It has been nine years long since the day Alanna and her team were on a special excursion with community-contributing activities in My Tho City, Tien Giang District.
Up till now, profound changes have taken place in the area which used to be full of mud and sand on the earthy track leading to the house. Walking across the street and the spacious alley at present, we both had eyes wide open to see the town was so placid yet filled with semi-detached houses and cemented pathways.
“It’s so different when we were here 9 years ago. When our team arrived, there were just a few houses in the area. Now it’s filled with a whole populated community with wholesome atmosphere”, shares Alanna (26). On the trip back to Vietnam this time, she accompanied with her younger sister Megan (19) and determined to have three-day stay in My Tho province. Simultaneously, it is favorable for her to take the time visiting the house she and her colleagues contributed to constructing in 2010. According to Alanna, this return in 2019 was meant to be an opportunity to discover the ‘timeless charm’ of Vietnam in which she has never had time travelling during the build, and find the neighborhood and the house that welcomed her team.
The house is still situated on the same land without any expansion or certain changes in the structure. The only profound changes are the community and concrete facilities around the house. Their livelihood is better than it used to be as well. After all these years, Hoa (65) is now still residing in the 36m2 room with her two sons and a ripping old age dog. She finds it comfortably satisfactory and has not intended to move out because the house has kept lots of good memories of her family, especially the time spending with her husband during his presence. Dzung, her husband, passed away in 2016 at the age of 70 due to gastritis and heavy stroke sequela. Since Dzung was sick, Hoa dropped her job as a lottery seller and often looked after him. When her husband was disabled due to the illness, she decided to stay at home, cooked and did household chores for her husband and sons. Now he is gone, but Hoa takes the responsibility to take care of traditional incense rituals and worship for her husband. She does not currently live alone. Her two sons are still staying with her while working to make ends meet. Meanwhile, she has her oldest son living far away from her hometown with her grandchildren. Loi (38) is a baker and Sinh (34) works in a fishery manufactory.
(From left to right) Megan, Hoa and Alanna share the moment.
“Now our house is cleaner. A couple of years ago, our home is housed on the muddy grassland. It was super earthy and filthy”, says Hoa.
Alanna and Habitat Vietnam team arrived at the house in the middle of the afternoon after one and a half hour ride from Ho Chi Minh City. “Xin chao ba”, she saluted and gave Hoa a bow when encountered her in the house. In return, Hoa smiled amiably and joyously. We began the conversation with the greetings about her health and daily lives and later, go deeper about the family’s living conditions. Some jokes were inevitable because everyone was open to share their stories and common fun.
“Vietnam is my first destination I went with a team without my mom nor my family and somehow, it was the most memorable trip I have ever had in my life”, says Alanna. “Also, partly because I had some little Vietnamese companions accompanying during the build. They were in my team and we often played on the grassland”.
Alanna (left) played with the kids during the time she joined the build.
Thanks to this return, she could have had a chance to reunite with her old friends, the kids in town. Unfortunately, time flies and things change. Most of her friends have moved out. “I remember the girl named, Yen Linh”, Alanna described and showed the photograph to us. “We were very close. She used to play in the mud. The land was filled with dirt. I don’t know why we were so close and she often played with me on the grassland”.
Hoa showed her gratitude and exclamation to Alanna when had learnt about her full story to be back to Vietnam with helping hands 9 years ago. “Your mother could have cried a lot when she allowed you to travel away”, she thought. “She would have worried about your safety, but anyway, overseas expedition are worthy because you will learn a lot from it”.
We both lingered inside the house for a while and listened to Hoa describe the picture of the volunteers who joined the build in 2010 before the farewell with shared smiles and warms regards.
In 2010, Habitat for Humanity Vietnam organized a build trip for volunteers from District School Board of Niagara’s International in My Tho City, Tien Giang Province. The build date was from July 3rd-10th.