Thousands of free meals were distributed at dozens of exam locations all over Hanoi on the first day. Although these meals were small, they were full of human sentiment, which was shared with examinees from disadvantaged families.
Hanoi charities like Com 5,000 (VND5000 Meals for Charity) and Hao Tam (Kind Heart) provided the meals.
The volunteers brought these meals to exam locations, and distributed them to examinees and their relatives.
According to the Hanoi Youth Union, as many as 12,000 volunteers participated. Their main duty was working at the bus and train stations to receive and help candidates.
"This is the third year we've conducted the programme, which was widely supported by candidates and their parents," said Bui Quang Long, manager of the group Com 5,000.
This year the group plans to distribute about 3,000 free meals to examinees. Volunteers will also hand out water, bread and paper fans during the exam.
To prepare the meals, Long, his partners and nearly 200 volunteers bought the materials in the afternoon and then cooked them that night to make sure they didn't rot. It needed to be prepared by 7 a.m. to be shipped to exam locations.
Despite the hot weather, volunteers tried their best to make sure the meals include necessary nutrition.
About 3,200 examinees have registered to receive meals at 18 exam locations such as the University of Civil Engineering, the Trade Union University and the Water Resources University.
"I want to make a small contribution to help examinees from other provinces," said Tran Thi Thanh, a final-year student at the Hanoi Teachers' Training College.
"I received the same help when I took the exam several years ago," she said.
The group originally planned to distribute 2,000 meals, but it decided to increase to 3,200 meals due to the high number of registered students, said Nguyen Thu Dao, the group's main chef.
He hoped the community would learn more about the group after the exam, and that more and more kind-hearted people would be willing to support the group in its other charity activities.
"Students' happiness when receiving the free meals inspired me to continue my job, despite the difficulties," Dao said.
5,000 VND Meals for Charity was launched in 2012. It is a volunteer club affiliated with the Hanoi Youth Union. The target beneficiaries are poor patients, unemployed and working poor, and vulnerable orphans.
Taking her daughter to take part in the national high school exam, Tran Thi Dong nearly melted when she received a free meal voucher at the University of Natural Sciences' exam location. She expressed her thanks to the programme and the charities that had helped her and many poor people like her enjoy simple happiness.
"I hope my daughter passes the exam with high scores and is able to take some meaningful actions in the future," Dong said.
Dao Hong Trang, head of Kind Heart, said over the past few days she and a group of 20 volunteers had been busy calling for food donations and preparing other kitchen utensils for the cooking.
Kind Heart prepared about 400 meals and cups of lemonade every day for examinees and their relatives at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology's exam location, she said.
"We were once examinees so we can understand the hardship of students coming to Hanoi from other provinces," said Ngoc, a member of Kind Heart. "As such, we work together to offer free portions for them."