It’s 4am and while tired Saigon residents rest, Saigon’s athletes and coaches unpack tonnes of fruits and vegetables (squash, marrow, peanuts etc.) arriving from the outskirts of Vietnam to deliver food packages to those in need across the city. One of Vietnam’s worst coronavirus hotspots, Ho Chi Minh City has been in lockdown since the 9th of July, with the recent government mandate extending it for another month till the 15th of September. To date (17th August, 2021), Ho Chi Minh City has reported 156,186 positive cases. 

"We are here to help receive the food, divide it into portions and deliver to underprivileged and poor people. We have to work early in the morning to deliver the fresh vegetables to them in time,” said Đoàn Công Tuấn, a tug of war coach.

Even after the fruits and vegetables are unpacked and delivered, these Saigon sportsmen don’t stop. Instead, they proceed to Minh Đức Secondary School in District 1, a quarantine area for F0 patients. Other noteworthy volunteer acts performed by the nation’s athletes and coaches include directing people towards covid-19 test sites, collecting and analysing test samples as well as helping residents declare their health status online and take temperature readings, whilst reminding them to follow healthcare regulations.

"Sometimes we are really exhausted but encourage each other to try harder for the day that our city clears of COVID-19. That dream helps us to continue with his meaningful work," Tuấn said.

"It is hot today and will heavily rain tomorrow but it cannot stop us from working. We have to use all of our ability to complete work here on time. People in other quarantine areas are waiting for us," said Luật, a national tug-of-war champion.

Supporting healthcare frontliners as medical assistants

Aside from volunteering their time and effort, many of the athletes are taking to the frontline as medical assistants. One such example is Vân, who whilst not learning English or practicing taekwondo, wears personal protective equipment and spends her time answering questions and instructing residents on how to get tested. She also helps medical staff to check body temperatures, take samples and clean the testing area. After, she proceeds to Thạnh Lộc Commune in District 12 where she helps to deliver fresh produce from wholesale markets to people in need. Other sports athletes working in the medical frontline include former national team goalkeeper Bùi Tiến Dũng (2018 Asian U23 championship silver holder) who supports doctors at Thủ Đức City Hospital.

"It is a pandemic which is happening throughout the nation. Volunteers are really important to help the task force. We are athletes but also members of the community. We not only focus on training but also participate in social activities. It is a good way to perfect my personality,” said Vân.

“The more I go through the more I see people's love and care for each other. Medical workers, police and many others are working hard to fight COVID-19. I believe that to live is to share. You can share whatever you have -- money, energy, love, sympathy and understanding. "I want to quietly support them, heroes in the frontline against this pandemic. I wish all of them strong and good health," said Dũng. 

Dũng is a member of a charity group named 'We Love Sài Gòn', which has almost 100 members including footballers Đoàn Văn Hậu and Hà Đức Chinh. To date, the group has given close to 1,000 meals to medical staff and poor people. Additionally Dũng and his agent, Nguyễn Đắc Văn have also donated microwaves, high flow nasal devices, protective kits and food to the city’s field hospitals.

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