| A volunteer helps a father and daughter find their way around the city at the HCM City Students Assistance Centre in District 1 on Monday. (Photo: VNS) |
It was their first visit to the big city and they were not sure how they would find their way around, with Y Ngot about to sit for his university entrance examinations.
But they were in for a surprise.
Scores of young people in blue uniforms were on hand at the Mien Dong Inter-provincial Bus Terminal in the city, enthusiastic and ready to help students and their relatives find accommodation, food and other services.
Y Ngot, who is hoping for admission to the HCM City University of Technology, said his worries have dissipated because of the support he has received from the youth volunteers.
"They are really friendly and helpful. I want to be a volunteer like them as soon as I pass the examination," he said.
Y Ngot is not the first person to be motivated to help other people like him, inspired by the kindness and hospitality he received in a strange city.
The youth in blue have been seen all over the city these days, offering support to students who come from other localities, including neighbouring provinces and remote areas, to sit for the university entrance examinations.
Whether it is burning hot or raining heavily, they are there at bus and train stations, schools and even on the street, looking for new arrivals – students and their relatives – who need help.
The help needed is wide-ranging: accommodation, food, transportation, procedures and paper work to be filed before sitting for the examinations, like collecting the hall tickets; and even advice on how to navigate traffic on the city's streets.
The good Samaritans not only provide all this help, they are almost like relatives of the new arrivals, carrying the luggage of parents and being solicitous about their needs.
There are as many as 100 students doing 800 trips a day as xe-om (motorbike drivers) to take visiting exam candidates and their relatives travel within the city.
Vu Thi Nhu Quynh, 21, a third-year student at the HCM City University of Natural Sciences, who is among more than 13,000 volunteers in the city this year, was herself on the receiving end of support from older youth when she arrived in HCM City for the first time.
Three summers have passed, but the volunteer has not forgotten her state of ill-health and embarrassment when she arrived at the Mien Dong (Eastern) Bus Terminal in 2009 from Pleiku City in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai.
"My mother and I were badly car sick. I could not even move. And I felt even more confused and scared after seeing many vehicles and motorbike taxi drivers surrounding us."
"Fortunately, friendly volunteers came to help us."
Quynh said her confidence was restored by the support she received and decided to be a volunteer.
As of June 30, the campaign, which runs between June 3 and July 15, has supported nearly 80,000 students from neighbouring provinces and other localities.
Nearly 18,000 accommodations, including 1,500 that are free, 60,000 meals, 28,000 free bus tickets and other benefits have been offered to the visiting students. Need of the hour
The campaign, which has been carried out for 11 years, is the brainchild of Nguyen Thi Nhung, former director of the HCM City Student Assistance Centre.
In 2000, Nhung heard some students who had come to the city to sit for the examinations lost their luggage and money and were even cheated at bus stations. Some had to sleep in public parks.
Nhung set up a team of 13 volunteers to support the visiting candidates.
Later, students of major universities in the city went to the centre and offered to participate in the campaign, later called Tiep Suc Mua Thi (Examination Assistance Programme). VietNamNet/Viet Nam News