Category Archives: Vietnam

Sisters join ranks of hospital volunteers in Vietnam’s COVID epicenters

Women and men religious arrive on Aug. 20 at Minh Tam Hotel, where they will stay while serving COVID-19 patients at local hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. (Joachim Pham)
Women and men religious arrive on Aug. 20 at Minh Tam Hotel, where they will stay while serving COVID-19 patients at local hospitals in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. (Joachim Pham)

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam — Hundreds of women and men religious in Ho Chi Minh City and two provinces in south Vietnam badly hit by the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 have voluntarily joined front-line forces for the fourth time in two months to take care of patients at hospitals and in isolated places.

On Aug. 20, 115 Catholics and Buddhists in the Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese set off to work at hospitals for COVID-19 patients in Ho Chi Minh City. They follow the three previous waves of 260 religious volunteers who ministered to local hospitals for one to two months beginning July 22, Aug. 11-12, and Aug. 16.

Most of volunteers are sisters, and many will serve only one month so they can return to work for their day care centers as the new school year starts in September. The volunteers will quarantine for two weeks before returning to their convents.

This time, seven Catholic priests and 85 religious from 14 congregations of women religious and 10 congregations of men religious based in the city were received at Minh Tam Hotel, where they will stay for one month while they work at the COVID-19 Resuscitation Hospital in Thu Duc.

Dalat Lovers of the Holy Cross Sr. Mary Bui Thi Bich Huyen said she and four other sisters from her convent will join the front-line workers. They each have received one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We feel we have an absolute duty to work with other people to care for patients as all of us are God’s children,” Huyen said.

The 41-year-old nun said they are nursery teachers and have no professional skills in health care, but “we can give patients our tender care, emotional support and prayers as they have no loved ones by their side. We pick up this chance to bring God’s love to all people we serve.”

Phan Kieu Thanh Huong, vice chairman of the city’s Fatherland Front, an umbrella organization of the communist government, said she greatly appreciated local Catholic volunteers who bravely sacrifice themselves to look after patients and help reduce health care providers’ workloads.

Huong said the conditions at the hospitals are not as good as the religious’ convents and monasteries, so they have to try their best to cooperate with other people to provide good care for patients and push back the pandemic.

As of Aug. 25, Ho Chi Minh City and the provinces of Binh Duong and Dong Nai, the country’s epicenters of the contagious delta variant, have recorded 289,084 infections and 8,395 deaths among the country’s 381,363 cases and 9,349 deaths since the first cases were detected on April 27, according to the Ministry of Health.

Dr. Le Anh Tuan, deputy director of the COVID-19 Resuscitation Hospital, expressed his deep gratitude to the archdiocese for sending another group of religious volunteers to the hospital.

Tuan praised the previous religious volunteers for their tremendous enthusiasm supporting patients and medical staff.

“The hospital would fail to operate effectively without volunteers,” he said.

He said the hospital will offer the best and safest conditions it can to volunteers so they can bring real health benefits to patients. The volunteers will be tested for COVID-19 and train in basic medical care skills before they are sent to the hospital. Those who have not been vaccinated will get vaccines, and the volunteers will be trained in how to protect themselves from infection.

Mary Queen Sr. Teresa Mary Nguyen Thi Hong Hue said she and five other sisters had worked for just three hours at a hospital for COVID-19 patients as part of the first wave of volunteers in late July before they were put in quarantine after they were told they had contracted the virus. However, health officials later apologized for giving them wrong results: They did not have COVID-19.

Hue said they registered to serve at the COVID-19 Resuscitation Hospital for one month this time.

“We eagerly work with others to bring God’s love to patients who have no relatives by their side,” said Hue, who works as a nurse at a day care center run by her congregation. She also takes care of elderly sisters.

Hue said patients in hospitals are too weak to look after themselves. Many are put on ventilators and cannot talk.

