Vietnam - Dong Hoa : The Têt Solidarity Mission

Some days before the Têt festivities on the 20, 21 and 22 of January 2017, we went on a solidarity mission to the Region of the Centre of Vietnam; religious, men and women, from different congregations (Augustinians of the Assumption, Oblates of the Assumption, LSA ; Lovers of the Cross and Daughters of Charity from Vinh) as well as some lay friends with young boys and girls from student hostels in Saïgon and Father Paul Hung, the initiator of the project.


The Province of the Centre was chosen because in 2016 that region had been seriously affected by pollution from the sea and then by flooding during the rainy season. Of course, it was the poor families that were the more seriously affected by these catastrophes; and so, it was for them that we were mobilized. The Little Sisters of the Belgium-France-Italy-Vietnam Territory responded generously to the appeal made by our community that help be given to these families. 
The sea pollution is linked to the toxic waste that the steel works ‘‘Formosa’’ (a Taiwanese business) had poured into the sea. Millions of fish have died, fishermen have lost their work, the sea is still contaminated, as are the fish that have survived. A large number of persons have lost their main source of nourishment and, what is the future for the inhabitants of this province? 
Floods have come to add still further misfortune to the sea catastrophe: houses are submerged, harvests lost … the people are exhausted. 
We are aware that the aid given on the occasion of Têt will not be sufficient for certain families, and that is why we wish to continue the aid programme for the repair or reconstruction of houses, for helping certain small businesses to have some capital and also to give bursaries to some student workers who wish to continue their studies and whose families cannot meet these costs. 
With what we have collected we have been able to help 300 families at Quang Binh, Ha Tinh and Nghe An. Several of these families were not Catholics. For the young Catholics who were present, the testimony that every person is considered by the Christians to be loved by God and is recognised by the disciples of Jesus as being fully a brother or sister is an opening up of their life. The visits to the families was done by groups. First, we wished them ‘‘a happy celebration’’ when giving the basic foodstuffs (rice, oil, spices...). Then, we were able to talk a little about family life;  we listened to many things: their cares and their hope. We admired their endurance and, for those who believe in God, their gratitude to the Lord who does not abandon them. If one family or another had a desire or a specific project it was noted so that it might be transmitted to the organisers and a discernment made as to what could be done. 
Among the families we visited we were able to meet a few members of the ethnic minorities who were in a situation of complete destitution. 
Also, we have given aged or ill persons who are unable to go to their church a ‘‘radio of the Word of God’’. This is a precious gift for these isolated persons so that they may keep in contact with life and continue to nourish their faith.
In some places we have been in contact with the parish, which had a list of persons whom we might meet and of members of the parish community who accompanied us into these families. 
One of the aims of this type of ‘‘mission’’ is to enable the young women to have an experience of proximity with people who are poor. The young women can thus discover the values of these persons and learn something from it for their own life. In learning to receive from the poor, to have esteem for them, they can give without condescendence or pity, but offer in a sisterly way what they have been favoured with by life, without their having done anything for that.
This inter-congregation and inter-generation Church experience was a special time of Têt for all of us. These different encounters were a call: to receive everything as a gift; to know how to be grateful to our Father who gives us ‘‘our daily bread’’ abundantly. For us Little Sisters it also means remembering that it is to the persons who are impoverished that Christ sends us. Through our rule of life, Christ invites us to be consistent with the demands of the gospel and the respect for the people among whom we live and whom we learn to love as brothers and sisters. 
Sr Minh et Sr Colette 
Community of Dong Hoa 
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