Hearts and masks: Czech-Vietnamese solidarity during coronavirus | Health

In a rustic as homogeneous because the Czech Republic, the duty of social integration can current itself as a virtually unsolvable riddle to many newcomers. Maybe nobody understands this higher than the Vietnamese, the nation’s third-largest minority.

With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe, the Czech authorities was fast to implement strict measures to curtail the additional unfold of the virus. Following Austria and Hungary, it ordered a reinstalment of border checks with neighbouring international locations.

Then, in a transfer that got here as a shock to many different EU capitals, Prague made it obligatory for everybody to put on a face masks in public. Though the usefulness of the measure was not instantly obvious to everybody, the Czechs had no alternative however to conform. The issue was how. Though a small nation of simply over 10 million, the demand for face masks quickly exceeded the availability by an unlimited margin.

Whereas some resorted to the usage of home-made options, others determined to place their abilities to work to assist enhance provide. Notably fast on their toes was a gaggle of younger Vietnamese moms from an NGO referred to as Lam Cha Me CZ (Vietnamese for: being a mother or father).

“We’re in shut contact with docs of Vietnamese origin that work at Czech hospitals. They instructed us how under-resourced the hospitals are,” Ami Luong, a consultant of Lam Cha Me, defined.

The Prague-based NGO was based about two years in the past by a gaggle of younger moms from Vietnam residing within the Czech Republic. The preliminary purpose was to offer info to Vietnamese households about authorized and administrative hurdles that many immigrants sometimes face within the Czech Republic.

Nonetheless, the volunteer group was quick to regulate to the brand new circumstances. They created a Fb group and invited anybody of their community with first rate stitching abilities and the required gear. Quickly, greater than 1,000 folks had responded to the decision.

“Out of these 1,000 members, there are round 200 to 250 people who find themselves actively stitching face masks every day,” Luong stated. “They’re primarily tradeswomen who needed to shut down their companies to adjust to the federal government measures.”

It didn’t take lengthy earlier than folks began to note. In a matter of days, the group of newbie seamstresses was flooded with requests for face masks from all around the Czech Republic.

To deal with the rising demand, the volunteers created an internet site the place anybody might place an order. They’ve acquired requests from hospitals, retirement properties and metropolis councils.

“The Vietnamese are used to creating their very own garments, so they’re fairly fast,” stated Luong. “The orders are coming in a whole lot of 1000’s and we’re working arduous to ship all of them.”

Energy in unity

In response to the most recent figures offered by the Czech Statistical Workplace, there are presently round 62,000 Vietnamese folks residing within the Czech Republic. Following the Slovaks and Ukrainians, they’re the third-largest minority within the nation.

Though many have lived within the Czech Republic for practically 30 years, solely a fraction have Czech citizenship.

As Vietnamese residents typically nonetheless battle with linguistic and cultural obstacles, many gravitate in direction of occupations with a excessive diploma of financial self-sufficiency. This is applicable specifically to the primary era.

“Anyplace between 70 and 80 % of our mother and father have their very own companies,” stated Nguyen Manh Tung, the founding father of the Affiliation of Younger Vietnamese Entrepreneurs within the Czech Republic.

Many of those companies are eating places, nail studios, comfort shops and outside markets.

On March 14, the Czech authorities issued a short lived ban on all retail and repair gross sales with just a few exceptions, reminiscent of foodstuffs or pharmacies. The ban has been prolonged till April 31.

Though this and different measures geared toward slowing down the unfold of the virus have an effect on everybody kind of equally, they current a specific problem to small enterprise house owners with no further sources of revenue. This is applicable to nearly all of the Vietnamese residing within the Czech Republic.

Tung shouldn’t be too fearful. “This disaster will have an effect on everybody, however the Vietnamese have the benefit of being good at saving cash,” he defined. “They got here to the Czech Republic to offer a greater life for his or her youngsters and ship a refund to Vietnam to their mother and father. They’ve been saving since they first arrived right here,” he added.

One other benefit is the Vietnamese neighborhood’s cohesiveness; folks have a tendency to assist each other get by way of the arduous occasions.

“We already have been in an identical state of affairs in the course of the monetary disaster of 2008,” Tung stated. “Numerous Vietnamese misplaced jobs again then. They did not even have the funds for for meals. And the neighborhood – these with sufficient monetary reserves – helped them.”

