A priest from a parish in central Vietnam has supervised the building of a bridge and road to help people of a mainly Buddhist village avoid drowning and travel to work. “We just completed a new bridge that will help prevent children from Bai Dap village from drowning in the coming rainy season,” said Father Paul Nguyen Trong, pastor of Nuoc Ngot parish, near the village. Father Trong said the cement bridge, 20 meters long and three meters wide, is over a stream isolating 600 Buddhist villagers from other people in the mountainous Phu Loc district of Thua Thien-Hue province. Local Catholics and benefactors covered the bridge’s cost of 150 million dong (US$7,500), noted the priest, who sold his own motorcycle to donate to the bridge. Father Trong, 60, said the bridge directly connects a three-kilometer-long cement road which links four local villages. He had the road built in 2009. He said local villagers could not afford to build a bridge made of bamboo or wood. They make a meagre living by cultivating rice and cassava, collecting used items and firewood in forests or making leaf hats, he added. Father Trong said floods caused by heavy rain from September to December wash away their properties. Last year one student drowned while wading across the stream, he added. Nguyen Co, a 47-year-old villager, said that since the bridge opened, he earns 50,000 dong a day by carrying firewood on his bicycle. In the past he had to carry firewood on his shoulders 10 kilometers and earned 20,000 dong a day, he said. Father Trong said that since 2000, 40 local Catholics also have volunteered to build 215 houses costing 10-15 million dong each for poor people, regardless of their background. Foreign benefactors cover the cost. The priest said he plans a project to provide clean water for villagers. Nuoc Ngot parish numbers 2,385 Catholics out of a total population of 10,000.
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