While there are people who consume food more than they need, there will be people with less food to eat. Where people abuse freedom, there will be people with less freedom to practice. Are we living with ignorance or negligence?
A family with six members living in the cramped space of a rented house, four children at school age but have not stepped inside a school gate even once. Seeing them sitting on a pile of garbage they had just collected, I wondered would there be a ray of hope to light up their gloomy future. This is only one among many cases of immigrants living in Vinh Loc Village, Binh Chanh Town, Vietnam.
Located not too far from the centre of Ho Chi Minh City, Vinh Loc is a shelter for thousands of immigrants from close by areas. Most of them are living in poverty, collecting garbage and selling lottery tickets for a living. Despite hardship and burdens, their energy to thrive touched me. The more I listened to their stories, the more I admired their optimism and desire for life. Perhaps they fail to achieve material wealth but they never fail in expressing care and love for one another. The generous poor share what they have with even poorer neighbours and lonely elders. Money and real estate have never been the measurement of their wealth but instead, love and humanity.
For children living in this area, it has been a struggle to attend school and now it is even more challenging during this critical time of pandemic. Daily meals have become a survival issue. Going to school? Too luxurious to even think about. Without access to a decent education and a safe environment in which to study, Vinh Loc’s children are vulnerable to illiteracy, child exploitation and other social ills. Things have been harsh since they were born, generation after generation, a vicious circle of poverty is stealing away these children’s childhood and future. Even so, they never stop dreaming about going to school, putting aside financial burdens, learning how to count, how to read and just as young buds spring to life after the rain, they might thrive strongly under the sun and grow to their fullest potentials. That is the life they deserve to have.
Vinh Loc Village and its stories are only a small part of the bigger picture of the world we live in. In times of anxiety and uncertainty, of chaos and crisis, no longer can we live under the illusion of a civilized society and be falsely misled by numbers of economic growth and statements about political stability. Conflicts and crisis emerge for a reason. We do not wish for problems but neither do we want to run away from them. Chaos has the power and light to reveal “the real chaos” and transform the world. To go through turmoil, we encounter the opportunity to reorder the disorders and to make amends for all brokenness in our lives. To take action or to remain indifferent is our choice.
The Loreto Sisters in Vietnam are exploring Vinh Loc Villiage as a possible new location for ministry. The large numbers of immigrants living near the city centre are in great need of social care. Visiting disadvantaged families and assisting children with their studies are part of the sisters’ mission.