While Hòa Hảo institutions being expanded, so were its social, educational and medical work, along with its support for rural development projects. It was social work sui generis as it largely relied on volunteers workforce and financial contributions. The Hòa Hảo community did not view social work as disguised propaganda or public relations campaigns. On the contrary, it was a sort of community work, which was designed to cater to specific needs of ordinary people. On the other hand, the Hòa Hảo communitys social activities chronically lacked funding, therefore, the concrete projects typically seemed quite modest compared to government-funded projects. Nonetheless, the social works of the Hòa Hảo community brought concrete results to the local population.
For instance, the Hòa Hảo congregations famous charity eateries may be viewed as a typical case of Hòa Hảo social work. These eateries, also known as “free rice stations,” or Trạm cơm miễn phí, were primarily designed to feed thousands of pilgrims visiting the Hòa Hảo Holy Land on the occasion of major annual ceremonies.
Typically, the first step to carrying out such a project was to construct a building. Local Hòa Hảo activists elected a construction board, or Ban xây cất, which was put in charge of the construction. As soon as an appropriate site was determined then workers were invited and the construction began almost immediately. Therefore, the Hòa Hảo community was in position to circumvent usual bureaucratic hurdles such as applications, design approval, solicitation of funding and tender procedures.
Moreover, the Hòa Hảo rural congregations typically had an abundant workforce, hence, the construction was carried out almost exclusively by volunteers. On the other hand, much of construction materials came from adepts as voluntary contributions while local merchants sold the rest at low prices. When it came to actual construction, the contributions were made on ad hoc basis. For instance, any wall of the eatery was built with concrete donated from a rural community while other concerned communities built a roof or donated cement and other materials. Therefore, these projects required very little funding though they tended to be quite time-consuming to build.
Upon the completion of construction works, the board took care of the kitchenwares and simple furniture, which came as donations to the “rice station.” Subsequently, the board appealed to local rural cultivators who contributed rice and vegetables for the ensuing vegetarian feasts. Other volunteers did kitchen work and served guests.
This pattern of social work allowed for a high level of efficiency. Just three “rice stations” at the Hòa Hảo Holy Land proved capable of feeding hundreds of thousands of Hòa Hảo adepts who visited the major annual ceremonies there.
Other social projects involved building simple houses for the needy. Local mutual assistance boards of the Hòa Hảo community also prepared stocks of food, medicines and clothes so as to assist victims of natural disasters or wartime refugees. These boards also helped needy households to perform appropriate funeral rites.
Generally speaking, in terms of village infrastructure, most Hòa Hảo social works might be described as small and medium projects. However, due to the large number of assisting volunteers, these projects had a considerable impact in rural areas.
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