Health check for patients in the quarantine zone of Hue Central Hospital Branch 2. Photo: TUE NINH
Seeking a livelihood
Via a phone call, I could somehow sense her anxious voice – Ms. Le Thi Nga (born in Huong Thuy town). Back when she left her homeland, she had nothing to expect. “Earning a living” was the only driving force that urged this 30-year-old woman to leave, following the calls of her fellows’ in Laos.
In Laos, Nga managed to make ends meet by taking up several jobs from a restaurant server, a street vendor, to a bottle collector at the market, etc., but life was never easy. She has her tears welling up as she sits quietly thinking of her past journey.
“I had a hard time settling down in the first few years here in Vientiane (Laos) as I wasn’t used to the new life and jobs here. The hardship discouraged me to stay, but I couldn’t leave either. I wanted to return home several times, but I was so keen on growing rich that I found it hard to part with this land,” Nga confessed.
Doctors in Phu Vang District Hospital are treating an injury in a quarantine facility
Now, she has succeeded with desirable properties: her stores at the foreign markets thrive. By sticking to a simple life motto, "Keep calm and work hard," she has become wealthy and offered jobs for dozens of migrant workers from Vietnam to Laos who shares the same dream as hers to earn a living.
Amid the sudden outbreak of COVID-19, like many other shops, Ms. Nga's business activities hit a dead end. Workers are made redundant as there is no more job.
Border gates’ closure and delayed goods circulation fuel the escapes of many Vietnamese in Laos. Nga believed this is understandable because as workers lose their jobs in the pandemic, all they want is to return home.
Taking care of migrant workers from Laos as they return home in quarantine areas
“When the border gate was still open, most Vietnamese laborers in Laos tried to make their ways home. Despite my loss-making business, those who work at my stores were fully funded for their repatriation trips. As for me, I personally chose to stay as I have plenty of things to do and I want to limit traveling to avoid spreading and contracting the virus,” Nga shared.
Parting with the homeland for a livelihood is not always easy, let alone building wealth as Nga did. Thousands of Vietnamese migrant workers are struggling days and nights to earn a living in the foreign land.
Returning home after completing her compulsory quarantine period, Ms. Tran Thi Ni (Phu Loc district) still regrets her mini grocery store. Nearly 10 years in the Land of a Million Elephants, it was only after the last Tet that Ni embarked on a bigger business with groceries in the capital city.
Her modest capital accumulated after such years, along with family’s support, is now stagnant. All her family, husband, wife, children now head back home together.
“Whoever succeeds in Laos says the country is an ideal place for lucrative business, but in fact many people here are still struggling. Despite multiple failures, I still decided to invest more than a hundred million dongs in the store which is now hit hard by the pandemic. Business loss along with the outbreak worries everyone, so we resorted to going home as the safest solution to reunite with family,” said Ni.
The motherland always welcomes back her people in the loving arms. In the obligatory quarantine, we still see all the love the Vietnamese community has for each other ...
At the quarantine facilities in the province, thousands of Vietnamese returning from Laos are being wholeheartedly looked after, and their eyes sparkle with satisfaction and gratitude. The letters penned in the quarantine area are proof of such heartfelt feelings.
“Thank you for having us here at the quarantine facility. We’ve all had a clean and safe place to live thanks to the province’s restless efforts to contain the virus. We all hope that the epidemic will soon come to a halt, so the society can become more and more prosperous,”
, a migrant worker in Laos shared after his quarantine in Phu Thuong commune (Phu Vang district).
In a conversation with the Director of Phu Vang District Health Center Truong Nhu Son, he said the medical teams in the quarantine areas see spreading love and empathy as a mission besides their professional duty, for the decision of repatriation proves a deeply rooted love for homeland in everyone's heart.
“We mainly look after migrant workers in Laos who must complete quarantine before returning home. Not simply primary medical care, intensive interventions are sometimes required for unexpected illnesses during the quarantine period. It could be a threatened miscarriage or an unexpected trauma which requires not only medical attention but also compassion from the medical team. We see our people as family members,” said Dr. Son.
Although these workers face hardships throughout their lives, they never expect to wait for providence. We realize that it is the love and compassion in these quarantine facilities that ease their pressures in life misfortunes.
A thank-you letter after the quarantine
“In the quarantine area, various nutritional meal options and personal hygiene kits are adequately supplied every day. You have wholeheartedly taken care of all returning Vietnamese citizens, willingly staying up late and rising early to settle us in the quarantine area. Thank you very much! All the best" - Ms. Nguyen Thi Nhung (Loc Bon commune, Phu Loc district) wrote to the soldiers who are working days and nights in the quarantine area. Her appreciation is also shared by many other Vietnamese migrant workers from Laos in quarantine.
Vietnamese citizens in Laos have returned to their motherland in love and compassion. Though true feelings can be hard to say in words, the letters of appreciation in quarantine are evident of the innermost heartfelt emotions and great humanity.
Story and photos by QUYNH VIEN