Available in : Vietnamese
Covid-19 is surging through Vietnam for months, resulting in record-breaking numbers of new cases with Food, medicine, oxygen, and vaccines in tragically short supply. The fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has seen infections rising exponentially in Vietnam and especially in Ho Chi Minh City.
Health authorities confirmed yesterday 663,233 Covid cases in Vietnam with HCMC always leading the number of new cases and deaths. On average, Vietnam has been recording 11,090 cases a day for the last seven days and the average death rate per day for the past seven days is 250.
Vietnam has imposed a strict stay-at-home order since months in the southern megacity of Ho Chi Minh City and deployed the army to support quarantined residents. Many locals are facing difficulties and hardship as a result of the lockdown as they are unable to work to earn a living and are trapped in the city, with no option to leave and seek assistance from their family in the countryside. The government and Social groups try to assist with local needs such as food and necessities, the Vietnamese government has accelerated vaccination for citizens, but vaccine supplies are limited, prolonging the situation.
We spoke with Trevor Long, yesterday’s General Manager at Saigon Motorcycles and today a simple volunteer who decided to assist poor Vietnamese families and Expats during Vietnam’s humanitarian crisis delivering food assistance to communities located on the periphery of care. Since July its work became more critical than ever. In the interview below, he reflects on the challenges he faced, the inspirations that drove him, the lessons he learned while serving during this global crisis in Vietnam and most important what to do right now to help needy Vietnamese and Expats to survive in Saigon today.
Bliss Saigon: Trevor, What’s it’s like in Ho Chi Minh City right now because of Covid 19?
Trevor Long : I’m seeing firsthand the devastation the Lockdown is causing individuals, families and small business. For me it’s difficult to quantify so I certainly understand it’s impossible for those not exposed to it. I feel if at least some easing of freedoms or a widespread genuine effort towards food relief doesn’t come soon there may be civil unrest.
BS: Vietnam and HCMC have an acute shortage of food, medical supplies, including oxygen. What is really the situation, what are the principal needs and how can people help?
TV: Obviously nutrition is the major priority need. Lack of exposure to exercise and sunlight doesn’t help. I worry about mental health also. As the people get weaker their ability to fight any virus or illness is obviously compromised. As far as medical support, personally I’d like to see early intervention therapeutics made available to lessen the burden on the medical system. Look to the successes of other similar demographics to help with control. We haven’t the infrastructure to follow the West in my opinion.
BS: For those who don’t know you well, tell us a bit about yourself and how you launched this Philanthropic initiative? What inspired you to get involved with food assistance?
TV: I’ve lived here and managed small business since 2012. Through my motorcycle business I’ve been able to explore every province in the country and just grew to love the people and culture. Married a Mekong girl some years back and we have a little boy so Vietnam is home for me now. One morning early July when things started to look serious I said to my wife, let’s put some food packages together to help our neighbors. She is very kind hearted and community minded so immediately the wheels were in motion. 200 food packages initially as we’d done previously for orphanages. All that did really was expose the extent of the problem to me so I decided to go to my social media and see who else might like to help and it just grew from there really.
BS: Can you tell me more about your actions? What was your worst challenge?
TV: Pretty simple at the start really. We already had supply contacts and most people at that point could move freely. As restrictions tightened though logistics both supply and delivery became challenging. Almost daily the process had to change. The Thao Dien Ward Police have been wonderful in helping us meet those challenges and they still help with distribution and clearing heavy vehicles with supply.
BS: What is it like to serve during a global pandemic? Did you feel at risk?
TV: Obviously rewarding but also heartbreaking at times. The mix of emotions can be overwhelming particularly where children are concerned. The thought of kids going to bed hungry my major motivation actually. As far as risk, sure it’s there and eight of my sixteen family and staff have been Covid positive and fully recovered so less so at risk now as I see it.
BS: It’s been a year of unprecedented need, but also unprecedented giving, how did the people you served reacted?
TV: Oh the people are just lovely. So humble and appreciative. Not only the Vietnamese either. Filipinos and other expats stricken with hunger and uncertainty of their future just so happy for the help.
BS: A wish for Vietnam?
TV: I hope not only Vietnam but the world in general can, over time, recover from this to some assemblance of normality. I hope politics can be set aside in favour of the best interests of the people and that those worse affected will be supported ongoing to help rebuild. When trade comes back support your family businesses. Local markets and small retailers. The corporate giants prospering through this without offering anything in return should be a last resort in my opinion. Certainly will be for me but always have been actually.
Photo Courtesy Trevor Long
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Available in : Vietnamese