Youth support Agent Orange victims

Most people would baulk at walking 1,560km, but for 500 volunteers it was the least they could do to raise funds for Agent Orange victims and publicise environment and social issues.
Most people would baulk at walking 1,560km, but for 500 volunteers it was the least they could do to raise funds for Agent Orange victims and publicise environment and social issues.

The walk from Sen Village to Nha Rong Wharf, which reached its target, was organised by the Green Journey Project, launched in 2008 and now a charity project under the Oriental Culture Research Group.

The event also marked the 100th anniversary of the day President Ho Chi Minh left Vietnam to seek ways to liberate the country and 50 years since the Agent Orange disaster in Vietnam.

It started on July 3 from Sen Village, President Ho's hometown in the central province of Nghe An, and ended in Nha Rong Wharf in HCM City, the port from which he departed.

The volunteers passed through 16 provinces and cities. The oldest walker was Huynh Thi Kieu Mien, 78, while terminal cancer patient Huynh Thi Kieu Thu, 60, who rode a bicycle throughout Vietnam, also joined the trek.

Along the route, the volunteers organised music performances to raise funds for Agent Orange victims, publicised environment and traffic safety issues, helped local people clean up their areas and presented gifts, computers and books for Agent Orange children and poor students.

The walkers raised nearly 150 million VND (7,100 USD) for their efforts.

In the hot central region, the walkers departed at daybreak while people were still sleeping and rested at midday in high temperature.

Some suffered sunstroke, many fainted in the heat, others were tired and there were numerous blistered feet, keeping the accompanying ambulance crew busy.

One of the walkers, Mai Ha, 20, said she had lied to her parents, telling them she was participating in a summer course. She thought they wouldn't allow their weak girl to walk such a long way. Her father had returned from war in poor health but had not suffered Agent Orange symptoms. She can talk, see and study while many children can't.

That was the reason she joined the walk, to help the disadvantaged people, she said.

"We saw and helped many poor families, disabled children and lonely elders," she said. "I believe that I made the right decision to join the journey.

"I'm happy to stand in the ranks of hundreds of young people who share the same will to help the community."

Nguyen Thi Tien, 23, had previously travelled to the central region by bus and train but had never thought she would one day walk the route. She said it had been the most meaningful summer holiday ever.

"We received a warm welcome by all the local people in the regions we came across," she said.

"Once we passed a field at dusk where farmers were working. Seeing us, they ran to the road to talk with us, share water and encourage us. That was an unforgettable moment."

Musician Nguyen Cuong joined the volunteers in a charity show in Nha Trang. He expressed admiration for the young people who had walked so far.

During the war, many young soldiers walked along the same route. The volunteers are repeating their effort, he said.

"This is a feat of mental and physical determination. These young people overcame difficulties during the trip and learnt to help each other. It is such a lofty and beautiful ideal to walk for peace, the environment and humanity," Cuong said.

"The soles of their shoes were worn out, that's the proof of what they experienced, learnt and achieved along the road."

The walk was the fourth such charity event which in all attracted nearly 1,000 volunteers. The previous journeys were finished by bicycles./.

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