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Little savings, big difference at the parish store

Vietnam Church's discount store makes a difference

Marie Hoang Thi Ngoc Oanh and her children buying food at the discount shop Marie Hoang Thi Ngoc Oanh and her children buying food at the discount shop
  • ucanews.com reporter
  • Vietnam
  • June 18, 2012
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Every little helps, as they say. And the Vietnamese Martyrs church in Ho Chi Minh City offers a little help with household budgets by selling groceries at discount prices.

Launched in April, the store in the church compound, known as the Saint Martha Shop, opens three days a week and sells staples such as rice, salt, sugar, milk, fish sauce and tooth paste at the lowest possible cost.

“I go to buy detergent, instant noodles, cooking oil, rice and other items,” says Marie Hoang Thi Ngoc Oanh.

“I save 200,000 to 300,000 dong (US$10-15) by shopping there. The savings are nothing for rich people but they mean a lot to our family. They cover our seven-year-old daughter’s school fees.”

The 44-year-old housewife suffers paralysis in one leg, so she stays at home to look after her three-year-old son. They live on the three million dong her husband earns monthly as a bricklayer.

Father Vincent Nguyen The Thu, pastor of the church, says the shop now serves 150 local poor families like Oanh’s.

“We aim to offer long-term support to underprivileged people regardless of their background,” he says.

“We want to meet the basic needs of the poor,” adds Maria Pham Thanh Thuy, one of the shop’s volunteers. “For instance, we plan to sell notebooks and pens when the new school year starts in August.

“We also offer home deliveries for the elderly and people with physical disabilities.”

The shop, which is aimed only at those who genuinely need to make the savings, has a registration system. Beneficiaries are given name badges which they may need to show when they visit the shop.

Maria Phan Thi Men, a 77-year-old who lives alone on a pension of 1.3million dong a month, is typical of those beneficiaries. “The shop is ideal for poor people like me in these times, when prices are on the increase,” she says.

“I regularly buy 10 packs of instant noodles costing 20,000 dong each. I'd have to pay 30,000 dong for them anywhere else.”
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