Hung and HONG AN

Collaborating with Hung and friends in order to build a bridge linking villages along the Mekong, thus allowing children to access their school

Hung et l’association HONG AN

Hung and HONG AN

Our visit to Hung and the team of Hong An in Ho Chi Minh City

– March 2016 –

In Ho Chi Minh City (or rather Saigon as everyone still calls it) the frantic, open, modern, bright and bustling city of south Vietnam, we followed the adventures of Hung Dinh, his friends and the Hong An organisation.

The project that first led us to this wonderful team of a dozen people gathered by Hung, all from different backgrounds (teacher, acupuncturist, baker…) is the construction of bridges in the Mekong Delta.

When we arrived on 28 March, the first bridge had just been inaugurated.

Built more than a day’s drive from the city, it took hours to ride there by scooter, on narrow paths between two stretches of water. These places are indeed very remote.

The construction projects are expensive ($20,000) and require the input of people from surrounding villages.

The opening was both serious and cheerful: everyone was rewarded for their efforts, the bridge is wide, white and robust and will at last enable children to cross the river to get to school safely, without having to face the dangers of long detours and it will allow farmers to move easily between both riverbanks.

We are already very keen to support the construction of the next bridge, in about a year, which will leave time to raise the money and gather volunteering forces!

Willing to contribute, we travelled beyond the Mekong, for an encounter and an epiphany… we’ve already given $500 and will provide the same amount when the works begin.

That day in March, however, Hung invited us to a wild scooter ride. Together with his team, off we went, 6 roaring scooters, loaded with boxes of food and drinks, to visit Father Tom’s orphanage.

About fifteen km in the suburbs around Saigon, within a maze of narrow streets, we found a house full of children and flowers.

Father Tom, who studied chemistry, has forged close relationships with the local hospital where, through care and advice, he began supporting the young pregnant women in distress, often rejected by their families, who had found shelter there…

7 years ago, with the trust of doctors and the administration, he began accommodating one, then two children, boys… today the house is filled with 15 children who are living there, the elder are in school, younger kids play in the small room at the back, curious to see us, happy to taste candies and sweets unloaded from the scooters.

From the start, Father Tom has been trying to maintain ties with mothers and some have even returned to take their children with them.

Nevertheless, the situation is precarious for everyone.

Father Tom tries to support the household by making flower bouquets that he sells every day in the city for $2.

Despite their own precarious conditions, the neighbours are generous.

But this is not enough to cover the costs.

Father Tom earns $500 a month, pays $200 rent and each child costs $75 (not including school fees)… not much is left to make ends meet.

This is where Hung and the Hong An organisation have stepped in to bring their support.

Moved by these generous intentions, we also contributed to support their efforts ($500)

Joining the tumultuous bunch of scooters, intoxicated by speed and dust, we came back both exhausted and enchanted by these encounters.




In the last 20 years, Vu Dinh Hung has been involved in numerous charitable actions, often out of personal initiatives.
First he took part in several projects with a group of colleagues from Vietnam Airlines, where he used to work.

Then, within his social circle, he managed to gather small groups of volunteers to carry out specific actions in the provinces (on average two days in a row), aimed at providing medical and dental care and medicines to children from underprivileged backgrounds, affected by HIV, from ethnic minorities as well as elderly people.
He usually works hand in hand with local charities (Catholics and Buddhists) religious organisations that act as a local relay.

Other activities include tours and entertainment for children – with clowns, jugglers, small theaters and even hairdressers – on the occasion of local festivities during which the volunteers hand out sweets, school supplies, milk, mooncakes…
At these events, dressed up as a General, Hung performs Kung Fu.
Another kind of ritual: the pleasure of interrupting New Year’s Eve festivities with friends and family, to offer gifts and friendly activities to elderly, lonely and homeless, people as they encounter them in the streets.

Current and upcoming activities now grant more importance to the construction of frameworks such as schools and bridges in underprivileged areas.
Thanks to improved living standards, longer term projects regarding the distribution of food and basic commodities are less necessary.

These new projects are being run in collaboration with the HONG AN organisation.
The one that caught our attention is the plan to build a bridge (perhaps two) in the Mekong Delta.
These bridges will allow students to reach their school more directly, without crossing the numerous waterways by swimming and, sadly, often drowning.

Indeed, because of their greater scale, these frameworks require more funding.

Hung told us in february that they achieved a first bridge and they will begin a second one.

We will be together in Ho Chi Minh City the 25,26,27 and 28 of march and perhaps until 2 of April, 2016 to see and sustain this effort to make it.

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