|Vietnamese people give free masks to Czech health workers|
As the country was waiting, the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic was preparing for the pandemic to arrive. Hearing about the outbreak from their families in Vietnam, they were well instructed to take precautions – such as to install a glass barrier at their grocery stores to avoid direct contact with customers, purchase hand sanitizer or to wear a facemask. While at the beginning, the Vietnamese wearing facemasks in the Czech Republic could easily encounter social stigmatization and xenophobia, when the epicenter of the pandemic shifted from Asia to Europe, wearing a facemask in all public places became mandatory. However, there was a lack of facemasks on the market and even people fighting on the front lines such as doctors, nurses and law enforcement personnel were facing a shortage of supplies.
The Vietnamese community took this as an opportunity to give back to the country which became their second home and joined the nation-wide initiative to manufacture facemasks at home and distribute them to the ones in need. Within days, the Czech Vietnamese were able to deliver dozens of thousands of cloth facemasks to hospitals, retirement homes, and police stations across the country. In many Vietnamese grocery stores, free facemasks and gloves are offered to the customers.
The help does not end there, countless Vietnamese owned stores across the country provide free coffee, drinks and snacks for all the personnel working in the front lines. To make the servicemen and servicewomen aware of this possibility, they mark their door with a big red heart – a symbol that is rather self-explanatory. Vietnamese restaurants offer free delivery meals and Nguyen Hong Dang (27) is one of many who participated. His beverage distribution company provided drinks to the leading Prague hospital dealing with the highest number of cases and the police. “We just wanted to provide to those working endless hours on the front lines. It is very important for them to stay sufficiently hydrated or regain energy,” he stated.
While it’s mostly about spontaneous initiatives of friends and families, there is some level of coordination – whether it’s on a community level, social media, local associations of Vietnamese or NGOs – such as Làm Cha Mẹ CZ. It was the first one to respond to an urgent call for facemasks from one of Prague’s hospitals and organized a group of women to sew them. Today, on their transparent fundraiser account people have already donated more than 150 mil VND, which will be used to purchase material. Another great examples of Vietnamese compassion would be money donations to municipalities or the case of the city of Ústí nad Labem – one of the first cities to record COVID-19 cases in the country – where the local Vietnamese association called for a fundraiser to purchase a lung ventilator for the city hospital – a crucial machine to tackle the virus.
Since this article cannot pay justice to all the community’s action, for more of heartwarming stories of the Czech Vietnamese, you can follow their actions on a Facebook page “Vietnamci pomáhají” (Vietnamese are helping). A crisis of this scale is an opportunity to bring people together. For the Vietnamese community, online co-ordination allows encounters between members that would not have happened otherwise. Finally, for the Czech Vietnamese, often born in the country, it is a manifestation of solidarity with a country they consider home and their actions are highly praised by the media, society and political representation. Despite an important geographical distance between the two countries, the Czechs and the Vietnamese are closer than ever. Interestingly enough, this year both countries are celebrating 70 years anniversary of mutual diplomatic relations.
Embassy of Czech in Hanoi