“Volunteers in full protective gear are assigned to feed serious patients through tubes, wipe their bodies, change diapers and sheets, clean facilities, collect waste and help medical workers treat patients,” she said. “We show Catholic patients how to make a sign of the cross, encourage them to recite prayers and pray for dying ones.”

“We are told that we face high risk of infection and can die, but we trust in the Divine Providence and believe God protects us,” Hue said. “This is a great opportunity for us to bear witness to Christian values among people in misery.”

On Aug. 20, Salesian Fr. Joseph Mary Tran Hoa Hung, who oversees all orders, societies and associations based in the archdiocese, said 352 priests, nuns and brothers have been sent to serve three local hospitals since July 22 at the city’s request.

Hung said that 87 of them were put in quarantine on Aug. 23 for two weeks before they return to work at their convents.

Hung said the outbreak of the delta variant is still raging in Ho Chi Minh City, the country’s commercial hub, so local health authorities sought help from the archdiocese. The city faces a severe lack of medical staff working with COVID-19 patients because of the number of people with the virus.

He said Archbishop Joseph Nguyen Nang called on local congregations to continue taking part in this charitable activity. He said local sisters, brothers, seminary candidates and novices between the ages of 20 and 50 are encouraged to spend one month helping COVID-19 patients.

Fr. Joseph Dao Nguyen Vu, who represents Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese, and the city’s authorities and health officials welcomed the religious volunteers. Vu said the religious who have been assigned to local hospitals graciously take on a high risk of infection to work in dangerous places and serve coronavirus victims.

“This is an excellent opportunity for us to show our creative vigor, love and care to medical workers and patients,” he said. “What we have are our soft hearts and God’s strength.”

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/coronavirus/news/sisters-join-ranks-hospital-volunteers-vietnams-covid-epicenters

Nuns in Vietnam help tuberculosis patients get back on their feet

Huynh Thi Phung, a former tuberculosis patient, gives customers a cheery wave while she sells food on the sidewalk in Hoa Vang District of Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. (Joachim Pham)
Huynh Thi Phung, a former tuberculosis patient, gives customers a cheery wave while she sells food on the sidewalk in Hoa Vang District of Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. (Joachim Pham)

Quang Nam, Vietnam — Truong Van Lenh contracted tuberculosis from fellow inmates while he was serving a nine-year sentence for drug trafficking.

After he was released from prison in 2017, he learned that his wife and two children had sold their property in Quang Nam Province and left for other places, leaving him homeless.

His health deteriorated rapidly, and he could not integrate himself into the community, as his neighbors disrespected and kept clear of him because of his highly infectious illness and his status as an ex-convict.

In 2018, Lenh, a Buddhist, was sent to receive medical treatment at state-run Lung Hospital in Quang Tri Province in Da Nang, where he received free food daily from St. Paul de Chartres sisters and Catholic volunteers. The St. Paul de Chartres sisters are just some of the nuns from various congregations in the cities of Da Nang, Hue and Dong Ha in Central Vietnam who provide free food, emergency supplies and care for tuberculosis patients, people with HIV/AIDS, and other patients in need at public hospitals. (Local religious organizations are not allowed to run hospitals.)

“The nuns offered me 1 million dong [$43] per month within six months so that I could pay the rent after I was back on my feet. They also gave me another 2 million dong to sell lottery tickets for a living,” said Lenh, now 53, who uses a wheelchair after he lost his right leg because of complications from diabetes.

“I am over the moon now as I can earn 70,000 dong a day to put food on the table by myself, and I love my life,” he said, adding that in the past, he had attempted suicide because he saw no future.

St. Paul de Chartres Sr. Lucia Duong Thi Tam runs Binh An (Peace) Clinic in Que Son District of Quang Nam Province, at which three nuns provide free long-term treatment for 27 tuberculosis patients. Many of them have no permanent address or are homeless and have no personal papers, which means they cannot be admitted into public hospitals. Other patients include motorbike taxi drivers, lottery ticket sellers, used-item collectors, and cleaners at traditional markets.

