Saigon is currently in its fourth and incoming fifth social distancing period, with each set of Directives more strengthening and tightening measures, from the Directive 15 to 16, then 16+.
Social distancing time is a period of slow living for those who have a home and a comfortable life without having to worry about food and necessities daily, the days when families gather to protect and care for one another throughout the outbreak. People may not be allowed to sip their coffee drinks at their favorite café, stroll the streets, or even get enough vegetables, meat, or seafood for their families as a result of the tight social distancing measures put in place to control the outbreak.
During the pandemic, however, all of the sufferings and hardships experienced by impoverished working families, whose lives are already fragile, seem to worsen, reaching a peak of misery if they do not receive prompt assistance from donors.
Indeed, a week after the city began implementing the social distancing Directive 16 for the first time, we contacted many families of children supported by Maison Chance to check about their health and the state of “slow living” during the social distancing. Surprisingly, we learned a new concept from a parent over the phone “slow death,” based on the joke “we’re dying slowly, not living slowly, Miss.” This saying holds a lot of bitterness and despair. That’s right, how can they not “die slowly” when their work is lost, resulting in a lack of income, and rent, power and water bills, bank loans, and other loans to cover times of need, such as medical expenses, must still be paid.
You might wonder why they don’t save and accumulate money to manage themselves in times of emergencies but have to rely on others. However, few people realize that the majority of them are people who do not own a house or fields in their hometown, and because they have no livelihoods at home, they are forced to relocate to big cities like Saigon in order to find work and earn money to send back home to care for their elderly parents, pay debts, and send their children to school. Even if they could save money, they’ve already spent it after months of waiting in their cramped motel rooms for the pandemic to end. Among them are a few more fortunate families that are able to live in their relative’s homes rather than in rented property. But no one is truly worry-free; while they may not have to worry about where they will sleep, they must nevertheless cope with their children’s illnesses and a slew of other financial concerns.
More than 200 community students supported by Maison Chance have more than 200 different stories to tell: the family has a father but no mother, a mother but no father, the mother left the house and the father was mentally ill living with grandparents, the parents are blind, and only children are the family’s eyes.
Their main similarity is that they are poor laborers, some of them are crippled, who struggle to make ends meet by low-wage, unstable jobs like picking up bottles, selling lottery tickets or baskets, or working as motorcycle taxi drivers or construction workers, among other things.
Families have been drained by the long struggle against the Covid-19 pandemic, and they urgently need timely assistance from the entire community to ensure that no one is left behind. Although Maison Chance is struggling to find funds to continue its activities of caring for its beneficiaries. However, with the spirit of “”a slice of bread when hungry is worth a whole loaf when full,” and via sharing and joining hands of the community, Maison Chance is doing its best to contribute a small part of an attempt to act as a bridge to give gifts and generosity of benefactors to the families in need.
We hope that the sponsors’ contributions will continue to aid students’ families in their fight against the pandemic. At the same time, Maison Chance will make every effort to assist the families in regaining their children’s access to school after the pandemic is over.
Translated by: Toan Nguyen