Middle-aged, elderly Vietnamese volunteer to build bridges for community

A group of middle-aged and elderly residents in a region of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta have willingly built a number of bridges for years without requiring any pay in return, but they believe it is what they can do for the community that counts.

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Members of a volunteering group build a bridge in Dong Thap Province, southern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Nearly a decade ago, around 20 men in a rural area of Lai Vung District of river-crisscrossed Dong Thap Province began volunteering to use their effort to make bridges.

The group’s work was so effective that their yield was rapidly seen in the entire district, with over 200 bridges having been constructed so far.

Their schedule for the previous months of this year alone was tight as they were busy creating over 70 bridges during the period.

Now the group consists of more than 120 members, all in their fifties, sixties or seventies.

Aware of their age, they avoid overworking, which means they allow themselves to take a rest when feeling tired before resuming the labor.

Although they cannot show the agility and physical strength of the youth, the men possess enthusiasm and carefulness, usually choosing a member as a supervisor that monitors the building process.

A 75-year-old member of the team, Huynh Phu Chien, said he once arrived at a construction site to work after secretly leaving the hospital where doctors asked him to stay so that his injured foot could recover.

The group’s footprints can be seen not only in Dong Thap, but also in Dong Nai Province, about 150 kilometers away.
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Huynh Phu Chien, 75, shows his injured foot at a construction site in Dong Thap Province, southern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

“As the distance is large, we divided the job burden amongst us. Anyone who didn’t have family commitments in a few days would go there,” Nguyen Van Nghia, the group’s deputy leader, said of their job in Dong Nai.

The wives of the members sometimes accompany their husbands to construction locations in order to conveniently cook food for the entire team.

The men’s effort had influences on several young people in Lai Vung District.

Tran Thi Quynh Nuong, 24, who usually make cakes and drinks for them, said her parents used to complain about her coming home late at night but she simply responded that had become her routine.

A 19-year-old boy, Tran Phuoc Nguyen energetically helped the men carry construction materials because he thought that the youth should play a role in the job the elderly was doing for the public interests.

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