'Porridge club' keeps poor cancer patients going

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A group of ladies living near a cancer hospital in Hanoi have been dubbed the "porridge club."


Using their own savings, the women have been cooking rice porridge for patients and their families at the K2 hospital for the past five years.


Cao Thi Nghit said she started the project after seeing many poor patients who didn't have money having to eat rice balls brought from home which were very cold.


"We divide ourselves into two groups, one cooks in the morning and the other in the afternoon. It does not matter how hot, cold or rainy it is, we still ensure that poor patients at the hospital have porridge," Nghit told the VnExpress news website.


The group has nine members, all more than 60 years old.


Vo Thi Mao, the oldest member who turns 80 this year, wakes up at 3 a.m. every day and walks around five kilometers to the closest wholesale market, where everything is cheaper, to buy ingredients for the porridge.


"The job can be hard but that's the way I exercise. I am also happy that I've done something good to help the patients in need," Mao said.


More than 300 portions of porridge are ready for the patients every morning and the senior citizens put them on a cart and push it into the hospital, where it would be emptied in half an hour.


Nghit said they need 10 kilograms of rice, two kilograms of meat and eight kilograms of vegetables for each batch of porridge made.


Any dust or other unclean substances are picked out of the rice before it is stewed carefully. The meat and vegetables are stir-fried and added at the end.


Nguyen Thi Thu who lives near the hospital, it was not just the patients, but also many families who have little children suffering from loss of appetite that ask for some of the porridge.


"The children really enjoy it. But the ladies wouldn't take money," Thu said.


None of the ladies receive any pension. Their porridge was first funded with their own daily savings, and then by devout Buddhists from nearby Linh Son Thanh Nhan Pagoda.


"We're old and need money for nothing. The money for the porridge is not much but it can help a lot of difficult people," Mao said.


Do Van Au, an official of Tam Hiep Commune, Thanh Tri District, said the commune is also poor and cannot help the ladies. "We can only help them with the ovens and easy entrance into the hospital."


One of the patients at K2 said most people being treated there are poor and they consider the ladies their angels. The patient himself called the ladies "mother".


"The porridge given by mothers has lessened my family's misery.


"I don't know for how long I will live, but I will never forget their generosity."


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