“Whenever the wind blows, the trees on the island seem to sway towards the beautiful city of Ho Chi Minh, as if to say that the island itself is asking for the people of the city to return, echoing “Please come back… Do come back…”
|A van belonging to the “Spring comes to Border Areas” program on way to Tummorong District (Photo: SGGP)|
For the past 10 years, the “Spring comes to Border Areas” program organised by Sai Gon Giai Phong Newspaper has responded to the call of the island and irrespective of harsh weather conditions on the East Sea or traversing hundreds of kilometres of dangerous forest areas, it has kept its promise to greet and offer Tet gifts to the beloved soldiers and friends living on the remote islands.
Nguyen Tuan Khanh, former Secretary of the Gia Lai Province Party Committee and Nguyen Minh Triet, former Secretary of the HCMC Party Committee had requested Sai Gon Giai Phong Newspaper (SGGP) in 2003, to organize aid campaigns to help citizens living in the Central Highlands, particularly those in Gia Lai Province.
Phan Hong Chien, former editor-in-chief of SGGP had approved of both the suggestions and set up a charitable music show “Spring for You” and the charity program “Spring comes to Border Areas”. Money collected from the show was donated for curing 1,956 blind people in Gia Lai Province.
At that time, Vice President Truong My Hoa herself flew from Hanoi to the Central City of Da Nang and then traveled non-stop to Gia Lai. She arrived at 2 am on September 1, quite on time for the ceremony to announce the eradication of cataract in Gia Lai Province.
Vietnam’s heroic mother A Mi of the Jarai People showed her appreciation towards the government by tightly holding Hoa’s hands, as her eyes were being treated. That year’s National Day in Gia Lai was much merrier than even Tet New Year.
Achievements of the Health Team in the “Spring comes to Border Areas” program included the struggle of doctors from the Heart Institute who were able to save patients. One example was of a very weak old man of the Brau community from the highland province of Kon Tum, who could hardly breathe.
After a careful diagnosis, doctors present set their heart into helping the poor man. The patient’s heart was indeed more stable than he was and he was transferred to a specialized hospital, signaling yet another victory for the enthusiastic doctors.
A similar case happened in the southern province of Ca Mau. This time the patient was a twelve-year-old girl with a contorted belly and suffering from very high fever. Hearing doctor’s conclusions of the child’s illness, which was actually acute appendicitis, the mother burst into tears since she did not have enough money for her daughter’s treatment.
Realizing the urgency of the situation, the whole “Spring comes to Border Areas” team immediately raised a fund on-site campaign and collected around VND7 million (approximately $327) to give to the miserable mother.
The trip through the legendary trail of Ho Chi Minh, otherwise known as the 14C Street, is always full of trouble, especially since the trail has so many similar-looking T-junctions.
No matter how much the “Spring comes to Border Areas” program team tries, there seems to be a lost car every time. Once, at the Frontier Post 725, the team of reporters, lecturers and doctors were terrified after hearing loud gunshots while they were cooking a meal with soldiers at the site.
Reporter Minh Bao of HCMC Television whispered quietly to Major Bao, deputy head of the Post, and asked whether there was a clash. With a serene smile, Major Bao explained that the gunshots were part of a death anniversary commemoration for the female communication team in the battle on Pleime Hill a long time ago.
Thanks to them, all soldiers near the Hill had been able to move to another place and avoid a great loss. However, due to severe bombing by the enemy, the team could not escape and that had been the last time anyone had heard about them.
Not only could the “Spring comes to Border Areas” program teams warm the hearts of soldiers living on frontier areas, but some such as Ngoc Thuy, Kim Trang, Gia Bao, Trung Truc of Muc Tim Magazine, or Tat Dung, Thanh An, Mai Hanh of the HCMC University of Law were also able to give more helpful support to young soldiers wishing to take part in the university entrance examination.
They provided necessary material for those in need, gave instructions on properly filling application forms, and later drove them to and fro the examination sites in HCMC. The team also gave full support to those passing the exam till the day they graduated.
|The HCMC music team, plans for the “Spring comes to Border Areas” program performance at a frontier post (Photo: SGGP)|
In response to the ‘Turning to Seas and Islands’ program, organized by the Central Committee of the Ho Chi Minh Communist Youth Union, the “Spring comes to Border Areas” team decided to cross the big sea towards the distant islands.
Two large ships of Naval Division No.2 were used to transport all members of the team to Chuoi Island. It took courage of each person to let go of their hand when transferring to smaller boats to go onto the Island, since both ships were rolling from side to side because of a severe winter monsoon.
At the meager furnished classroom on the Island, teacher and soldier Nguyen Quoc Tu awkwardly welcomed the team of the “Spring comes to Border Areas” program and the Province Party Committee Secretary to the grand opening of the smallest school of the province, which had only 14 students ranging from 4 to 15 years of age.
Looking at all the students, with sun-damaged hair, studiously trying to pronounce words from books freshly presented by the team, everyone could not help feeling a sense of warmth towards them. Happiness sometimes comes from such simple yet meaningful acts!
While singing happily with the soldiers stationed on the island, the team received orders from Colonel Pham Van Phong, head of the border guard troop, to move since the storm was coming in rather quickly. Both ships then headed full speed towards Khoai Island on the western side. As there was no civilian living on the Island, the army personnel welcomed the “Spring comes to Border Areas” team.
It was the first time in 30 years that such large groups, among which were more than 20 girls, visited the island. Despite the cold and thick mist at night, everybody enjoyed themselves to the fullest, dancing and singing till the first sight of dawn appeared on the horizon far out in the East Sea.
After a tearful farewell, the team slowly went back home, leaving behind both beautiful memories of a merry time with the Border Guard Troops and the Naval Forces of the E area as well as a promise to return soon.
At the awards ceremony for the “Spring comes to Border Areas” program held at Sai Gon Giai Phong newspaper office in 2009, Vo Van Thuong, member of the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Communist Party and First Secretary of the Central Union stated that the Committee appreciated the efforts of SGGP in organizing such a splendid program.
The Committee was also grateful to concerned units and organizations, who continuously gave support in the past years to those living on the border areas and remote islands, especially the very poor citizens. He also proclaimed that the program was one of the most valuable achievements of HCMC Youth Union.
In addition, the Committee displayed a strong wish for the program to continue in the coming years.