Catholics from parishes in a central Vietnamese province have given meat and other humanitarian aid
to underprivileged farmers who suffered due to last year's floods
and storms, in celebration of Tet this Feb. 16. Falling on the same day as the Lunar New Year, Tet is the most important festival in communist Vietnam. It runs from Feb. 14-20 this year. Some 300 farmers from various faiths gathered at An Truyen church despite the bitter weather on Feb. 11 to receive three kilograms of pork and two and a half kilograms of sticky rice each. The Catholic Church has made charitable giving to flood-hit farmers
a tradition in recent years. Father Anthony Nguyen Thang said the parish purchased 13 pigs and 700 kilograms of sticky rice to offer to poor farmers. The animals were slaughtered earlier by local parishioners. "Poor people only have rice and vegetables year-round. They rarely get to eat meat," Father Thang said. Pork and sticky rice are only eaten on special occasions by many farming families in Vietnam, such as at wedding parties, Tet festivals, as offerings to village gods or at events honoring ancestors who have passed away, he said. During a recent event dubbed "Tet of Love," the parish priest had an uplifting message for those in attendance. "We want to share something useful with you so you can celebrate Tet properly and overcome the difficulties caused by the floods and storms last year," he said. Non-Catholic Doan Van Vu, 68, said: "I'm happy to have some pork and sticky rice so that I can use it to prepare food to offer to my ancestors for Tet." Another pig farmer who gave his name as Vu said he lost 10 million dong (US$450) last year due to the inclement weather conditions. He now sells lottery tickets to make ends meet and support his ailing wife, he said. Le Thi Le, a farmer from An Luu of Phu Vang district, said she collects second-hand goods to ensure her family has enough food to eat. Floods washed over their 1,000-meter-square farm in late November, damaging vegetables and other crops, said the 50-year-old mother of three. "We aren't Catholic yet local Catholics still offer us food for Tet. We are deeply grateful," she said. Teresa Nguyen Lan Huong runs a Catholic youth group from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish.
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She said group members cooked up batches of a popular glutinous rice cake known in Vietnam as banh tet
and distributed it to poor people in Hue City. Fundraising was carried out by 100 group members who sell used items at the weekend to raise money for charity, she added. Father Dominic Tran Thien Thanh, who serves as an assistant priest at the parish, said a food fair organized on Feb. 15 was designed to bring the community closer together and help those in need at this special time of the year. Many other parishes and religious orders have given food, blankets, clothes and money to thousands of people in rural areas who do not have enough to eat. In early February, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc ordered that 12,000 tonnes of rice be given to those who are facing starvation in 18 provinces over Tet. The Central Steering Committee for Natural Disaster Prevention and Control reported in 2017 that natural disasters claimed 386 lives and left 654 injured that year. The damage done to houses, crops, cattle and public facilities cost as much as US$2.65 billion, it said.