Hundreds of women from Binh Thuan province have been making much-need cash thanks to a pig-rearing project run by a retired bishop. Marie Tran Thi Song, who looks pale and thin, is busy these days feeding and raising her 10 pigs. Song, 54, who used to make a living recycling items from a local garbage dump, said her pigs are now the major source of income for her family. She keeps them for three months and then sells them, making around 10-12 million dong (US$500-600). The mother of two said she has been the principle breadwinner for her family since 2008 when she started the pig-raising project run by retired Bishop Paul Nguyen Thanh Hoan of Phan Thiet, who also offered her and other poor homeless families houses to live in. “My husband, who is often drunk, does not look after the family,” Song said. But he does listen to me now that I’m earning and he no longer treats me badly as he did in the past, she added. Therese Pham Thi Dung, 35, said thanks to the project, she can afford her two children’s school fees and buy a bicycle for them. In the past she had to borrow money to support her family and quarreled with her husband, who works as a bricklayer. “We are deeply grateful to the Church which has helped us and now we have a happy family,” said Dung, who hopes the family will become more prosperous. Bishop Hoan, 79, said the project now provides money and medicine for 200 poor families like Song’s and Dung’s. Each are given 10 pigs costing 15 million dong. He said they return his outlay after selling the pigs. They are usually given piglets on six occasions, after that they have use their own money to buy new ones, he added. The poorest families like Song’s are provided pigs until they have enough money to invest the cash themselves. “The welfare project aims to create jobs for rural women to support their families and improve their role and dignity,” said Bishop Hoan, former head of the Episcopal Commission for Charitable and Social Actions of theVietnam Bishops’ Conference. The beneficiaries are poor families regardless of their backgrounds. They usually work in fields or on construction sites and earn very little each, he added. The bishop said he plans to provide piglets for another 500 poor families in the area. The Churchman, who founded the Institute of Charityand Social Work which runs the project in 2005, said they also provide clean water, free herbal medicine and sewing skills for villagers. Students from poor families are also given accommodation, scholarships and bicycles.
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