A group of retired construction and mason workers in the Mekong Delta are volunteering their time and skills to make critical infrastructure improvements in their communities.
Known as the Lai Vung Bridge Construction Team, the men range in age from 50-80+ and are putting their years of work experience to good use by building bridges, roads, reinforcing walkways and bike paths in the district, all for free.
With a passion for helping others, the group formed in 2008 with a few dozen elderly farmers who saw the need for improvements to roads and bridges over crisscrossing streams and rivers where school children and pedestrians walked every day. The team now has a membership of more than 115 men who work tirelessly to construct bridges and streets throughout the Mekong Delta without receiving any salary.
Under the blazing mid-April sun, the team members were briskly performing delegated tasks at the construction site of the Ba Dia Bridge in Tan Hoa Commune. “The new bridge will be put to use in over one month, allowing trucks ready access to local farms for farmers to deliver their crops to market. Local farmers will no longer sell their produce at low prices due to transport hurdles,” said Vo Van Loc, head of the team.
“Travel to, from and within Lai Vung was particularly difficult years ago, as makeshift wooden and bamboo bridges over intersecting streams and rivers were a major deterrent to locals and students,” Loc explained the reason for setting up the team.
Huynh Van Dung, a seasoned member, said he and the others have grown ‘addicted’ to the job, as they feel uneasy if they do not work at the construction sites every few days. “Many members cover a long distance to the sites every day without a single complaint, as the sooner the bridges are complete and open to traffic, the more residents will benefit,” Dung shared.
“Their jubilation is also ours,” he added.
In the early days, the team built only wooden and concrete bridges with a loading capacity of under 1.5 metric tons due to limited funding and inadequate civil engineering expertise. As they have gradually gained more construction experience and more philanthropists have joined the cause, the team has taken on larger-capacity bridges which allow trucks to get through easily.
Several physically challenged people have also joined the squad. Nguyen Van Khoe, an Agent Orange victim, has been on the team for several years. Unable to take on arduous tasks, he opts for tasks such as running errands, delivering supplies, and bringing food and refreshments to the team members.
Cao Trong Danh, chief of the Lai Vung People’s Committee Office, said the construction team has helped improve the locality’s traffic infrastructure significantly. “The senior members have put forth a lot of effort and sweat to build technically ensured walkways and complete them to everyone’s delight. Thanks to their hard work, dwellers in remote areas can now travel and do business with ease, which has given a boost to the local economy,” he noted.
The masons perform their work to the highest standards, with a hardworking attitude, devotion and true community spirit, leaving
a legacy of craftsmanship and goodwill in their communities.