The life in slums

Published:  11:43 Thursday - June 21, 2012

The life in slums

Hidden deep in the heart of a garbage and scrap dump in Hanoi’s Dong Da District, Bui Thi Tuyet is in her shack, gathering pieces of wood and transferring them to a plastic bag.

“I collected them from a rubbish heap last night,” she said. “I will give the pieces to my children so they will have something to kindle a fire for cooking.”

Her three children, though, are still in the countryside she has left for ten years. Tuyet went to Ha Noi in search of work to pay for their schooling.

Every day, she leaves her birdcage-like shack on Hoang Cau Street around 8 p.m., pedaling around three districts with a jute bag and pair of iron tongs. Any discards she can find by 5 a.m. The next day will contribute to the VND2 million (US$90) she sends home each month.

Tuyet’s neighbor does similar work to afford her son’s university education.
Giving her name only as Dung, she said from inside a ramshackle room that her obedient and diligent son makes her proud and motivates her.

“Working as a waste picker on the streets over the last 20 years, I’ve moved many places,” Dung said. “Thanks to the income I’ve earned from the garbage, my son has been brought up and now has an opportunity to get out of the poverty here.”

She said that: “He is now a third-year student at a university and is working a part-time job to support me.”

Near Dung, another street of 20 small rooms sees motorbike taxi drivers, laborers, and other scrap-pickers come and go.

One of them is Pham Thi Thuy, who hails from Duy Tien District in northern Ha Nam Province.

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Entrance gate into an alley of huts for rents in a slum (Photo: Tuoi Tre)

At nightfall, Thuy cradles her daughter in her arms and walks to the Ho Viet Xo collective zone, where her husband loads coal onto a motorbike headed for the market.

The couple has worked odd jobs around Hanoi for 10 years, cleaning homes, serving at restaurants, and now, trading coal.

With their two children, they share a single 7 by 2 meter room made of wood planks, iron sheets, and paper boards. As with many areas along Hoang Cau, Dinh Cong, Tay Ket, and Van Dong streets, they live in cramped and bad conditions that rarely meet minimum living needs.

And yet, even with a high risk of disease and fire, the country’s ghettos never stop growing. Slum clearance merely forces them to find new homes.

“We have to get through hardships in our lives and do many jobs that city dwellers don’t want to do,” Thuy said. “But we earn a good income so our future certainly will be better.”


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