“We have to ask for donations from benefactors to offer them food and medicine and transfer those who get worse to public hospitals,” said Tam, 55, adding that the nuns also buy public health insurance for many patients.

Since the clinic began in 2015, 135 patients have fully recovered from tuberculosis.

She said the nuns who work at parishes detect TB patients, pay them regular visits and take care of them, show them how to take medicine and make follow-up clinical examinations in time, and offer them basic food and money. When a patient dies, the sisters also attend the funeral and console relatives.

Some of the nuns in Da Nang provide free food daily to 30 patients at a public hospital who could not afford to buy food.

“We also educate local people in TB infections, how to prevent the illness and to care for patients. We tell them that TB is curable so they should love and help patients receive medical treatment early,” Tam said.

The Vietnam National Tuberculosis Control Program reported that an estimated 100,000 new TB cases are detected and given medical treatment annually, while another 50,000 new patients are undiagnosed. Approximately 12,000 people in Vietnam die each year from the disease, higher than the death toll from road accidents. Tuberculosis patients die mainly because the disease is not discovered and treated in time.

The Southeast Asian country ranks No. 11 among the 30 countries with the highest number of TB cases globally and has made a political commitment to end tuberculosis by 2030 by setting up the Commission to End Tuberculosis in December 2019.

The Vietnam National Tuberculosis Control Program said it is extremely concerned about the falling detection rates and the high rate of patients who refuse medical treatment because they cannot afford it and because of the serious effect of COVID-19.

Deputy Health Minister Nguyen Truong Son said in March that all tuberculosis patients are given free medicine by law, but patients must shoulder the financial burden of diagnosis and X-rays, other medicine, food and other costs, accounting for over 20% of their households’ annual incomes.

He said there is still widespread discrimination against tuberculosis patients, which gives patients an inferiority complex and causes them to hide their illness.

Mary Luong Thi Xuan Phuong from the ancient town of Hoi An said she caught scrofula, a form of tuberculosis, from her husband, who died of AIDS. Even though she was cured of her disease at a local hospital in 2019, she said her neighbors stayed away from her and she was rarely invited to attend weddings and death anniversary parties. Few people sat at the same table with her, and people threw away chopsticks, dishes and other items she used.

“I am given a new lease on life since local nuns paid regular visits and consoled me,” said Phuong, 42. “I attended a three-day course in tubercular prevention, basic information on TB and HIV/AIDS at their Binh An Clinic.”

Phuong, who teaches at a day care center run by St. Paul de Chartres sisters, now serves as a volunteer for the HIV/AIDS prevention program established by the Da Nang Diocese.

“I join with local nuns to teach Catholics from local parishes TB and HIV/AIDS prevention on the weekends,” she said, adding that she and her son converted to Catholicism last year.

Tam said the nuns win the hearts of local people who respect and admire their selfless service. In 2012, she and another nun had their motorbike run out of gas while they were returning to their convent from visiting a person with HIV/AIDS. A man dropped off his wife with the nuns, drove to buy gas and filled up the nuns’ gas tank. Three years later, Tam found the man in Da Nang Hospital.

“We were happy to meet him again and comforted him while he was in the hospital,” she said.

The man, who had AIDS and tuberculosis, appreciated the nuns’ care and converted to Catholicism one year later, Tam said.

“We invited a local priest who had to disguise himself as an ordinary person to administer the last sacraments to him before his death,” she said. “We treated him with tender loving care, and he responded the same. That sounded right up our street.”

She said in 2019, the nuns in Da Nang gave 57 poor people, including tuberculosis patients, vocational skills and 6 million dong each to make a living, as many of them suffered from lack of food and malnutrition.

Huynh Thi Phung, who used to smoke heavily and caught TB, said she was cured of her illness and now earns up to 100,000 dong per day selling traditional food on the sidewalk in Hoa Bac Commune, Hoa Vang District of Da Nang.

