Since 1999, female students who move from provinces to universities in HCM City have had a safe, inexpensive place to stay at dormitories managed by local Catholic churches.
Students who live in Hoa Binh Dormitory study for class. — VNS Photo Gia Loc
Tran Thi Minh Thuy from Dong Nai Province has lived in Hoa Binh Dormitory at Tan Viet Church in the city’s Tan Binh District for three years.
“Before coming to the city to study at university, I was worried, because I didn’t know where I could rent a room,” Thuy said.
By chance, she was introduced to Hoa Binh Dormitory.
“I’m a lucky student. My friends move from rented room to room because of various reasons, including lack of safety,” Thuy said.
Like Thuy, Nguyen Thi Tuyet Trinh of Tay Ninh Province, a senior at the University of Education in HCM City, also lives at a church dormitory.
Trinh has stayed at Hoa Hung Dormitory on the campus of Hoa Hung Church in District 10 since early this year.
“I have lived in many rental rooms in districts 7 and 3. Compared to these rooms, accommodation at the dormitory is better and safer,” she said. Trinh said she lost her laptop when she lived in one of the rented rooms.
At the dormitories, students live with each other like a large family and share cooking and cleaning in a disciplined environment.
“We are assigned to do housework by turns when we have free time. After doing housework, I feel spiritually refreshed. It teaches me lessons,” Trinh said.
After returning from school, the students have nutritious meals, in contrast to when they had to cook for themselves or grab a hasty meal of instant noodles in the past.
Trinh said the students were planning to organise entertainment programmes for the holidays.
“Living here teaches me skills in organising events and working in a team,” she said.
Thuy, who lives at Hoa Binh Dormitory, said they had decorated rock cave replicas of where Jesus was born in the front of the dormitory to celebrate Christmas.
Working together, they have improved their listening and communication skills and have learned how to manage their time, as well as share ways to improve their marks at school.
“It’s good that I can learn how to share with others,” Thuy said.
Two months before Christmas, they made hand rings to raise funds for a charity programme in Binh Phuoc Province’s ethnic minority area. They also have sold products such as books or CDs.
“The charity programme helps bring small joys to ethnic minority children. When I see them happy, I am happy,” Thuy said.
Sister Tran Thi Thanh Thuy, manager of the Hoa Binh Dormitory, said that students from the province live far from family and are alone in the city.
They can be prey to many temptations in life, as well as stress while studying, Thuy said, adding that they need to be given guidance.
The city has more than 10 dormitories managed by Catholic churches that provide inexpensive accommodation to students from provinces who come to the city to study.
In 1998, the Salesian Sisters of St. John Bosco or the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, under Nam Hoa Parish in Tan Binh District admitted 10 students from provinces to live together at a small house. One year later, more students registered to live at the house.
The Salesian Sisters asked Father Joseph Pham Ba Lam of the Hoa Hung Parish in District 10 to help them open a dormitory for female students, especially those who are poor, from provinces.
In 1999, two small dormitories opened on Cach Mang Thang 8 Street in District 10 and on the campus of Hoa Hung Church for 37 female students. The two dormitories, however, have not met demand.
In 2002, a larger dormitory on the campus of Hoa Hung Church was built to meet increased demand, while other dorm throughout the city at churches are being built as well.