Students from storm-hit central Vietnam won't go home for New Year

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Students look up job offers at the Ho Chi Minh City Student Assistance Center. Photo courtesy of VnExpress

Nguyen Thi Nga, a third-year student at the University of Natural Science, has been going around Ho Chi Minh City looking at ads for job vacancies during Tet next month.

News website VnExpress quoted her as saying that while every year she takes a bus home to Quang Binh Province four days before the Lunar New Year -- which this year falls on January 31 -- for a week or two for a family union, her parents cannot afford her travel cost this year.

She and many other students like her from central Vietnam plan to stay back and work through the year's biggest festival to make up the losses incurred by their families due to major floods and storms this year.

Her province was among the hardest hit by Typhoons Nari and Wutip within a span of two weeks in October.

They were the strongest storms to hit Vietnam this year until a weakened super typhoon Haiyan arrived in the north.

"After Wutip, our pigs died, our vegetable garden was destroyed," Nga, who has siblings in 10th and 12th grades, said.

"By staying here, I can save the bus fare and earn money for the next school term."

She said some jobs offered VND40,000 (US$1.90) an hour and that she might take them.

She said the salary could triple during the peak of the holiday season, the last day of the old new year -- when there is a lot of cleaning to do -- and the first three days of the new year.

"I can make VND7 million ($331) if I work until the 10th day of the new year."

Among the others planning to stay back are University of Economics student Minh Quy from Binh Dinh Province, around six hours away by bus.

Binh Dinh reported the highest number of deaths -- 13 -- along with neighboring Quang Ngai Province, out of the 31 killed when a tropical low coupled with hydropower dam discharge caused a historic flood, sending people into a panic-stricken tizzy.

Quy has got a waiter's job for VND2 million a month, and so is going to stay for the holiday.

"My house was devastated in the floods, everything was swept away. My parents will not even have money to celebrate the holiday, let alone cover my travel."

But since he has never spent the holiday away from home, he is saddened.

"If possible, I will save some money to send home to buy new clothes for my younger siblings."

Duong Trong Phuc, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Student Assistance Center, said 80 percent of students who came to look for holiday-period jobs are from the central region, especially those whose families were affected by the disasters.

"It is the end-of-term exam season but many students are still visiting the center.

"There are normally 70 to 100 in a day, but the number has surged to nearly 200 in the past week," he told VnExpress.

He also blamed the bad economy for an increase in the number of students staying back to work.

Around 4,000 students have come looking for jobs this year, half again as many as last year, he said, adding that the center is contacting some 350 businesses.

"Although there are many jobs, there are also many applicants. So students need to come with a good CV and smart to be hired."

Employers want people to help at parties, market products, package gifts, and deliver and work as domestic help and in customer relations for VND10,000-50,000 an hour.

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