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Young volunteers bridge generations
19 July 2006

Hanoi, Vietnam: Every Monday, Duy Vuong from the Bank Institute and Phuong Thao from Hanoi Natural Science University ride their bicycles on the seven-kilomentre road from Hai Ba Trung and Lang Ha streets to the Long Bien Bridge.

From the bridge, they walk to the islet in the Red River where they hold classes for local children in a floating house.

Like other volunteers, Vuong and Thao have the responsibility of looking after their students. They know every detail about their students' lives, especially in regards to their health, keeping track of who has the flu and who has a sore throat.

Vuong carefully writes down each student's health condition and two times a week volunteers from Hanoi, Medical University come to examine the children and bring them medicine.

Another class for local children, held at Bo De pagoda, starts at 5pm everyday for children living in the pagoda located on the bank of the Red River in Gia Lam District.

Each of the 28 children were born into difficult circumstances - some are from poor families, others are orphaned.

Their teachers, Thu Trang and Nguyen Trong Dinh, are students at Hanoi University of Technology.

Children in the pagoda consider Trang, Dinh and other members of the May Volunteer Club as if they were their brothers and sisters.

Other volunteers go to various centres where children with difficulties need their help.

At the Trung Kinh Rehabilitation centre, a group of volunteers called "Volunteers for helping blind people" from the Hanoi University of Foreign Language have been teaching blind children for a long time.

More than 60 members of the volunteer organisation are divided into three groups and travel to centres like the Cau Giay Blind Association and Nguyen Van To Constant Education Centre to teach.

Happiness of youth

"Sitting and talking with them, I know how difficult their lives are. We try to teach them as best as we can but sometimes the task seems incredibly daunting," Thu Trang said.

Thanks to the sympathy of volunteers like Trang, many children have gained the courage to overcome their fate.

P.V.T (hidden name) had an accident which caused her to be disabled. T's family in Hanoi's Soc Son District became quite poor due to the high cost of her medical care.

The residing Buddhist nun, Thich Dam Lan, of the Bo De Pagoda adopted T. At first, T didn't feel confident enough to attend Trang's class because of her health. After some months, she can now keep up with Trang's teaching method.

In a move to develop more activities for children, Nguyen Huyen Nga from the Business Management University plans to set up a library for children from the Red River islet and areas such as Dong Xuan and Long Bien streets.

"Sometimes I feel tired when students gather around to ask a lot of questions. But seeing their studies improve every day, I forget about everything and feel completely elated," Huyen Nga said.