Phan Thi Ngoc is 77 years old but still makes new blankets for poor people living in remote areas, child cancer patients and those living in shelters around the country.
Phan Thi Ngoc, 77, of Ho Chi Minh City gets up at 5am on most mornings and sits down at her sewing machine to make blankets from discarded cloth for poor and disadvantaged people. VNS Photo Gia Loc
At her home in a small alley in Ho Chi Minh City’s Binh Thanh District, she gets up at 5am on most days and sits at her sewing machine and stitches together waste cloth to improvise blankets.
The machine is more than 10 years old, but her children have installed a small led lamp on its upper part to help her see clearly.
“I do not feel tired when sitting on the sewing machine,” she says.
She has been doing this work for more than 10 years.
In the beginning she used to go to clothes shops in her neighbourhood to ask for bits of waste fabric.
She would then spend hours every day using needles to sew them together since she did not have a sewing machine.
Seeing her struggle with needles, her son bought her a sewing machine, and she was making one blanket every five or six days in the beginning.
But now she sews rapidly, making four or five blankets a day also because a garment company donates large pieces of fabric that do not meet its quality standards.
The blankets are stored in a room in Ngoc’s house and taken once or twice a year to remote areas where many people do not have enough money to buy blankets.
“God loves and gives me good health and vision to sew. I am still healthier than [many] other people,” the Samaritan says.
Some people are too poor to buy clothes or blankets, she says.
She has stitched and gifted more than 2,000 blankets so far. She stitched them carefully, properly co-co-ordinating the colours of the fabric.
“On time I went to my hometown in the Mekong Delta province of Tien Giang’s Cai Lay District and met my neighbours. They said they were too poor to buy blankets. That was when I started stitching blankets.
“My daughter saw me stitch and said I should make more for her to donate to people in need in other remote areas in the country.”
This has inspired her to stitch more and more blankets.
Truong Thị Bich Hop, a member of the Women’s Association of Binh Thanh District, found out about Ngoc’s work and asked her for blankets for poor children she knew.
“I honoured Aunt Tu (as Ngoc is called affectionately by neighbours) for her noble action.
“I remember she forgot her birthday party organised by the ward for seniors aged 75 because she was busy making blankets.”
Ngoc has been doing her charity for more than ten years, but has never wanted any publicity for it, she said.
“I have tried to persuade her many times to meet the media and to tell her story.”
All Ngoc's wishes now is for her vision not to fade for at least another two or three years to continue sewing.
She even donates a part of her pension to poor people and cancer patients.
Last year during Tet she gifted VND70 million (US$3,020), some of it money her children gave her, to children with cancer being treated at the city Oncology Hospital.
Ngoc used to a worker at the historic Ba Son Shipyard and retired in 1993. Her pension does not amount too much; it is just around VND4 million a month. And she saves it to do charity.
She also helped raise a poor neighbour’s girl child and put her in school and donated money to build bridges in remote areas in the Mekong Delta.