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Selfless supports in times of need

Created 10 August 2021
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Thousands of migrant labourers working in the south chose to embark on an exhausting journey covering thousands of kilometres to come back home amid the pandemic. A group of pickup truck owners in central Đà Nẵng City has stood up to help ease their burden.

Members of the PDC taskforce pose for a photo before setting off for their mission. Photos courtesy of Phan Minh Việt

ĐÀ NẴNG — The complicated developments of the COVID-19 pandemic in HCM City and other southern provinces have pushed many already vulnerable migrant labourers into crisis.

They are forced to make a hard choice: stay put and face an uncertain future or make a desperate scramble back home where they at least have a family to rely on.

Many have opted for the latter.

In the end of July and beginning of August, thousands of people chose to embark on an arduous, if not dangerous, journey by motorbike to return to their hometowns in the north and central regions.

Fortunately, their journeys were made much less exhausting thanks to the kind-heartedness of many people along the way.

Pickup truck Đà Nẵng Club (PDC), a group of lovers of pickup trucks in Đà Nẵng City, is one of them.

“The past recent days are unforgettable for us,” Phan Minh Việt, vice head of the club, told Việt Nam News.

From July 31 to August 3, Việt and many other members of the club had helped an estimate of nearly 5,000 people on their way back home.

“We received the information from the city’s traffic police on July 30 and started our work a day later,” he said.

“Never in my life have I seen such a massive influx of people driving motorbikes like that.”

In the end of July and beginning of August, hundreds of motorbikes passed through Đà Nẵng City in groups each day as people returned to their hometowns in the north and central regions.

Although not a charity group, Việt and other PDC members are not strangers to voluntary work.

Established in 2017, the group of around 1,000 members with more than 200 living in Đà Nẵng, have been involved in many voluntary missions helping poor and disadvantaged people across the country over the past five years.

Last year, when Đà Nẵng became the epicentre in the second wave of COVID infections, a so-called “task force” was established within the club to help transport food, medical equipment and other necessities to local residents and health care workers on the frontline.

Now members of the task force immediately jumped into action, teaming up with the traffic police in Đà Nẵng City, Quảng Nam and Thừa Thiên Huế provinces and other voluntary groups to help out.

A group of 54 pickup trucks and four small-sized trucks were mobilised.

Everyday the work started at around 8-9pm and only ended mid-morning the next day.

“We had spent four sleepless nights to support the returnees but strangely not a single one of us felt tired or sleepy. It is as though we had received positive vibes when doing that meaningful work,” Việt said.

His team of about 60 people was divided into smaller groups to perform different tasks such as transportation, preparing food, taking care of sick people, or fixing broken motorbikes.

A mother and child are transported by a club member's pickup truck.

The trucks were used to transport elderly people, women and children from a gathering point in Đại Lộc District in Quảng Nam Province, throughout Đà Nẵng City to Hải Vân Pass which is adjacent to Thừa Thiên – Huế Province.

Meanwhile, four trucks were used to carry broken motorbikes to a place where a group of volunteers was ready to fix, service and fill in them with petrol.

Việt added: “On average, each night we helped around 500 motorbikes with roughly 1,000 people. July 31 saw the highest number with around 700 motorbikes.

“Most returnees left for the journey in a rush and without making careful preparations. Many didn’t even have any money.

“That’s why we also prepared some gift packages with some bread, milk, rice, water and cold wet towels for them to use when taking a rest on the way.”

The most special case was helping a couple hailing from central Nghệ An Province.

Xồng Bá Xò and his wife were travelling back to their hometown from southern Bình Dương Province, the second biggest COVID-19 hot spot at the moment, just 10 days after his wife underwent a C-section to give birth to their child with the surgical sutures yet to be removed.

“Trần Vương, a member of our team heard about their story and looked for all ways possible to find them," Việt said.

"We were all worried about the health of the mother and child. It was very dangerous for them to take on this exhausting journey,”

Xồng Bá Xò's wife and new-born child take a rest on a sidewalk in Đà Nẵng.City.

After finding the couple, the club members immediately gave Xò and his wife VNĐ25 million and with the help of a benefactor rented a car to drive them to Nghệ An.

“We asked him to use the money to buy a new motorbike later and still keep his old motorbike here as a memento of our club,” Việt said.

Helping those coming back from the pandemic regions means the volunteers faced a high risk of being infected.

But Việt said they were all prepared for that.

“If we catch the virus we are all ready to go to the quarantined zones. Each of us has already prepared a backpack with all necessary belongings,” he said.

“Fortunately, Thiện Nhân Clinic in Đà Nẵng offer us COVID-19 tests for free. Every four days every member would go there to take samples for testing. Luckily, no one has tested positive so far,” Việt said.

More to be done

Now, the motorbike caravans have stopped after Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính asked people remain where they are to prevent the risk of virus transmission. Only trips organised by local authorities are allowed to bring stranded people back to their hometowns.

But the PDC’s mission does not end there.

Việt said: “In the first days HCM City was hit hard by the virus, we called for a donation of 31 tonnes of fish, 1,700 packs of noodles, and 80 tonnes of vegetables to send to HCM City and Bình Dương.

“Now, as Đà Nẵng is under lockdown, we are helping the city authorities to transport food and medical equipment to quarantine areas, hospitals and COVID-19 checkpoints across the city.”

Like everyone else, Việt and his friends in the club just hope the pandemic will soon be brought under control so that they can not only return to their normal lives, but continue helping the community.

“We are planning to grow one million trees in Nam Trà My District in Quảng Nam Province, the locality worst hit during the flood last year. This must be done before September when the rainy season starts. But with the current pandemic situation, I am afraid that the plan will have to be delayed until next year,” Việt said. VNS

 

Source: VNN

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