Teacher collects and discards risky needles

VietNamNet Bridge – The rain was coming down harder and harder, but Gao kept moving around Bao Loc Lake in the central Highlands province of Lam Dong, picking up needles left by drug users. She then carefully put the needles into a plastic can before bringing them to a medical waste container at Lam Dong Hospital No 2.



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Nguyen Thi Gao collects a needle left by drug users from the foot of a tree in Bao Loc City. — Photo baolamdong.vn


Nguyen Thi Gao, 54, a teacher from Bao Loc City, has been doing this every day for the past three months. She often goes around other spots used by addicts, such as small alleys and parks to collect the needles. Gao collects needles on the weekend or when she has free time after classes. Each day she picks up between 10-50 needles.

“Needles stuck on trees or grass are often swept away into Bao Loc Lake by downpours, making them easier to recognise and pick up. So I often make use of heavy rains to come to the lake to collect the needles,” she told the Quan doi nhan dan (People’s Army) newspaper.

Gao remembered the day she took her students to Dong Nai River Park to practise taking photos and suddenly found a lot of needles on the grass.

“It was so horrible. These needles could harm other people if they stepped on them,” she said. “After that day I decided to collect those needles.” She initially focused on the park and then expanded her search to other areas.

“There was a time I went to Bao Loc cemetery and saw a group of children playing with needles they took. It was so dangerous,” she said. “Drug addicts can use drugs anywhere and throw the needles away at random.”

Initially, many people thought that Gao was crazy. “Many people think that I have a mental illness to collect needles like that. Even my daughter thought so,” she said.

However, she didn’t care. “I don’t mind what other people think. I want to do what I think is useful,” Gao said. Gradually, people have come to understand her mission and even to help her.

Dark side

She is not afraid of being infected by the needles.

“But I am so sad. The needles reveal the dark side of the city as there are so many drug addicts,” she said.    

Apart from collecting needles, Gao also meets drug addicts and tries to persuade them to give up their habit. Many families have asked Gao to try to convince their children to go to rehabilitation centres, and she succeeded in some cases. When her persuasion efforts fail, she enlists the help of the local police.

She has also proposed to local authorities that they check the hot spots of drug use and come up with proper solutions to deal with the problem in order to ensure public safety.

"Many drug users, particularly users of amphetamine-type stimulants insult their parents and even commit murder when they lose control," she said.

A man living near Bao Loc River said the river was beautiful but was also a gathering place for many drug addicts. “Thanks to Gao’s work, the number of drug addicts has gradually declined and people have more time and places to walk or exercise along the river,” he said. 

Minh Minh

VNS

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