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Expat benefactors grateful HCMC lockdown lifted at last

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Many HCMC based expats who helped people during the recent lockdowns with food and other items are relieved that things are returning to normal.


Bophathom Vann, 23, has finally returned to Can Tho after spending weeks helping healthcare workers in Ho Chi Minh City take care of Covid-19 patients and collecting test samples from local people.


Now at a quarantine facility, the Cambodian student of Can Tho University of Medicine and Pharmacy cannot hide her relief that her volunteering finished last week after HCMC lifted its lockdown and started resuming socio-economic activities.


"My volunteer work is done, but I am happy because life has gradually returned to normal and the outbreak in HCMC is contained."


Sharing her relief are many other foreigners living in HCMC and neighboring localities who were supporting people struggling during the prolonged lockdown.



Robin Deepu (first from right) and his friends deliver food kits to the needy in HCMC, Sept. 2021. Photo courtesy of Robin Deepu


For them relief and happiness come from the fact that many people around them have survived the lockdowns reasonably well.


"Many people and hospitals in town have told me they can easily access food now, and their lives are slowly getting better," Robin Deepu, owner of three Indian restaurants named Baba’s Kitchen in HCMC and Hoi An, tells VnExpress International.


"When fewer people are in dire need, life is going back is where it used to be."


During the four-month lockdown the Indian man and his staff delivered up to 1,000 meals a day to local hospitals and people living in locked-down areas across the city.


Deepu spent around VND30 million ($1,319) a day to buy ingredients and cook the food and did not sack any of his employees either.


In a Facebook post on Sept. 30, the last day of the lockdown, he said he has cooked and distributed over 150,000 meals and more than 4,000 food kits to people in HCMC.


"Today will finally be our last day of serving those most in need in the lockdown... Our gratitude goes to everyone involved in this journey," he said, adding many friends had supported him and his team in their philanthropy works.


Daniel Payne of Thu Duc City, who often provided free meals to people in need together with his Vietnamese friends, says: "Many people have called and told us they can go out to get food or get support from the authorities, so we have happily stopped doing charitable works since the end of the lockdown."


Last weekend the Briton wound up three months of charitable work by checking on a Philippine family in District 8 to whom he regularly sent food before driving around the city and "feel the return of normalcy."


"I have learned that the best thing about helping others is seeing them get better and overcome difficulties."



Bophathom Vann takes nose swabs from a motorbike taxi driver in HCMC, Sept 2021. Photo courtesy of Bophathom Vann


Back to work


Now many expats have plans for their own businesses.


Deepu has reopened his restaurant in District 2, which is only allowed to serve takeout and delivery, but has yet to open the others in District 1 and Hoi An.


He hopes things would soon return to normal and he can fully reopen his business.


"Many people have left Vietnam and schools and some businesses are still closed, so my restaurant in District 2 is slowly recovering.

"I hope people strictly follow Covid instructions, then we will be allowed to serve dine-in customers soon".


In quarantine in Can Tho, Vann has spent time revising her lessons.


"What I want to do most is return to Cambodia to visit my family because I have not met them for two years," she says.


When they knew their daughter was working as a volunteer in Covid epicenter HCMC, her parents, worried for her safety, had objected strongly.



Some others have opted to leave Vietnam after months of struggling with the pandemic.


Percy Smith, an English teacher in Binh Thanh District who delivered thousands of meals to poor people during the lockdowns, will leave for his hometown in the U.K. next weekend.


Working with a friend named Nguyen Quoc Bao in District 10, he delivered the food to those in need across the city.


"My income has been severely hit by the pandemic and the recent lockdown, but I try to stay positive and spread it to others in town".


He hopes to deliver some more meals this weekend before leaving.


But he promises to return to Vietnam and continue to do charity.


Deepu, saying he will distribute free meals to hospitals twice a month, also says he will never stop his philanthropy journey even after the pandemic is over.


"When doing charitable works, I am supported by lots of kind people in Vietnam. I will keep helping those in need until I cannot."

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