COVID-19: New livelihood helps family cope and feed community

Savings groups and skills training from Plan International are helping this family in Vietnam cope with the changing situation – as well as providing food to their community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new livelihood thanks to Plan International's skills training
Ha has become a ‘shipper’ of food in her community. Pictured here with daughter Yen Nhi, 5.

Whenever she hears the sound of motorcycle, 7-year-old Yen Nhi excitedly runs into the yard and waits for her mother to come home. “My mother is a shipper,” Yen Nhi proudly tells us, “my father says that shippers help deliver food to those who need it.”

Delivery drivers on motorbikes, known locally as ‘shippers,’ are becoming more common in Vietnam. Each day they collect and deliver goods to their customers, something that has become more important since strict movement and social distancing restrictions have been in place to curb COVID-19 infections.

Learning to live with school closures and quarantine

Yen Nhi will turn 8 this year. Her younger brother, Nhat Duy is 5 and is a sponsored child with Plan International. Since the start of the year, neither of them have been to school. After the Lunar New Year break, schools were closed down and social distancing measures enforced banning gatherings of more than two people and quarantining hundreds of thousands of people to stop the spread of the virus.

Before the pandemic, Nhi’s parents worked across the border in Laos, mainly growing rice and bananas. But with the borders closed, her parents could no longer work, and they lost their only source of income. Do, Nhi’s father, was assigned by the community to guard the border from dusk till dawn, preventing illegal migration during the pandemic. 

Savings are a lifeline in times of crisis

So Phuc, Nhi’s mother, had to take on the responsibility of providing for the family, including her mother who is often unwell. Realising that the situation may last for some time, Do and Phuc decided to find a new way to earn an income.

During this difficult time, we have realised how important these savings can be for our family

“We discussed and decided to withdraw money from the saving account have with Plan International’s Savings and Loans Group for almost four years. During this difficult time, we have realised how important these savings can be for our family,” Phuc explains. 

Noticing that in the neighbouring villages, farmers were growing more crops than the amount they needed and were unable to sell them during the lockdown, Phuc and her husband decided to start a collection and delivery service so the products could be sold to customers in other villages. Their new business helps both families living in lockdown, as well as the farmers and provides them with a much-needed income.

Savings groups and skills training are paying off 

Yen Nhi with one of the vegetables her mother delivers as a shipper
Yen Nhi with one of the vegetables her mother delivers as a ‘shipper’.

Phuc and her husband had previously taken part in training sessions on household economic management organised by Plan International, so now they had the opportunity to put the skills they learnt into practice. “There’s a huge difference between studying and practicing, but having some knowledge helps us be more confident,” Phuc says. 

One of the challenges that Phuc faced when setting up her new business was getting used to the online ordering process. She starts by taking photos of the products for sale, then posts them onto her Facebook site, and if there are any orders, she uses her motorbike to deliver them, never forgetting to follow the preventative measures to keep herself and her customers safe.

“I’m not good at writing online content and the photos I take are not that beautiful, but I guess our customers trust us, since they know Van Kieu people like us don’t use chemical fertiliser to grow their products. Moreover, being guided by Plan International, I believe I can learn to write better in the future,” she shares. 

Juggling family-time and work

Phuc tries to arrange all her deliveries to be done in the first half of the day, so she can spend the other half with her family. But some days, when she receives many orders, she has to work all day. 

“During the pandemic, earning 200,000 – 500,000 VND (around $8 – $22) is good enough. I’m just afraid that if this situation lasts longer, my children will stay at home too long. I don’t have time to study with them so they will forget their lessons. I just truly hope that everything will soon fall back into place.”

For Yen Nhi, she is happy that her parents are happy. “I love it when my mother goes to work and delivers goods, because when she comes back home, she brings me cake,” she says excitedly. 

Thinking about the day when life returns to normal, Phuc intends to continue her delivery service. “When my children go back to school, I will buy a new phone, take nicer photos, film nicer shots and learn how to sell more agricultural products online to help ourselves and other villagers.”