Saturday , July 13 2024

Uncle Tư the builder of compassion in the Mekong Delta

Uncle Tư’s team has built 582 houses for impoverished families, orphans and the elderly, each costing around VNĐ30 million (US$1,180).

Uncle Tư (left) carries wood from his boat to the riverbank to build houses for the poor. — Photo

CẦN THƠ — For two decades, Trương Văn Kiềm and his team have built nearly 600 houses for the poor across the southwestern provinces of Việt Nam.

In Tân Lộc Ward, Thốt Nốt District, Cần Thơ City, he is affectionately known as ‘Uncle Tư’, a testament to his far-reaching impact.

At 72, Uncle Tư remains robust and healthy, thanks to the physical demands of his house-building work. He was once a farmer but moved by the plight of impoverished families, he unexpectedly became a builder.

Uncle Tư recalls an evening in 2003 when he was caught in a heavy rain while fetching herbal medicine. He saw an elderly woman chopping down a tree and asked her why. She explained that her house had collapsed and she needed wood to rebuild it.

Seeing her struggle, he inquired about her children, who she said only drank alcohol and did not help her.

Deeply moved, Uncle Tư used his savings to build a new house for the elderly woman. This act of kindness marked the start of his lifelong mission to provide free housing for the poor.

His children’s financial support – VNĐ100 million (US$3,934) annually – along with the income from land rentals and occasional bank loans, funds his efforts.

“I bought a large boat for nearly VNĐ100 million and a smaller one for VNĐ70 million to transport wood throughout the Mekong Delta to build houses,” said Kiềm.

Initially self-taught, Uncle Tư learned building techniques from his friend, Lê Văn Mười. Within three years, he became skilled enough to lead the construction, significantly cutting costs.

His work soon attracted local volunteers in Tân Lộc, forming a 20-member team dedicated to this charitable cause.

To date, they have built 582 houses for impoverished families, orphans and the elderly, each costing around VNĐ30 million (US$1,180). Their efforts earned them the National Volunteer Award in 2020.

Despite criticism for his ‘wasteful’ generosity, Uncle Tư remained steadfast. He believes everyone deserves a safe home, especially during harsh weather. Whenever he hears of a family in need, he and his team investigate and offer to help.

Their process is efficient. Prefabricated frames are transported by boat and assembled on-site within a day. To add a personal touch, Uncle Tư often builds furniture for the new homeowners, making their houses truly feel like homes.

Team member Nguyễn Văn Bé Tư, despite losing two fingers in an accident, finds joy in this work. “I work without pay, purely from my conscience,” he said. Huỳnh Văn Sơn, another volunteer, shared similar sentiments, recalling emotional moments with grateful families.

Uncle Tư’s impact extends beyond Cần Thơ, reaching provinces like An Giang, Kiên Giang and Cà Mau. Families like Hồ Thị Lanh and Nguyễn Văn Thành express their deepest gratitude for their new homes, highlighting the spirit of community Uncle Tư fosters.

“I heard about Uncle Tư’s charity house-building and reached out to him.” said Thành. “His team built this house for me and I am incredibly grateful to them.”

Uncle Tư even goes beyond house-building, once delivering 50 kg of rice to a bedridden couple, exemplifying his dedication to helping others.

Now older, Uncle Tư focuses on managing and mentoring his team, ensuring his mission continues. With enough wood for 300 more houses, he hopes to keep building and trusts his team to carry on his legacy.

“I’ve had two surgeries, but doing good deeds is my best medicine. It’s what keeps me going,” he said.

Uncle Tư’s story is a powerful reminder of the profound impact one individual’s compassion can have on countless lives. His legacy is one of kindness, community and unwavering dedication to helping those in need. — VNS

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