|Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy (C), the owner of "Rice for Love" eatery, her husband and daughter prepare food to serve the poor in Hai Phong city. (Photo: VOV)
At 10 a.m. the street corner in front of the house at 44 Nguyen Duc Canh gets busy.
Nguyen Thi Thanh Thuy, the owner of the eatery called "Rice for Love", brings the food to the table, while her helpers scoop rice, ladle soup, or prepare fruit for dessert.
The customers are people in difficult circumstances, including the homeless, the helpless elderly, the disabled, and people struggling to find the money for their relatives’ hospital bills. The owner and the diners converse and laugh, giving the street a lively feel.
Each meal of rice, hot soup, and fruit costs the customer 21 cents.
Pham Van Cong, a member of the Hai Phong Association of the Visually-Impaired, has become regular customers of the eatery.
He told VOV, “There are 5 blind people in the Association. I’m only visually impaired, so I come to get rice for the others. I’d like to thank you for your kindness in helping us have a less difficult life and motivating us to try harder.”
Another regular customer named Le Thi Minh from Lach Tray district said she was very moved and happy because she is old but there is still someone who cares about her.
“As a disadvantaged person, I’d like to thank all of you for helping people like me,” said Minh.
Opened more than a month ago, the "Rice for Love" eatery is the dream of Thuy, who nurtured it for many years.
“Living at the center of Hai Phong city, I’ve seen lots of disadvantaged and homeless people. At night they have to sleep on stone benches or go to work. For the past 20 years I’ve wanted to open an eatery for those people,” said Thuy.
On opening day, Thuy had planned to serve 50 meals, but because it was crowded, she ended up serving 80. Now that the eatery is more widely known, Thuy prepares meals for some 140 people a day.
Thuy decided to charge 21 cents per meal so the poor don’t feel self-conscious eating at her restaurant. For the elderly with poor mobility, she has her husband and children bring the food to their house. Thuy says what makes her happy is to see the smiles of the people she helps.
“I used to work in the fashion industry. Beauty to me now is seeing shabby people looking happy because of meals I cooked. Someone who came here asked for 3 servings because they have 2 children with polio at home. Another asked for an extra serving for her husband, who is undergoing kidney treatment at the hospital. In the past month, my life has turned a new page. My husband and I agree that we should have done this a long time ago,” Thuy recalled.
Since the eatery opened, Thuy and her husband have reduced their other work. In the morning, she goes to the market to buy food and begin preparations, while her neighbors offer to help with the cooking.
The love behind Thuy’s restaurant has spread to many people. Friends, relatives, and even some strangers have showed up to help. Some bring rice; others bring vegetables, eggs, or meat.
Nguyen Quang Vinh of Hong Bang district buys and transports meals to the people in need in other areas of Hai Phong city.
“Many poor people don't know about this service. I intend to mobilize my friends to help Thuy spread her kindness,” said Vinh.