Phung, 46, said she had to collect used things from the garbage for a living after serving a three-year term in jail for being involved in a prostitution ring in 2018 and her only son was kept in a detention camp for robbery.

“I regained my dignity and have a better life today, thanks to the generous support of the nuns who treat me like their relatives,” Phung said with a smile.

St. Paul de Chartres Sr. Agatha Le Thi Bich, one of two sisters who work at Lung Hospital in Quang Tri Province, said the nuns monthly give money to 47 patients there, nine of them diagnosed with TB, to cover their hospital fees and food.

Bich, a nurse, said they also journey with outpatients and offer them psychological advice so that they can overcome their challenges and determine to pursue their treatment until their diseases are cured.

“Poor patients are reluctant to receive hospital treatment, and their diseases consequently get worse,” Bich said. “We look after them with love and patiently walk with them in treatment.”

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry/news/nuns-vietnam-help-tuberculosis-patients-get-back-their-feet

Foreign volunteers devote time, care to children in Vietnam

Philip MacLaurin teaches English for children at the Binh Trieu warm shelter run by the Friends for Street Children association, which serves children in poverty or in need. (Mary Nguyen Thi Phuong Lan)
Philip MacLaurin teaches English for children at the Binh Trieu warm shelter run by the Friends for Street Children association, which serves children in poverty or in need. (Mary Nguyen Thi Phuong Lan)

The happiest human beings share love or all they have with others, especially with the poor, or homeless, or disadvantaged children.

The Friends for Street Children association, or FFSC, was founded in 1984 by Thomas Tran Van Soi.  Presently, the association has four centers (Binh An, Binh Trieu, Binh Tho and Luu Minh Xuan) and one “warm shelter” in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

Yearly, these centers have welcomed a large number of displaced children who have migrated to Ho Chi Minh City from rural provinces. Most of them are from poor families, or difficult situations.

Happily, Friends for Street Children has also welcomed many volunteers from inside and outside Vietnam, who come to FFSC centers to share love with children through gifts, to play with them, or (most importantly) to provide them with the chance to gain knowledge, and develop their potential and life skills so they can have a better life in the future.

One of the volunteers that we most admire is Philip MacLaurin, 60, from London, England, and his wife Frances MacLaurin, 54, from Scotland. They are Catholic, and have a great affection for the poor children in Vietnam.

They live in Ho Chi Minh City and have been doing volunteer work with Friends for Street Children for about 12 years. They truly love the poor children, as well as students in Vietnam, and generously finance scholarships or support other needs to help these children have better lives and brighter futures. Although they must work hard to earn a living in Vietnam, what they do have they use to do charitable works for the poor children in Vietnam.

Philip came here to work as a director of Premier Oil’s Vietnam branch in 2006, and just retired in June 2020. Since he is not working for the company anymore, he told Sister Mary (who is in charge of caring for the orphans at the Binh Trieu warm shelter) that he would have more time to do charitable works. “I really thirst to help the poor young students, show them how to get a good job, or how to achieve success in their life in the future.”

When he was working from Monday to Friday, he spent two days on the weekend to do volunteer works in some of the Friends for Street Children centers. For example, every Saturday he taught English to younger children from 3 to 10 years old, at the warm shelter in the Binh Trieu center. These kids love to study with him because he is very friendly and creates a pleasant learning environment, not forcing them. They especially love his teaching hour when he uses video clips, nice pictures, and English songs like “Baby Shark” and the “Finger Family Song” … things that help kids remember their lessons and relax after a week of study. In fact, the aim of his teaching hour is to bring joy to children, and it also relaxed him after a hard work week.

Even more wonderful is his wife Frances, who came with her husband to Vietnam; she is a full-time volunteer, doing only charitable works. On weekdays, she teaches free English for adult children (grades six to 12) at Binh Trieu’s warm shelter and at Stephan (another warm shelter in Ho Chi Minh City that is not an FFSC center). She is a psychology teacher, and knows how to encourage children to study. She usually has prizes for children who achieve in her classes. Or she might reward them by taking them to the supermarket to choose any gifts they like, or by taking them to get fast food like pizza, spaghetti, or fried chicken at a restaurant. The children have never eaten such dishes, and are very glad to study with her.

