Saturday , July 13 2024

Older resident recovering from a stroke, voluntarily collects rubbish in Hội An

Everyday, while the city is still sleeping, Nguyễn Thương, 68, is already pushing his home-made cart along the streets and beaches, picking up rubbish.

Nguyễn Thương with his homemade cart to collect trash become popular for people in Hội An City. — Photo

HỘI AN — For nearly eight years, the image of an old man diligently pushing a homemade cart to pick up rubbish around the Cửa Đại beach area in Hội An City has become familiar to both locals and tourists.

Without any compensation or praise, he quietly goes about his work, beautifying the ancient town.

The people of Hội An affectionately call him “The trash collecting old man”.

Sixty-eight-year-old Nguyễn Thương, who lives in the Cửa Đại Ward of Hội An City, is already pushing his homemade cart along the streets and beaches, picking up every small piece of litter.

Every few metres, he stops moving from one side of the road to the other, even in the middle of the road diligently collecting every piece until the streets are spotless.

Sharing how he came to do his litter picking, Thương explained that about nine years ago, while working as a chef at a hotel in Hội An City, he suddenly collapsed due to a stroke.

When he regained consciousness, his hearing was gone and his limbs were paralysed. He spent nearly half a year in the hospital, but his condition did not improve, so his family brought him home for care.

“At that time, everyone thought I wouldn’t walk again, but I tried to exercise to improve my health,” Thương told

“At first, I kept falling, but with more walking, my health improved and the illness started to recede.”

Once he could walk again, Thương pondered how to repay his second gift of life. During his exercise walks, seeing nylon bags and masks discarded along the roads sparked the idea of combining exercise with picking up trash to protect the environment.

For the past eight years, the 68-year-old has done this work without taking a single đồng in payment. — Photo

When he first started, some people found it strange to see him wandering around picking up trash. Some even got angry when he reminded them about littering, calling him “crazy” and idle, wasting his old age on “silly” things.

His family also tried to stop him, but he was determined.

After much persuasion, his family understood and let him continue his meaningful work. The prejudices and mockery from others gradually faded.

For nearly eight years now, except when he is ill, whether it is sunny or raining, the old man roams all the streets and alleys picking up rubbish, wherever it is, he is there.

Sometimes, he even helps elderly residents and schools clean and tidy their places without accepting any payment.

With money saved from collecting recyclable bottles, Thương has invested in two vehicles: a pushcart and a bicycle.

These two vehicles have become his companions on his unpaid mission to keep the ancient town clean.

“On good days, I use the pushcart, and on tiring days, I ride the bicycle. Only when the weather changes, and I feel unwell, fearing a stroke relapse, do I stay home,” he said.

“If I don’t pick up trash for a day, I feel restless and uneasy. Carrying the communal burden makes me happy,” Thương says with a gentle smile.

On his cart, Thương has pasted many messages he wishes to convey: ‘For the future of our children, let’s keep the environment clean and green’, ‘Small actions, great meaning’, ‘Protect the environment, do not use plastic bags, do not litter’.

He hopes the messages will encourage everyone to join in protecting the environment.

Environmental role model

Now, the image of a thin but kind-faced man picking up litter to beautify the ancient town has become familiar.

The residents’ thoughts and views on Thương have changed and they understand and appreciate him more.

Nowadays, most residents along the streets where Thương’s trash cart passes have become more environmentally conscious, properly disposing of trash and keeping the streets cleaner.

A group of students from Đà Nẵng University, inspired by his actions, voluntarily join him in picking up trash.

Every weekend, this group travels from Đà Nẵng City to Hội An City to accompany him in cleaning alleys and beaches.

Despite the lingering effects of the stroke, leaving him deaf in one ear and needing a hearing aid for the other, Thương remains undeterred.

Each month, his family spends over VNĐ1 million (US$40) on his medications.

However, he consistently refuses support from the local People’s Committee for his efforts.

For him, this is a meaningful task he has pledged to himself to carry out for life, without seeking support from anyone.

When society needs it, he is always willing to give without expecting any return.

“I’m old and staying idle at home is boring. Seeing the streets and beaches full of dirt and rubbish, I just clean up,” he said.

“Seeing clean streets makes me happy, without expecting compensation or praise. As long as I can, I will continue to contribute, so Hội An becomes more beautiful and everyone enjoys fresh air. I will continue this unpaid work until I can no longer walk or pick up litter.”

Nguyễn Thế Hùng, vice chairman of Hội An city People’s Committee, called him a hero of the ancient town. “Thương’s actions are a worthy example for everyone to follow,” Hùng said. — VNS

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