Interest-free loans are helping poor ethnic villagers from Vietnam’s central highlands look forward to a bright future. A Caritas worker from Da Lat diocese said hundreds of poor ethnic villagers in Lam Dong province are given interest-free loans by the local church, up to five million dong (US$256) per year to grow crops or keep poultry and livestock for a living. He said those who are 70 years old and above are offered eight kilos of rice each per month, and students from poor families are granted 500,000 dong each per year. Local church people also visit and give medicine to some patients, said the Church worker who asked not to be identified. “We want to offer ethnic villagers material advantages so that they can improve their life and avoid poverty.” One recipient, Maria K’rang, a 42-year-old mother of five, said: “Since 2009 I have borrowed 10,000 million dong without interest charges from the local Church to cultivate a 10,000-square-meter coffee farm and support my family.” In addition, the 42-year-old mother of five said, her children go to school and are given scholarships from the local church. “I hope my children can avoid poverty after their studies,” she added. She said she is very proud of her eldest son who studies IT at a university in Da Lat city. Local ethnic children generally finish their study at elementary schools since they have no enough money to study further, she added. Caritas said domestic and foreign benefactors cover all expenses. Cecilia Nguyen Thanh Thien Huong, a benefactor from the US, said she visited some local elderly people and poor students. She said she and her friends have donated money to provide rice and scholarships to poor people since 2000. “We want to share something with underprivileged people,” she added. VT12957.1637
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