Realizing the affection that the MacLaurins have for them, the children are very joyful and happy to see them. When they come to any Friends for Street Children center to teach or attend events, the children say “hello” loudly, then run up and hold them with welcoming hugs. The children truly love them, and consider them like their parents.

In addition, every year the MacLaurins provide scholarships for poor students with good grades in the university. They also help with gifts like money, rice or oil for children whose families are in difficult financial circumstances for the Vietnamese Tet holiday at the end of the year. They particularly like to give their share of contributions in the form of educational programs for the poor children in Friends for Street Children.

We sisters, teachers and volunteers of the Friends for Street Children program really are grateful to Phillip and Frances not only for loving the Vietnamese children and giving significant contributions for our program, but also for giving Vietnamese children a good impression of foreigners.

We are proud to have zealous foreign volunteers like them, and consider them wonderful role models for us to imitate in serving and loving the poor children. We particularly learned about their generosity and love for children in Vietnam when we did an interview with them:

Nguyen: What motivates you to love the poor children in Vietnam?
MacLaurins: We are very privileged in our lives; we had a high-quality education and good jobs. Now we feel we have a lot to offer in terms of our life experience, knowledge and skills. We want to encourage disadvantaged children to achieve their potential and motivate them to have a better future.

How do you feel when helping poor children in Vietnam?
It is always a pleasure because the children are so appreciative, warm and joyful, but it is also heart-wrenching to see the very difficult situations that some children live in. Too many have substandard homes and need to work to support their families. However, if we can do even a little bit to make their situation easier or encourage them in their lives, that is very rewarding for us, and hopefully for them as well.

What do you want them to do when you support them?
We obviously want them to succeed. For us, success does not mean being top in the class, it means achieving their potential, and being decent, hardworking young people, who have good values and care for themselves and others.

We thank God for sending the MacLaurins to the Friends for Street Children program; all of us — staff and children — pray for them every day. May God bless their charitable works, so that they can continue to bring love and happiness to others. May God bless them with pleasure in sharing their love with the disadvantaged children in Vietnam.

As St. Paul said, “Happiness lies more in giving then in receiving” (Acts 20:35).

https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry/column/foreign-volunteers-devote-time-care-children-vietnam

Child workers in Vietnam stay safer knowing labor rights, self-defense tactics

Vietnam photoNguyen Thi Tien, 15, left, sells fruit on a road near An Lo market in Thua Thien Hue Province. At a recent workshop run by the Filles de Marie Immaculée sisters in Hue City, Vietnam, Tien was trained in how to deal with abusive adult customers. (Joachim Pham)

by Joachim Pham

On a cool evening in early February, Ho Thi Mai Lan smilingly invited three beer drinkers to buy salted peanuts and baked rice paper at an open-air bar along An Cuu River in Hue City.

One of the men pretended to show interest in the 14-year-old girl’s wares, asking the price while he was fixing her with an unblinking gaze and touching her hand.

Lan, a food street vendor who makes 50,000 dong ($2.15) per day, signaled to her friends, who were also selling food nearby. They rushed to surround the men, drawing attention by loudly exhorting them to buy food.

Flustered, one of the men immediately bought a packet of salted peanuts for 65 cents and chased the kids off.

Lan said that in the past, not knowing how to avoid such incidents, she had to suffer maltreatment and abuse from those who bought her food.

But, after help from the Filles de Marie Immaculée (Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception), she is better equipped to handle risky situations.

The sisters organized a special workshop in January in Hue City to arm child workers, orphans and other children at risk to fend off harm and understand their rights.

Nguyen Thi Tien, 15, confidently sells fruit by herself on the street to make more income after she finishes her work at a produce shop at An Lo Market in Phong Dien district of Thua Thien Hue Province.

