Elderly woman wins fame after rejecting handouts

The 84-year-old Do Thi Mo in Thanh Hoa has become known across Vietnam after she asked local authorities not to classify her household as 'poor' in September last year, effectively forgoing many benefits and preferential treatment.

Elderly woman wins fame after rejecting handouts
In early April this year, 84-year-old Do Thi Mo donates her life’s saving worth VND 2 million after watching Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s televised message calling on every Vietnamese citizen and resident to join hands in the nation’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. —VNA/VNS Photo

The octogenarian lives alone in a small house with an area of about 30 sq.m in Luong Thien Hamlet, Luong Son Commune, saying she did not want to rely on or bother any of her 11 children, as she still has her health.

Mo makes a living by growing vegetables, raises chickens and taking her produce to sell at a local market.

With her income, she could live well and had enough food to eat so she thought she was no longer poor, Mo said.

In 2018, for the first time, she asked the local authority to no longer include her in the local list of impoverished households.

In Vietnam, a household is considered poor if it has a monthly per capita income of VND700,000 ($30) or lower, or up to VND1 million ($42) if it lacks access to three out of five basic social services including health care, education, housing, clean water and hygiene, and information, according to a 2015 decision.

Poor households are eligible for financial and housing support as well as low-interest loans to invest in their livelihoods, among other forms of support provided by the Government to lift them out of poverty.

Last year, for the second time, Mo applied for her household to be rid of the poor status, saying there are people out there who are “in more dire need” of Government support.

A video of Mo riding a bicycle to the office of Luong Son Commune and giving officials her request went viral in September last year. Netizens applauded the elderly woman who redeemed their faith in people, especially after many reports of those who falsified their poverty status to illicitly obtain Government support.

In early April this year when Vietnam was in the thick of the fight against COVID-19, Mo donated her life’s savings of VND2 million after watching Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s televised message calling on every Vietnamese citizen and resident to join hands in the nation’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inspired by Mo’s actions, thousands of people from poor and near-poor households across the country forewent Government support and offered it to those more in need.

In October last year, Mo was awarded a certificate of merit from Thanh Hoa Province People’s Committee for setting a good example in the fight against poverty.

She was a special guest in a programme hosted by VTV on October 17, 2019, that called for support to the poor.

Last month, Mo was among more than 300 outstanding individuals in Thanh Hoa Province that received certificates of merit from the province for contributions in the patriotic emulation movement in the last five years.

Elderly woman wins fame after rejecting handouts
Do Thi Mo interviewed on a TV programme. — VNA/VNS Photo

No poor any more

 

At the age of 84, Mo still farms and lives by herself.

To may people’s surprise, Mo said she is capable of cleaning her fishing pond on her own without help.

“I can still do it. Why do I have to ask for help?” Mo said.

“Since I became famous thanks to the video, many people and organisers have visited me, which makes me so happy,” she said, adding that their encouragement made her feel "healthier" too.

“I didn't think my simple action would matter to people as much as that. I simply don’t want to be labelled a 'poor household' because I can still work and earn money,” she said.

Mo was born and grew up in a poor family in the rural district of Quang Xuong in Thanh Hoa. She joined the militia force, serving in Dien Bien Province in the north. She married a soldier when she was 24. Then, the couple volunteered to move to the mountainous area of Luong Son District, Thanh Hoa Province and started farming there.

Mo’s husband died of illness more than 30 years ago, leaving Mo to raise their 11 children, one of whom is adopted. Now, two of her 11 children have died while others have their own families and stable incomes.

“I don’t want to live together with any of my children not because I am a hard nut to crack or my children ignore me,” she said, adding that she felt healthy enough to live alone.

Luong Xuan Thiem, chairman of Luong Son Commune People’s Committee, said local authorities and people always found Mo a person of work.

“She has kept working all the time. She has not allowed herself to rely on others’ support,” he said.

Secretary of Thanh Hoa Province Party Committee and chairman of the province People’s Council Trinh Van Chien at a council meeting retold Mo’s story, asking local officials to make her an example to follow.

“Think and do for those who are more disadvantaged,” Chien said.

The official said he was so unhappy to learn that in some cases, fabricated documents were made so that well-off households, including those of officials and their relatives, could be classified as poor or near-poor households and get Government support.

Such violations were so shameful and the difference that Mo made would rouse the conscience of such selfish violators, he said.  VNS

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