoong group, shared that “it is very difficult to have enough trucks to deliver to the places that need help.”
A mobility permit is a necessary condition, and giving an explanation at the checkpoints to be able to pass through is a sufficient condition. Although it was hard, the groups all shared the same thought: “If we are one minute late, the poor will be hungry for one more day.”
“Whenever the members feel tired, we would encourage each other that we are still fortunate enough to have a roof to protect ourselves from the sun and rain, to have food to sustain our lives, and are trusted by benefactors and the community to fulfill our responsibilities,” shared Bui Vinh The. Those who are in need of help may be without food or a home, and this thought encourages the volunteers to not give up.
And the numbers do not lie: “Mỗi ngày một quả trứng” has supported more than 4,500 food packages with a total value of about 2.2 billion VND, helping 4,500 households with nearly 18,000 people during social distancing times. Sài Gòn chợ Lạc Xoong has also given more than 28,000 food supply packages from July 5 until now.
“Keep the fire burning”
Volunteering during the pandemic began to become more intense when the social distancing period was being extended beyond all expectations. Funds of each organization “drained” gradually, surrounding resources were exhausted, while cases of need for help, for food and necessities purchases, were increasing. Finding and knocking on the right doors to support people in difficulty was also not a simple task when the manpower was too little.
Meanwhile, many people in difficulty did not know who to call for help or where to go, struggling to live through the days with all that was left in the house.
Seeing the difficulties of both sides, some technology businesses came up with the idea of a platform to connect and support the community. One of them is Saigon Bao Dung - a platform to gather prestige charity units, launched after only 72 hours of quick ideation and product development. Another is Zalo Connect, which was also urgently finalized by Zalo engineers in five days, with the companionship of the National Technology Centre for COVID-19 Prevention and Control.
The birth of Saigon Bao Dung was seen as a huge support to many charity units. This platform connects three important elements in charity work: benefactors across the country, reputable charity units, and people in difficulty in Ho Chi Minh City.
Since joining the platform, nearly 70 prestigious charity organizations have received support from thousands of benevolent users across the country. Whenever resources are nearly exhausted, Nắng, Sài Gòn Lạc Xoong, and Mỗi Ngày Một Quả Trứng organizations seem to be “energized” by the benefactors’ community to continue their meaningful journey.
“This support helps us to maintain and operate our projects without interruption, helping more struggling lives during this time,” said Bui Vinh The.
From a user perspective, the presence of charity organizations on Saigon Bao Dung with full principles and operating methods also help benefactors easily search and choose the organizations they want to support. People with difficulties are also able to look up the nearest supply location in their area.
Kim Tuyen, founder of “Nắng,” shared that: “This meaningful project has helped Nắng and other organizations connect with many people, especially young people, to gather and contribute to support people during the pandemic. When Nắng was present on Saigon Bao Dung, it also gained the trust of more people.”
Up to now, Saigon Bao Dung has successfully helped charity groups receive donations totaling more than 600 million VND, with more than 2,500 transactions. The project also supported 43 charity units with an amount of nearly two billion VND.
The representative of Saigon Bao Dung shared that, first and foremost, this platform aims to provide urgent support to Saigon, where the number of COVID-19 patients has increased rapidly in a short time and the number of people in difficulty is increasing. However, the project is expected to become a bridge connecting and supporting other cities and regions in the future.
In the case of Zalo Connect, the feature of connecting “people who need help” and “people who want to help” has proven the resonance power of the majority: 81,000 supports have been carried out in less than one month of the project’s releasing, focusing on four factors including food, necessities, medicine and medical advice.
Technology platforms not only connect people and spread positive energy across the country, but also untie difficult knots and share the burden for charity organizations.
If only contributing financially, VNG, Zalo, and other businesses can only help a few thousand people. As we have this saying “The intact leaves protect the tattered ones”, by creating the “extended bridges” like Saigon Bao Dung or Zalo Connect, they will encourage common support from the majority, helping millions of people. The power of the internet, or the presence of technology, is meaningful in helping the community during these difficult times.
Sharing kindness to receive invisible happiness in return
“We don’t need to wait until we are very rich to do charity,” this saying was always vague, until the outbreak of COVID-19 in Saigon. The more miserable lives are revealed under the busy facade of Saigon, the more ordinary people feel lucky and ready to support. The voice of conscience always responds to calls for help. Hundreds of thousands of kindnesses were given, silently and quietly, expecting nothing in return.
Just a word of gratitude, a thankful look, a clasp of hands, is enough to dispel a tiring day. Bui Vinh The shared that, “Despite having given more than 22,000 packages, up to now, every moment of being thanked for or seeing the thankful look in recipient’s eyes is an unforgettable moment.”
The story about the pan of kho quẹt (caramelized fish sauce) of a grandmother and her grandchildren in the heart of Saigon is also a touching memory for the charity group. The members of Mỗi Ngày Một Quả Trứng group often remember this “kho quẹt” pan with only fish sauce being boiled to be eaten with bread. The grandmother in this story has lost her job for many months and could not afford to buy any food for her four grandchildren.
“Bread is also supplied. The group supported my family with a food package for 15 days. Realizing that my gas tank was empty, a benefactor also provided extra money to buy a new gas cylinder. It’s been a long time since we’ve had a decent meal.” Hearing her sharing, the dinner at nine o’clock of the charity group also became heartwarming.
Saigon will be healthy again, the hard days will be in the past, but the good things will last forever. This is not only about an organization, an individual, or a business, but also about spreading kindness and humanity, during an unprecedented pandemic.
Adapted by Thao Van