Ho Thi Thanh runs a café from her wheelchair in an apartment for poor women and single mothers in the central city of Da Nang. PHOTO COURTESY OF TUOI TRE
What used to be known as the building of lonely women echoed with laughter on a recent afternoon.
The Hoa Phu 5A echoed apartment block began serving as a temporary home for struggling women and single mothers in July 2012.
Funded by the Da Nang Women and Children's Welfare Association, 144 of the 180 50-square-meters apartments have already been filled with referrals provided by the local authorities, Tuoi Tre newspaper reported.
One of its residents, Duong Thi Hue, says her husband left her soon after their first child was born prematurely and placed in an incubator for two months.
Hue said she worked different jobs to make ends meet.
She sold fish on the beach in the morning and noodle soup from a shoulder pole in the afternoon only to return to a six square meter rented room that flooded on rainy days and grew unbearably hot on sunny ones.
Conditions in her home left her asthma-stricken baby weak and frequently ill.
Hue said she was shocked when she was invited to move into her current apartment, which costs her VND70,000 (US$3.33) a month.
Local officials said the street-front apartments were designed to middle-income standards. Though the official rent is VND100,000 a month, hard cases like families with Agent Orange victims receive up to 60 percent discounts. Vietnam’s minimum wage is VND1.65-2.35 million ($78-111.13) a month.
Hue said she feels better leaving her 9-year-old son at home to go to work and she's saved around $15 a month for rainy days.
She named her child Binh An (peace) so that he doesn’t have a stormy life that his mother had.
Hue told Tuoi Tre that she still thinks about her hard days, but less so.
“Now I want nothing more than the strength to raise my son,” the teary mother said.
Many of the apartment's residents say the help and support of their fellow women has helped guide them through their individual crises.
One of the residents, Ho Thi Thanh, was paralyzed from age 2.
Since opening a café that sells stationery and snacks at her front door on the ground floor; neighbors have helped set up and take down her tables every morning and night.
And despite her condition, her 8-year-old son hasn't missed a day of school thanks to friends who help take him to and from school.
Le Thi Ai Nhung, head of the women’s association of the area, said it is “no longer a lonely, unhappy building.”
Nhung said the building's residents recently tapped into their shared piggy bank to help Nguyen Thi Muc, who'd spent all her money on medical treatments, re-open her sticky rice stand.
The building's residents also raised enough money, among themselves in a single day to help Phan Thi Trieu Tien get treatment for a broken arm she sustained in a traffic accident.
Tien only had VND100,000 ($4.75) to her name.
Since the accident, they've taken turns caring for her and helping her get back on her feet.
They hold a monthly meeting on the ground floor to resolve any misunderstandings or share any unhappy feelings or thoughts, while their children play together.
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