Members of the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic have displayed remarkable solidarity with Czechs in fighting COVID-19 by sewing masks to protect frontline workers, providing them with free food, purchasing ventilators and organising other forms of help. With over 60,000 people, the Vietnamese community is the country’s third largest national minority.
With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe, the Czech government made it mandatory for everyone to wear a face mask in public, but demand rapidly exceeded supply. An informal group of Vietnamese mothers living in the Czech Republic, associated with the NGO Lam Cha Me, responded quickly to the situation.
‘On March 10th, we received information from Vietnamese medical students that there was a critical shortage of facemasks in Czech hospitals’, said Ami Luong to DVTV when asked to explain the origin of the idea to organise members of the Vietnamese community to sew face masks.
After watching a simple instructional video on how to make fabric masks, the organisation decided to create a Facebook group to coordinate Vietnamese women who can sew and have necessary equipment. The group raises money online to purchase fabric. According to the project’s website, more than 13,000 masks have been donated to hospitals, social services, retirement homes, city councils and individuals. The group has inspired many other Vietnamese families to get sewing.
Vietnamese volunteers are also helping provide food to frontline workers. Countless Vietnamese-owned stores across the country provide free coffee, drinks and snacks for all personnel working on the front lines. These establishments mark their doors with a big red heart—a symbol that is rather self-explanatory. In the Ústí nad Labem region, the Vietnamese community raised CZK 800,000 for artificial ventilators and ozone generators for three hospitals.
According to the Vietnam-based online portal Viet Nam News, the Vietnamese community in the Czech Republic began preparing for the pandemic long before it arrived in the country. Hearing about the outbreak from their families in Vietnam, they were instructed to take precautions such as installing glass barriers in grocery stores to avoid direct contact with customers, purchasing hand sanitiser or wearing face masks.
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