In Saigon, the Covid-19 pandemic has hit us hard. With a strict lockdown leaving the vulnerable even more vulnerable, it has been a defining time for many people's lives.

Yet in times of crisis, there are heroes and helpers that give us hope. Here, we have rounded up a collection of stories featuring both expats and locals doing their part to make Vietnam an awesome place to live in. 

Expat restaurant owner feeds for free

A restaurant owner in Ho Chi Minh City's District 2 has been cooking 1,000 meals every day for more than a month to give to people who had little left to eat, were sick, or were sacrificing their health for others.

Robin Deepu and his staff from Baba's Kitchen brought the meals to besieged locations and hospitals in the city to give to expatriates, locals, and frontline medical personnel.

"Both expats and Vietnamese are facing a lot of difficulties at the moment, and I just want to share their burden," Mr Deepu said, adding that he will keep feeding people for free until the pandemic has ended.

Deepu said: "Saigon has given us a lot, we are a part of this city. And helping others is always the right thing to do."

As a businessman living in Vietnam for more than 10 years, he is among several foreign nationals who are assisting others in weathering the Covid chaos.

Animal rescue group turns to humans

Van Vurren is the founder of an animal rescue organization and is well-known among expats. Originally from South Africa, Van has distributed packages of food and other essential necessities to help Saigon locals and expats since June.

Her meals are carefully constructed for nutrition, health, and well being, containing rice, beans, eggs, instant noodles, and soap to feed and clean whole families.

Van adds a very human touch: "Since I want to give them a home-away-from-home feeling, I add food items that are from where they are from. For instance, I add more pasta and sauce for Italians, corn and bread for people from Nigeria, and rice, instant noodles and Asian seasoning for those from the Philippines."

Kuwaiti businessman with open arms

Ali Al is a businessman who lives in Binh Thanh district. He urged his friends on social media and other platforms to share his contact information with anyone that needs a little assistance.

Ali said: "I just want to extend a helping hand. Together we can make a difference."

Whether the individual he aids is a local or a foreigner, Ali is determined to pitch in to keep Saigon safe.

Religious organizations to the rescue

Catholics and Buddhists from all over Saigon have rallied to assist frontline staff in local hospitals. As many 260 religious volunteers from the Ho Chi Minh City Archdiocese began one to two-month rotations in Covid hotspots, leaving their homes to focus on the sick.

Religious organizations that are helping to battle the COVID pandemic have needed the help of individuals too.

Gaveau Patrick, a French businessman in Binh Chanh District, is one of them.

"In times of struggle, we have to unite," Gaveau said.

His organization focuses on the people of District 8 and works with local authorities to get supplies to the frontline, such as hospitals and quarantine facilities.

Police and expats join forces

Trevor Long is an Australian restaurant owner living in District 2. He organised a crowdfunding campaign with donors from Saigon to Australia. The goal was to raise money to buy food for hard-hit local communities.

With the money raised, Long was able to prepare care packages of rice, noodles, and vegetables, but this was the easy part.

Getting into the wards that were under strict lockdown measures was only possible with the help of the police.

Long said on Facebook: "The police responsible for controlling these locked-down areas are also now through us providing the food for them. Not their job, so very commendable indeed."

By joining forces with the local police, Long was able to identify those in need and coordinate with the police to get food to them.

Italian man digs in deep for Covid charity

Manuel Reale is the owner of Pizza Reale - an Italian restaurant in Thao Dien District 2. With two sons in tow, and his restaurant closed, Manual has answered the call for help by donating food like noodles, water, and milk to poor people.

Reale said: “I’m a father of two sons. So I understand very well about families in this situation.”

"When I posted a Support Day for All Needed People poster on Facebook, many said that poor people with small children need food. Reading these comments made me sad," he added.

His support goes to expats and locals alike.

Vietnamese expats support from abroad

Vietnamese expatriates who live abroad have also given overwhelming support to their countrymen back home. To fight the pandemic, donations have been made in way of providing medical equipment, food, and financial assistance for afflicted areas.

Since June 2021, money raised from Vietnamese expats has surpassed 10.5 billion VND (457,200 USD) with donations made directly and indirectly to charities in Vietnam.

There are more than 30 Vietnamese organisations operating from abroad in regions like Europe, and North America, that have coordinated fundraising to support vulnerable people back home in Vietnam.

One of those organisations, VietBay, is an expat group of Vietnamese that live in Bay Area of San Francisco. Recent fundraising efforts by VietBay enabled them to send home close to 10,000  essential packages to poor workers in Ho Chi Minh City.

To see a group of people come together so quickly to help each other out in any situation, let alone something as confusing and terrifying as a pandemic, is a testimony to the strength of our community of expats and Vietnamese alike.

To help you in difficult times, have a look at our essential resources and guides. Whether you're here in Vietnam for a short time, or here to stay, keep up to date with the best and most interesting things to do by joining our newsletter! There's always something awesome happening in Vietnam.