Free banh mi, clothes warm hearts in Kon Tum
A roll of banh mi (baguette) and a piece of old clothing means little to most people, but a world of difference for those in need. In the Central Highlands city of Kon Tum, many charity stalls offering these goods to the poor have been set up over the years.
Children get free 'banh mi' from a stall set up by the An Lac Thien Tam group in Dak Cam Commune. (Photo courtesy of An Lac Thien Tam group)
Two years ago, Nguyen Thi Ngoc Tram, an official at a supermarket in Kon Tum city, set up a stall in Phan Chu Trinh street to provide free baguettes for the hungry.
Tram did not want to talk about her action, but her mother told the Tien Phong (Vanguard) newspaper that every day, Tram donated 100 baguettes to be given away at the stall. As each one costs VND 1,500, each month she spends VND 4.5 million (USD 198) on her goodwill work.
Another stall has been set up near the crossroads of Phan Dinh Phung and Phan Chu Trinh by Tran Thi Bao Lan, a teacher at Phan Dinh Phung elementary school.
Lan said she chose the place because it was near both a boarding school for minority ethnic students and villages of Ba Na people. “It is just a little deed to help the poor temporarily beat the hunger,” she said.
Also involved in helping poor ethnic people, a charity group called An Lac Thien Tam has established two baguette stalls in the outlying Dak Cam commune to provide free breakfasts for poor people, especially poor students.
The group, consisting of blue-collar workers and retirees, has been doing charity work for three years, but the baguette-donations began a month ago.
Truong Thi Nhung, head of the group, said she thought of the idea when seeing many teachers struggling to coax children of poor families to go to school.
“During our charity trips, I saw teachers having to buy sweets and snacks, knocking at every family’s door to persuade children not to drop out of school," she said.
“All the children there are ethnic minorities. Their families are so poor that it is hard to get enough to eat, let alone study. We hope that by giving out free baguettes to the children, they would have more drive to keep up their studies,” Nhung said.
Recently, when the group opened the second stall in the commune, many children came to get the baguettes.
“It was so touching to see them enjoy our food. Some of them didn’t have proper clothes to wear,” Nhung said.
She said besides setting up stalls, the group also took baguettes to some schools four to five kilometres from the commune centre.
In the future, the group plans to set up more stalls to cover all schools in the locality.
“Toi yeu Kon Tum” charity group helps the poor by giving them free clothes.
A charity stall set up by the An Lac Thien Tam group. (Photo courtesy of An Lac Thien Tam group)
A stall at 29 Nguyen Trai, also the group’s headquarters, is a familiar address for many people in the region.
Tran Van Cao Sang, head of the group said that the group had been active for the past 10 years. The free-stall idea was initiated by its members after studying similar ideas implemented in other provinces.
Clothes come from members of the group and many other people who love to help. Most clothes are used, but still in good conditions and properly cleaned and ironed before being given away.
“In the past year, there was rarely a day when we had any clothing left in the stall,” Sang said.
Sang said he hoped that many more poor people and organisations would hear of the stall and help out.
As Tet (Lunar New Year) comes, he and his group took rice, food, clothes and other necessities to impoverished communities in remote areas of the province./.