Vietnam is one of several Asian countries where quick and effective responses to pandemics are a normal part of the culture. When the virus appeared in their adopted homeland, the Czech Vietnamese community mobilized in solidarity with Czechs by sewing masks for free to protect front-line workers, fundraising, and organizing help during difficult times for the country. Photo credit: Vietnamci pomáhají via Facebook.

Czech Rep., Apr 29 (BD) – “On March 10th, we received information from Vietnamese medical students that there was a critical shortage of facemasks in hospitals,” said Ami Luong, representative of Lam Cha Me, explaining the origins of the project to DVTV. 

After watching a simple instruction video on how to make fabric facemasks, the organization decided to coordinate a group of Vietnamese women who can sew, to stitch masks using fabric bought with money raised online. According to the project’s website, more than 13,000 masks have been donated so far, to hospitals, social services, and individuals. Masks can be requested using an online form.

The group has inspired many other Vietnamese families to get sewing. Czech media has reported individuals offering facemasks for free, and foreign media has also reported about the charitable work of the community, which is mapped on the Facebook page Vietnamci pomáhají. Vietnamese volunteers are also helping provide food to front-line workers. In the Ústí nad Labem region, the Vietnamese community raised CZK 800,000 for artificial ventilators and ozone generators for three hospitals. 

With over 60,000 people, the Vietnamese community is the third largest national minority in the Czech Republic, and they were among the first to take precautions against coronavirus, including installing glass barriers in grocery stores to avoid direct contact with customers, purchasing hand sanitizer, and wearing face masks. According to Việt Nam News, this could be a result of receiving early warning of the outbreak from their families in Vietnam. However, early in the outbreak such precautions aroused suspicions among some Czechs, and Vietnamese Czechs have frequently encountered unpleasant comments or even hostility from those fearing that they could be potential carriers of the virus because of their Asian appearance.

Given the hostility, why has the usually rather closed community been selflessly showing such great solidarity? As Ami Luong explained, besides the community’s established tradition of people helping each other, there is another reason: if the situation improves as a result of their help, everyone will benefit – as we are all in this together, after all.

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