Life in Vietnam

Sunday, 04/11/2018 09:00

Living a humble life of charity in Ha Noi

Creating smiles: Gai’s charity group give presents to needy children. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thi Gai
Viet Nam News

By Tran Hoang Nam

At 75, Maria Nguyen Thi Gai, works every day, spending the pittance she earns on charity work.

A member of the Ham Long Parish, in Hai Ba Trung District in Ha Noi, she has just been recognised by authorities as an example of the Patriotism Movement in the period 2013-18.

Born to a poor family on Hang Bot Street in Dong Da District, at a young age she accompanied her parents to work to earn money.

At that time, witnessing the hard lives of orphans wandering the streets to earn a living, she thought: “I’m still lucky to have a mum and dad, have things to eat and wear while they do not.”

She shared chunks of bread with poor girls and gave change to a young boy who had quit school to take care of his mother in hospital.

“My husband’s family follow Catholicism,” she told Viet Nam News. “I understand God’s teachings to do good things in life and share with people less fortunate than me.”

“I think it is very simple – giving away is keeping forever. I don’t want to receive anything in return. That’s my happiness each day.”

Gai is always busy with trips. She meets donors to ask for rice to give poor people. She knocks on every door for used clothes, bringing them home to wash and carefully pack up for children in need in rural areas in Lao Cai and Ninh Binh provinces.

Now her life is stable. Her five children have grown up and have their own families. She still wakes up early every day, does housework and rushes to help at a restaurant on La Thanh Street. She works from 7am to 3.30pm and gets VND100,000 per day. From that sum she saves a small part in a cloth bag.

She hides the bag in her house as the sum is valuable, containing her sweat after working many hours for the poor.

Spending little on herself, Gai is always willing to help needy people. Finding an old man freezing in cold weather, she gives him a new scarf and tries to find him warm shelter for the night. On meeting a poor mother with child, she hands over fresh eggs to feed the baby.

"I found Buddhism and Catholicism share the same moral teachings," she said. " Catholicism is a little more strict as followers confess their sins regularly. Both teach people to live well and help others."

"My only wish now is that I stay healthy and am able to work, to earn money to support poorer people," she said.

Good example

In her small house, old furniture is a memory of the past. She won’t buy new items as she doesn’t want to take money from her children.

“I think I have enough,” she said. “I have a warm blanket, rice and food to eat, my children are dutiful. I can work to earn money for myself and support others. I don’t want to rely on my children. To me, helping people is my daily routine.”

“She always thinks of poor people,” said Pham Thi Son, an official from the local Women’s Union.

“When learning a neighbour is sick and needs help, she immediately tries her best to help.

“She often helps lonely old people living around, helps them take showers and takes care of them when they are sick.

“She is respected by all neighbours. Local authorities recognise her kind heart and admire her a lot.”

Her daughter Pham Thanh Binh and granddaughter Tran Thanh Huyen have taken after Gai, doing their own charity work.

Binh cooks porridge to hand out to needy patients at nearby Thanh Nhan Hospital every Saturday.

“When I was small, though my family struggled, my mother spared clothes and food for poor people,” Binh said.

“I wondered at first if my family was also poor. But my mother explained to me that we should not live for ourselves. People’s happiness is our biggest happiness. So I joined her to help needy people.”

Mentioning good examples in the area, Nguyen Dang Khoa, chairman of Bach Mai Ward People’s Committee, said Gai was one of the best.

“She has been recognised as an exemplary individual in the movement of doing good work,” he said. VNS

Devoted: Maria Nguyen Thi Gai plays with her grandchildren after work. VNS Photo Tran Hoang Nam
Dedicated: Maria Nguyen Thi Gai carefully keeps her money in a small cloth bag to save for the poor. VNS Photo Tran Hoang Nam
Life of charity: Maria Nguyen Thi Gai prays at home. VNS Photo Tran Hoang Nam

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