Tien, an orphan, earns 1.1 million dong ($47) per month to support her ailing grandmother, who is 81. Tien says she once was physically attacked by a drunken man and, after that, did not dare to travel alone.

“I have phone numbers of some Catholic volunteers, social workers and fellows to call them in case I am bullied, abused or unfairly treated, so I no longer fear strangers,” says Tien.

The young woman, whose parents died with HIV/AIDS, dropped out of school when she was in second grade. Every day she pedals five kilometers from her home to the market and passes through a cemetery, putting her at risk of physical attacks.

Lan and Tien joined 50 others like them for help from the Filles de Marie sisters at the training session in Hue.

Sr. Maria Nguyen Thi Phu, an organizer, says the workshop teaches skills and practical knowledge about children’s rights to child laborers and orphans vulnerable to physical and sexual attacks.

Phu says, through pictures, video clips and group discussion, the children learn their rights to protection from discrimination, abuse, exploitation and abandonment. They learn about their rights to express their thoughts about youth issues, enjoy basic living standards and receive health care.

The nun says the workshop offers participants training on how to work in groups, listen to other people, observe situations and present their views. Then they turn to roleplaying exercises to practice what they have learned.

Participants played a game called “fish catcher.” A boy was blindfolded and directed by some girls to collect “fish,” represented by pieces of paper strewn on the ground, while other players shouted loudly. The boy, who was pretending to be an attacker, was confused by too much information and noise. The game taught the children how to fluster a potential predator.

Phu says children are also taught how to deal with potentially violent incidents and being exploited in the workplace. Many children do heavy work at construction sites, harvest rice, look after animals or wash dishes at restaurants but are paid half or two-thirds of what adults make for doing the same work, she says.

According to Thua Thien Hue Province data, 4,600 children have to work to support their families, live in slums or are affected by HIV/AIDS. An average of 33 cases of child abuse are reported every year in the province, higher than in much larger provinces, 2017 records show.

In 2018, the Ministry of Public Security estimates that 1,579 children in Vietnam were victims of sexual abuse, rape, murder, violence or trafficking. Many cases went unreported because they happened in remote areas or were hidden, experts say. In 2017, Vietnam had 23.9 million children under 15.

Nguyen Tan Tai, 17, a workshop participant, said the session taught him his rights and offered useful tips that had been completely unfamiliar to him.

Tai shared his family stories with others at the workshop. He says he saw his stepfather, who was addicted to alcohol and drugs, regularly beat his mother and abused his younger sister while shouting at him. The stepfather died of AIDS in 2017.

Tai also said in 2015 he worked four months at a construction site in Da Nang City, and a builder denied him his wages. “But I did not know how to make him pay me,” he said.

The youth, who now works for a computer shop, said that last year his younger sister and he joined a church-run club for at-risk children. They were taught vocational skills, and their mother was given seed money to buy clothes to sell at the market for a living.

Phu, who is in charge of underprivileged children in Hue, said 30 members from the club established in 2017 gather to play games, draw pictures, share problem-solving skills, and go camping. All these activities aim to unite the young members so they can help each other to overcome challenges and protect themselves from abuses.

The nun said it is difficult to approach children who are from various locales and work at places far from their homes. Many refuse to reveal their backgrounds for fear of discrimination, ill treatment or bullying by others.

“We must be patient and need more time to work with those marginalized children and offer them chances to live a life of dignity,” Phu says.

She says nuns also provide basic education and vocational skills at eight parishes to some 100 children who left school early. They are sent to work in safer places or with employers that have ties to the sisters.

Phu says the nuns plan to hold more workshops and educate local communities about children’s rights in the future so as to prevent cases of child abuse.

 

 

 
https://www.globalsistersreport.org/news/ministry-equality/child-workers-vietnam-stay-safer-knowing-labor-rights-self-defense-tactics?utm_source=MARCH_21_GSR+DIGEST&utm_campaign=cc&utm_medium=email