Cashless church market a lifeline for poor Vietnamese

No money is needed for needy customers attending parish's charity market in Ho Chi Minh City
Cashless church market a lifeline for poor Vietnamese

Mary Ro Mah Pduth chooses clothes for her family at the charity market in Ho Chi Minh City. (ucanews.com photo)

ucanews.com reporter, Ho Chi Minh City
Vietnam
August 20, 2019
Paul Vo Em, 86, happily finds a pair of sneakers and a long-sleeved shirt from items on a stall at a church-run market in Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City.

He said he plans to wear the sneakers to walk for morning exercise and the shirt to go to church daily.

“A volunteer helps me choose the things that fit me well,” said Em, who is supported financially by his grandchildren and is also choosing a handbag for his granddaughter.

“I am treated with respect here even though I pay no money for the items.”

Standing beside him, Mary Ro Mah Pduth carefully tries on a pink blouse and chooses sets of clean clothes and shoes for her husband and children.

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Pduth, who is from Gia Lai province, looks after her husband, who has received medical treatment for meningitis since early this year at a hospital in Ho Chi Minh City.

The 29-year-old mother of two said she has not shopped for clothes for months as she has no money. She has to borrow money from others to cover her husband’s treatment.

“This market is helpful for penniless people like me,” Pduth said with a smile before leaving for the hospital.

The charity market based in the compound of Tan Sa Chau Church draws hundreds of visitors each day.

Father Joseph Nguyen Huu Triet, pastor of Tan Sa Chau parish, said the “market zero dong” established in July serves as a place where people can donate their spare things to others in need.

Father Triet said people donate their clothes, footwear, bags, purses, billfolds, helmets, ascots, hats, belts, toys, stationery, books, notebooks, mosquito nets and blankets to the market, which is held from Monday to Saturday. Many parishioners volunteer to arrange them on stands and help customers choose suitable things.

“The market is an opportunity for us to be friends of lottery ticket sellers, homeless people, used items collectors, patients and people with low income,” he said, adding that this initiative also helps build a caring and humane community.

Trinh Tuyet Han, a 22-year-old Buddhist student, said she had donated 20 sets of clothes to the market.

She said she appreciates the initiative and calls on her friends who have surplus clothes to make donations so that more and more poor people can benefit from it.

Joseph Nguyen Van Binh, who makes US$2-3 a day by collecting used items on streets, said he has beautiful and clean clothes from the market. In the past he could not afford to buy clothes.

He feels moved by the charity market and decided to go back to the church after stopping faith practice due to family quarrels.

Father Triet, 74, said a local company supports his initiative by transporting goods to the market without charge.

He said people donate too many household goods to the market, so the parish has to offer them to ethnic people in remote areas in Vietnam’s Central Highlands.

Tan Sa Chau parish also serves poor people with free breakfasts and lunches at the church, gives free medical treatment to patients in remote areas on a regular basis, and builds bridges and houses for poor people. All activities are funded by local Catholics.

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