|Farmers in Thuy Lieu commune prepare materials for building a new bridge. (Photo: Lam Hieu)
Near the end September, ten farmers between the ages of 50 and 80 gathered at Thuy Lieu pagoda to plan a bridge in Vinh Binh Bac hamlet.
The 30-meter-long bridge was sponsored by a benefactor. Monk Ly Long Cong Danh, who leads Thuy Lieu pagoda and the pagoda’s bridge building team volunteered unpaid work-days for the project.
|Monk Ly Long Cong Danh, chief of Thuy Lieu pagoda. (Photo: Lam Hieu)
72-year-old Nguyen Van Tam, a Thuy Lieu resident, said he has been a member of the team for a long time. He lets his children tend the family’s rice fields while he spends most of his time doing charity work for the community.
Anyone in the commune who has free time can come to the pagoda to do volunteer work and eat lunch with the monks. The Thuy Lieu pagoda bridge building team has more than 20 members.
“I often do charity work at the pagoda, which is 4km from my house. My wife and children support and encourage what I’m doing. If I feel tired, I can stay home until I feel better. Bridge building is hard work, but I don’t care,” said Tam.
|Members of Thuy Lieu pagoda’s bridge building team. (Photo: Lam Hieu)
Over the past decade Ly Long Cong Danh and his team have built 88 concrete bridges.
If the lack of a bridge causes travel difficulties for the locals, monk Cong Danh mobilizes benefactors to fund the construction - material costs only, not the labor. Then the pagoda's bridge building team does the rest, with support from the local administration and people.
“I raise about 3,400 USD for each bridge. Nobody else would think of trying to build a bridge for so little money. But we have won people’s trust in the quality of our bridges. None of the bridges we have built since 2007 has noticeably deteriorated,” said Monk Cong Danh.
|The inauguration of a bridge in Hoa Hung Bac commune, Kien Giang province. (Photo: Lam Hieu)
In addition to building bridges, Monk Ly Long Cong Danh and his volunteer farmers have mobilized donations of books and scholarships for disadvantaged Khmer ethnic students and persuaded organizations to provide free medical exams and medicine for the poor.
“I feel heartened when I can do good things. I have received great support from the villagers. The locals’ trust makes me happy,” said mMonk Ly Long Cong Danh.