SE Vietnam Community Day
To celebrate our birthday, we decided to give back to our communities in both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. We spent our Saturday morning volunteering at different organizations that we believe truly make positive impacts on our communities.
Ho Chi Minh City: Quan Com Nu Cuoi
In Ho Chi Minh City, we went to Quán Cơm Xã Hội Nụ Cười 4. This is a restaurant started by the Tinh Thuong Charity Fund, they have funded a number of these restaurants around the city in hopes to improve life for the poor communities around them. These restaurants offer meals for just 2,000VND (less than 10 cents in the United States) that are both filling and nutritious. This can be a much more affordable option for people who may only make 50,000VND (~$2.20US) per day or are ill and unable to work. The meals vary by day, but they always have rice, some sort of chicken dish, a side of vegetables, a soup with ground meat and vegetables, and a piece of fruit. Rice and soup are unlimited and drinking water and parking are free of charge.
When we arrived at the restaurant at 7:00AM, we began to help prepare food. Once food preparation was finished, we divided the food into equal portions, making sure everyone received the same thing. We packaged meals into to-go boxes to be ready for the people who do not have time to sit down and eat and waited for the lunch rush to begin. At 11:00AM there was already a line at the door waiting for us. The doors opened and people filed in as we handed them trays of food. In Vietnamese, “nụ cười” means “smile”, and it was easy to see why they would name the restaurant that, there were smiles all around. Everyone was happy to receive a meal at a price they could afford and socialize with each other, and we were happy to be a part of it.
Hanoi: Floating Village
In Hanoi we visited a floating village under the iconic Long Bien Bridge. This floating village consists of about 28 homes and over 100 people. Some of these people have lived in this area for almost 25 years. Though this village is not far from the hustle and bustle of downtown Hanoi, the people in this village lack modern amenities and electricity. The kids are unable to attend school and must continue the lifestyle set by the parents of being scrap scavengers. They are however able to attend free classes at night to learn basic reading and writing. Each family has their own shed where they store the scrap they have collected, and when these sheds are full they will sell the items in their shed to a scrap dealer in town to make some money. Many people who reside in these villages feel that they have no choice, living here allows them to save on rent and provides them with shelter they may not otherwise have. Because they live in the river they are not eligible for a permanent residency certificate making them unable to receive aid or loans.
Before our visit, we spent an hour shopping for supples in the Old Quarter. We expertly balanced all of these supplies on our motorbikes and made our way down to the village. On our way there we also stopped by a temple which was built to memorialize 2 young women that died and who’s bodies were found in the Red river mysteriously. When we arrived at the village we began handing out the supplies we bought in care packages. We gave them some necessities such as instant noodles, fish sauce, cooking oil, spice and rice crackers as well as some snacks for the children. We made sure each family received a care package with equal supplies in them. Handing these packages out and getting to know the residents taught us a lot. This was an enlightening experience that reminded us of the conditions that people are living in only a stone’s throw away from us.
Giving back was a great way for us to spend our birthday and show what SE Vietnam is all about. Thank you to the people who hosted us and who do this work everyday. Both experiences have great impacts on our surrounding communities and we couldn’t be more thankful for these opportunities.
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