Updated: July 23, 2021 06:36 AM GMT
Catholic mothers in Hue pack fish in boxes to ship to Covid-19 victims in Ho Chi Minh City. (Photo: UCA News)
Catholics and Buddhists in Vietnam's central provinces are passing on the kindness and generosity they received during last year’s floods by helping people affected by a stubborn outbreak of coronavirus in Ho Chi Minh City.
Catholic dioceses, communities, a Caritas unit and a Buddhist pagoda are extending all help possible, from cooked food, medical supplies, agricultural produce and voluntary donations to the southern city, formerly called Saigon.
“We have shipped 2,000 kilograms of fish to people there since we started our service on July 6,” said Mary Nguyen Thi Lai, a volunteer at the Catholic Mothers Association in Thua Thien Hue province.
Lai said local fishermen had a bumper scad and anchovy season this year and decided to supply fish to the local parish to help people affected by Covid-19.
The locals traditionally produce fish sauce for a living. But now 10 women volunteers daily prepare, braise and pack fish in plastic boxes at the parish house next to Mai Duong Church.
The boxes of fish, each weighing one kilogram, are shipped to parishes in Ho Chi Minh City, which has become the Southeast Asian country’s biggest epicenter after the fourth wave of the contagion broke out in late April.
We work hard round the clock and are highly delighted to work with other people to feed our brothers and sisters in this difficult time
As of July 22, Ho Chi Minh City had reported 43,776 cases, while Vietnam has reported 71,088 infections and 370 deaths since the pandemic hit the country in early 2020.
“We are deeply moved by the fact that many people there suffer a severe lack of basic food due to social distancing measures to contain the outbreak,” Lai said.
At first, they only offered 100 boxes of fish to relatives but when local benefactors began donating sugar, salt, cooking oil, plastic boxes and even money, they decided to make food and supply it, the 45-year-old woman said.
“We work hard round the clock and are highly delighted to work with other people to feed our brothers and sisters in this difficult time,” she said.
Lai said they will try to supply food to people in need until the crisis lasts.
Elizabeth Le Thi An from Dai Luoc Parish in Quang Tri province said local farmers were having abundant harvests of chillies, peanuts and vegetables.
She said members of the Catholic Mothers Association in the parish make traditional food from peanuts and vegetables before sending it to Caritas in Hue to offer people in need, with the packing and transport made possible by the association’s funds and donations.
An said they have produced nearly 2 tonnes of ready-made foods so far.
“We are deeply grateful to people in Saigon who quickly extended humanitarian aid — food, clothes and even fishing boats — to us when we suffered severe floods last October,” she said.
“Now we try to do some useful things to help them out. Our gifts are small but show our heartfelt thanks to them. We pray hard for the dangerous pandemic to end soon.”
Joseph Nguyen Van Hoang, a volunteer who cares for locals with HIV/AIDS, said volunteers donate 100,000 dong (US$4.30) each to buy bottled water, while families of HIV/AIDS patients offer bananas, kohlrabis, gourds, pumpkins and other vegetables, weighing 400 kilograms.
I really sympathize with them and try to share with them what I have
Hoang said all contributions from the 60 volunteers and families of HIV patients were sent to Caritas in Hue.
“I really sympathize with them and try to share with them what I have,” said a man with HIV who gave bananas. He could move around freely and volunteers and sisters visited his home regularly. But those affected by Covid-19 suffered in isolation, lacking even basic food, he said.
Minh Hai, a nun from Dong An pagoda in Phong Dien district, said local Buddhists contributed 300 kilograms of vegetarian foods, harvested in their farms and gardens. The 57-year-old nun said dried foods are good for people in quarantine for long periods.
Sister Mary Truong Thi Thao from Caritas in Hue said the charity body called on local people to make voluntary contributions.
Sister Thao said that as of July 16 local people had supplied over 40 tonnes of basic food made of meat, fish and vegetables to people in Ho Chi Minh City.
The nun said Catholic families are also donating 100,000 dong each to victims as a way to express their sincere gratitude to benefactors who saved them from last year’s devastating floods.
She said natural disaster victims in the provinces of Quang Tri and Thua Thien Hue received 3,000 pigs, 10,000 chickens and more than 100 new houses early this month from benefactors in the country’s largest commercial hub.
Survivors of the floods are still picking up the pieces of their lives with hundreds of thousands of houses damaged, crops destroyed and numerous cattle and poultry perished, she added.