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Club gives free meals to poor patients

Millions of free meals have been provided to poor patients at Binh Phuoc Province's General Hospital over the past 18 years, easing the financial burden on the families of long-term patients.

Group of policemen offer free meals to poor patients
Police porridge warms up poor patients

Patients and their relatives queue to get free food from the volunteer club in Binh Phuoc Province. — Photo


The southern province's volunteer club which provides the meals, founded in 2002, originally had just one group of volunteers to cook for the patients, according to Ho Van Nhat, head of the club.

"I went to the hospital several times and realised they faced financial problems because they had been sick for a long time," Nhat told Nông nghiệp Việt Nam (Viet Nam Agriculture) online newspaper. "I also saw many poor ethnic minority patients forced to return home because they did not have enough money for treatment at the hospital."

“So I decided to raise money and cook free meals for them,” he said.

In the beginning, Nhat used his own money to pay for the meals. Since then he has mobilised people in the neighbourhood and relatives to help.

The club now has 15 other groups which take turn cooking for people being treated at the hospital.

The club connects organisations and individuals looking to contribute time, efforts and materials to provide meaningful help to patients, Nhat said, giving patients the motivation to cope with their illnesses. Volunteer groups can donate money, rice, ingredients or labour, he said.

They serve porridge in the morning and rice at lunch and dinner.

The club cooks about 600 meals a day for lunch and dinner, starting preparations early in the morning to make sure the food is ready in time.

Doan Thi Bich Hop, head of a volunteer group called “sport family”, said her group cooks meals twice a month for poor patients at the hospital.

By 11am, everything is ready and patients and relatives queue up. Although each meal costs the club VND20,000 to prepare, the patients and their families know they can count on being fed free of charge.

Huynh Thi Ngoc Dung, a member of the group, said most people in her group wok in a State office so they can only volunteer their time to help cook on Saturdays and Sundays.

“I am busy with work in the office and my family but I try to join the group," Dung said. "Sometimes I’m tired, but it makes me happy when I can help those in need."

The work is taxing. Volunteers wake up early and go to the market to buy ingredients. There is no break after lunch is over; they keep working to prepare dinner.

Clean water is also served all day.

A poor patient who has been treated at the hospital for diabetes for 23 years, 65-year-old Nguyen Thi Luom, said: “I am very happy to receive free meals from the club. It really helps me to overcome difficulties because I have to go to the hospital regularly to treat my diabetes.”

“I just want to say thank you so much to each member of the club,” she added.

“I don't know how difficult it would be without these meals," said Mai Van Hung, a kidney failure patient from Phuoc Long Township. "After two years in treatment, I’m having financial difficulties."

Bui Thi Sau, the wife of a 72-year-old patient who is undergoing kidney failure treatment at the hospital, said they had been receiving free meals for nearly nine years since her husband first came to the hospital.

"I often go the kitchen to help volunteer groups prepare meals when I have free time," she said. "My husband and I are grateful to the club."

"Sometimes I thought it was impossible to keep the club operating," said Nhat. "But the members and I have done everything to help disadvantaged patients. The kitchen has also received support from many sources, in many ways."



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