HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam (Source: UCAN -- They have had feces thrown at them, food spat in their faces, and endured verbal abuse. But all these problems have not deterred Missionaries of Charity of Christ nuns from continuing to serve elderly residents in their care.
“It is not simple to look after elderly people. We have to be patient and bear with them because they are like children,” said Sister Mary Martin Nguyen Thi Kim Hoa from the Missionaries of Charity of Christ congregation, a local Religious community.
Sister Hoa, who heads the Center for Elderly People, a home for women in Ho Chi Minh City, said half the residents there suffer paralysis and stay in bed most of the time. Only four are strong enough to help prepare meals and wash clothes.
Sister Hoa, 50, and another 11 nuns work from 4:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. ever day to serve the center’s 60 women who are aged 60-102. The nuns clean the rooms, bathe the women, wash their clothes, provide health care, feed them and bring the wheelchair bound to the chapel for prayers.
Sister Hoa recalled that once a resident threw feces at her as she was trying to bathe the woman. Some residents have hit and shouted at nuns, while others have spat food at them.
Sister Hoa, who started working at the center 10 years ago, said many residents who have such negative attitudes had been “neglected or abused by their relatives or others.”
Father Paul Nguyen Van Khi, who founded the center near Tan Thong church in the city’s Cu Chi district, said many residents have no children, homes or money and feel lonely. “They really need love care from others.”
The center opened in 1988 and provides accommodation and food for elderly women who had been abandoned by their families. The women come from the city and the neighboring provinces of Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Dong Nai, Long An and Tien Giang.
Residents UCA News spoke to said they are grateful for the nuns’ care, although they did not fully appreciate it at first.
One 74-year-old woman recalled how she used to vent her anger at the nuns when she first arrived. At the time she thought no one loved her.
“My only son forced me to leave home,” she said. However, “after living here for one year, I have found true love from others and have changed my attitude.”
Agnes Nguyen Thi Kim Chi, who used to sleep on sidewalks seven years ago, said, “I am very happy to live here. I am given accommodation, food and health care.” She added, “I might have died without this center.”
Rita Lam Tieu Nhi, another resident, said she has made many friends since coming here in 2004. “I am loved and much respected here,” she shared. The 63-year-old said she helps the nuns to clean the center and wash clothes of the other residents.
Father Khi said he spends one hour a day visiting and talking with those women. “I bring them joy just by shaking their hands, smiling at them or talking about their health.”
The priest said the center’s monthly operating costs are 32 million dong (US$1,800) which comes from donations by benefactors and local Catholics. About 300 local families donate at least 5,000 dong each a month, he said.
According to the Ministry of Health, Vietnam has around 8 million elderly people, nearly 10 percent of the population. Many of them have to work for a living.
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