For over a decade, generations of workers in Binh Di village (northern Nam Dinh province) have taken part in construction projects on Truong Sa archipelago. Their contributions greatly help protect the homeland’s sovereignty over its sea and islands.

First masons and carpenters go to Truong Sa

Binh Di village in Giao Thinh commune, Giao Thuy district, now consists of three housing areas and around 2,000 people.

Locals earn a living by growing rice. After the harvest, men leave the village for every corner in the country to work as masons and carpenters. Women, meanwhile, stay at home to look after children and knit goods as a secondary job.

In 1991, Major General Hoang Kien, who is a son of the village and was then head of Engineer Regiment 83, visited Binh Di. By that time, the General was assigned to oversee building projects on Nam Yet Island in Truong Sa archipelago. Kien encouraged his villagers to join hands in building the islands.

“This is not purely a job to earn a living, but is of great importance for the homeland and the protection of its sovereignty over sea and islands,” Kien told the villagers.

Recognising the great significance of the work, Le Van Bien, born in 1950, gathered a group of workers in the village and followed general Kien to the island. They became the first workers of the village who set foot on the archipelago.

According to Bien, the first group consisted of 21 workers, including seven masons, 10 carpenters, and four porters and others in charge of ironwork.

“We had to carry every stone, cement bag, sand bag and other raw materials to the island,” Bien recounted.

He said: “Our work was to build houses, pagodas, surrounding walls, shelters, trenches and embankments. The projects served civilian and military purposes. Three months later, we had finished our work and returned home.”

By that time, Bien added, there were no inhabitants, only soldiers on the island. Everything was difficult and limited, especially fresh water. The workers ate dried food or dry provisions and instant noodles.

Generations of workers follow each other to build islands

Old-aged workers in Binh Di village, who are not strong enough to go to the islands, stay in the hometown. Younger people, usually aged 18-40, continue their elders’ work.

Although all selected workers pass a health check, some can not adapt to the new weather conditions.

At present, hamlet No. 6 accommodates the most workers on Truong Sa. People from other communes, such as Giao Phong, Giao Yen, Giao Tan and Giao Lam also join hands in the construction.

According to Nguyen Ngoc Phong, Head of the hamlet, the work on the islands depends on tidal flows. Therefore, every year, workers usually go to the islands in two stages. The first trip is often from the first lunar month to the eighth lunar month and the second one lasts from the tenth lunar month till the Lunar New Year Festival (Tet).

On average, workers spend 6-8 months on Truong Sa archipelago. When the work comes to an end or the weather is too bad, they return home. Sometimes, they enjoy Tet on the islands.

Now, the Binh Di village has four groups of workers participating in the construction on the archipelago. Each group has around 50 members on average. Last year, the group with more than 30 members headed by Phan Bon stayed on the island until Tet.

The Binh Di workers bring home snail and oyster shells of all sizes as presents for their offspring, which are also fresh evidence of their hard-working days on the islands and their love for the fatherland’s sea and islands.

For Binh Di people, financial gain plays a secondary role in their decisions to go to the islands. The love for Truong Sa and the fatherland’s seas and islands is the force driving them to the remote places. -VNA