Waves of solidarity

However what the present well being disaster has proven is that this solidarity extends past the Vietnamese neighborhood to the nation as a complete. 

Luong says that the volunteer seamstresses really feel like it’s their responsibility to assist the nation in occasions of disaster.

“They instructed me that they see the Czech Republic as their second residence, a house that wants assist proper now,” she defined. “It isn’t about cash or nationality. They do not discriminate between Czechs and Vietnamese. They know that face masks are wanted, in order that they go to work.”

It’s a message that seems to resonate with nearly all of the Vietnamese residing within the central European nation. With solely a small push on social media, a second wave of solidarity rapidly emerged.

Tran Van Sang is a social entrepreneur and a social media star on the Vietnamese-language Czech web scene. He makes use of his social media channels to offer the Vietnamese neighborhood with related details about Czech political life, reminiscent of the most recent legal guidelines or authorities rules, in their very own language.

His Fb web page Sangu.eu has round 40,000 followers. He says that the content material he posts on his social media channels finally finds its method to about 90 % of all Vietnamese residing within the Czech Republic.

“After the face masks stitching initiative was launched, my followers began telling me that the Vietnamese might do much more to assist,” Van Sang defined. “I then got here up with the concept of free snacks for the emergency companies personnel.”

Van Sang used his affect on social media to attraction to Vietnamese comfort retailer house owners to offer refreshments freed from cost for cops, firefighters and medical personnel. He titled the Fb submit “the Vietnamese assist” with a small coronary heart image.

The initiative took off. Inside a couple of days, 1000’s of Vietnamese distributors had adorned their store home windows with a coronary heart, sending a message to the emergency companies that they may get refreshments there freed from cost.

Mia Image

A Vietnamese enterprise proprietor within the Czech Republic expressing help for the hearts initiative [Photo courtesy of Sangu.EU Facebook Group]

“Underneath the present circumstances, it’s not very simple for us to get meals in the course of the day. So this makes a extremely huge distinction to us and we’re extraordinarily grateful,” one firefighter instructed the Czech industrial broadcaster TV Nova.

The so-called “coronary heart initiative” unfold rapidly and Van Sang says {that a} Czech man not too long ago approached him, asking for permission to encourage non-Vietnamese to do the identical.

Antonin Nevole, the Czech volunteer, created an internet site and printed about 5,000 coronary heart stickers, distributing them to Czech eating places and different institutions across the nation.

“I am simply glad that this initiative unfold among the many Czechs as properly,” Van Sang defined.

There have additionally been studies about Vietnamese communities donating cash to hospitals, faculties and metropolis councils.

Social influence

To maintain observe of all these completely different initiatives, and to attach these wanting to assist with these in want, Nguyen Manh Tung of the Affiliation of Younger Vietnamese Entrepreneurs created a Fb web page titled “the Vietnamese Assist”, later including an internet site with the identical title.

“We needed to create a unified info portal within the Czech language,” he stated. “Anybody can go to the web site and see precisely what the Vietnamese neighborhood does of their respective area.”

Tung says that 60 to 70 % of all Vietnamese residing within the Czech Republic are serving to indirectly.

This wave of solidarity has put the Czech Vietnamese neighborhood within the highlight, as Czech media run tales on the initiatives. The consequence has been to problem the notion of the neighborhood as a self-contained socioeconomic unit with solely a restricted curiosity in the remainder of society.

“Vietnamese neighborhood? They’re Czechs to me, they’re built-in. They operate right here independently and settle for our guidelines,” one Fb consumer commented.

Tung says that the Vietnamese neighborhood is mostly thought of to be significantly hard-working and beneficiant. “I hope that this marketing campaign will assist solidify this picture,” he added.

Luong wish to see the general public picture of the Czech Vietnamese neighborhood enhance even additional.

She says she was disillusioned when a Czech on-line information portal that interviewed her referred to her simply as a “Vietnamese” in its headline.

Luong, like many different second-generation Vietnamese immigrants within the Czech Republic, speaks flawless Czech and has each Czech and Vietnamese citizenship.

“I hope that it will change over time. I hope that we’ll be seen as simply fellow residents.”

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