The saver of little souls

Published: 03/03/2009 05:00


Mr. Vu Van Bao.
Travelling everywhere to seek abandoned foetuses to give them names and a last resting place – that is the job of an old man in Quan Vinh village, Nghia Thang commune, Nghia Hung district, the northern province of Nam Dinh.

“They are foetuses and they have souls. They are unlucky to have been born so I try to make up for this by providing them a last resting place,” said Mr. Vu Van Bao, 60, who is called “the saver of little souls” by his neighbours.

A sentimental man

We arrived at his house in the early morning but we only found his wife at home, Mrs. Vu Thi Hien. Giving us cups of hot tea, she said: “Last night a man from the nearby village came to tell him about a dying old man in his village. So he has gone to see that man already.”

For the last 38 years, Bao has taken care of dying people. He is always the last person around these people when they draw their last breath. He holds ceremonies for them like a priest and lays them in coffins.

Bao finally returned home at noon. When his wife asked him “how about the situation?” Bao said sadly: “No problem. Poor him! His children are very far away so he died alone. I came home because I was told that a woman threw a black nylon bag into the section of the river near Quan Vinh sewer. I have to go there now to see whether it is a foetus or not. If it has been swept away to sea, it would be a great pity for the child.”

We followed him to Quan Vinh sewer. It is a small section of river of 5m wide. The water was very muddy. The river section is separated from the village by a row of bamboos.

Bao walked along the bank for around 300m and saw a black nylon bag which was drifting. He used a “special” pole to get the bag.

Opening the bag, he said: “This baby is around three months. Poor you! You don’t have a chance to come to life but are thrown away! Babies whom I take from private consulting rooms are 6-7 months. They still cry when I bring them to my home. I sometimes take care of them for several hours like normal children but they still die.” He cried then.

“I find at least one or two babies like this, even ten some days,” he added.

Wish to be jobless

He puts foetuses in small pottery jars and numbers them. He places around ten containers like this in a small earthenware coffin for burial.

He led us to Quan Vinh cemetery to burn incense for the babies. He said that in the past three years he has buried nearly 2,000 foetuses.

“When will this unfortunate thing finish? I only wish to be jobless!” Mr. Bao said.

He gives every foetus a name, with his surname, such as Vu Tam Hai, Vu Tu Hai. He asked for a small plot of land in Quan Vinh cemetery to bury the babies.

Moved by Bao’s kindness, his neighbour, Mrs. Pham Thi Cuong, 71, lends Bao a hand. She goes to hospitals and clinics in Nghia Thang district to collect foetuses for Mr. Bao to bury.

“I’m very old. I will not live much longer so I’ll try to help Mr. Bao and to help life,” said Mr. Bao’s only “colleague”.


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