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De La Salle brother fought for social justice in Vietnam

Hue-born Brother Buu set up a hostel, monastery, and Blue Sky Group to help kids attain scholarships and attend summer school

ucanews.com reporter, Hue City

ucanews.com reporter, Hue City

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De La Salle brother fought for social justice in Vietnam

De La Salle Brother Victor Nghi Paul Tran Van Buu visits a church-run daycare center in Vietnam's Hue City in this 2017 file photo. (Photo by Peter Nguyen/ucanews.com)

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A well-loved member of the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools in Vietnam who died this month has been praised for bringing education and care to disadvantaged people in rural areas.

Victor Nghi Paul Tran Van Buu died of cancer on April 15 at a house for retired De La Salle Brothers in Ho Chi Minh City. He was 81.

Dozen of priests joined a crowd of hundreds at his funeral on April 17.

"Brother Buu spent his whole life providing opportunities for so many poor children in remote areas, so they could get an education," said Father Paul Tran Thang The, a former student of the late brother.

Father The, pastor of Phuoc Tuong Parish in Thua Thien Hue province, said Brother Buu, a Hue native, raised funds among his former students and Catholic groups abroad.

He used the funds to organize summer courses for students from poor families at parishes in central provinces, free of charge.

Father The said Brother Buu had volunteers teach academic subjects to students from fishing villages, including many who live on riverboats. They were also taught about ethics and good behavior.

The priest said poor students collect used items, sell lottery tickets, and work in the fields to support their families and pay their school fees, but have no money for summer courses.

Brother Buu also organized camps and other outdoor activities to foster a sense of fraternity and inspire his students to take a greater interest in their education; very few reportedly dropped out of school.

John Nguyen Trong Cuong, a former De La Sallian, said Brother Buu established the Blue Sky Group in 2004 in Hue to raise funds and offer capital to big families to help cover the costs of their children's studies. Many received scholarships as a result of his efforts.

Dominic Ngo Van Beo, 48, who works as a motorcycle taxi driver in Hue, said three of his children won scholarships because of Brother Buu.

"My kids would never have graduated from college without his support," said the father of four.

Cuong said the late brother was sent to do evangelization work in France, Cambodia and Thailand from 1962 until 1987, when he returned to Vietnam.

He taught French and English to college students, and set up a hostel for students as well as a monastery at the site of an old cemetery for local De La Salle Brothers in Hue.

From 1975, Vietnam's Communist Party began confiscating many of the religious groups' facilities, including schools.

However, the government's efforts to stamp out evangelization have floundered in recent years.

Brother Buu, who joined the congregation in 1957, also raised funds to offer vocational skills to young people, and provided urgent material support to victims of natural disasters and marine pollution.

He also made sure impoverished ethnic groups had enough money to buy food to celebrate their Lunar New Year festivals.

Brother Joseph Le Van Phuong, the congregation's provincial superior, said Brother Buu's support changed the lives of many young people. In turn, they took their cue from him and did their utmost to help others, he added.

Eight of his students went on to become De La Sallians.

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