Taking care of and raising a normal child is difficult, but this is even much more difficult with the children who are victims of Agent Orange. It is not simply about teaching them to read and write but teaching them how to live, how to behave, and how to integrate into the community.
With love and enthusiasm, Toan accompanied the children at T3 house, Vietnam Friendship Village (Van Canh commune, Hoai Duc district, Hanoi) to steadily walk on their bumpy road. Thanks to her effort, the children have strived to overcome their hardships, gradually alleviating the pain caused by the sequelae of Agent Orange.
“If everyone chooses the easy work, who dares to take on the hard one?”
In 2017, Toan, a teacher at Lieu Giai Kindergarten (Cau Giay district), was dumbfounded when seeing images of children infected with Agent Orange/dioxin at Friendship Village posted on mass media.
“They are unfortunate children as being born with many disadvantages and defects. Their hands just can't hold things, their legs aren't strong enough to stand up on their own feet; their eyes look emotionless; their mouths are speechless," Toan confessed in tears.
Toan confided: "Ignoring my family's advice, I gave up my job as a teacher and volunteered to come to the Village to take care of the children. Even though they are not my children, from the bottom of my heart, I want to compensate for the disadvantages that they are suffering."
At that time, very few people wanted to come to work at the Village. Each large house accommodates 20-25 children cared for by 1-2 mothers. Each child has a different situation, needs a teaching method and they come at different ages. This makes people hesitate to come to teach at the Village, making it even more desolate.
And as the song “One life, One forest” by musician Tran Long An goes, "If everyone chooses the easy job, who dares to take on the hard one”, if everyone chooses leisure and relaxation, who will ease the pain of Agent Orange and light up the life of unfortunate children? Bearing this in mind, Toan cherished the opportunity to help the children regain the faith in life and confidently become "new citizens in the new era".
Sowing the seeds of love
The day she first came to take over T3's house, Toan was confused by real-life situations that no textbook had mentioned before. Each child is a "flower", but that "flower" carries within its own pain from illness, autism, mental retardation, and epilepsy...
The T3 family welcomed her with unforgettable memories. There were times when the child poured the entire bucket of water on her. At that time she felt very sad, but when thinking about the illness of the children, she tried to be calm and take the best care of them.
In the T3 family, 100% of the children are boys, so it is inevitable that they are more naughty than the girls. What’s more, they are all at the age of mental and physical development, so Toan had to worry a lot about this issue.
Moreover, each child has a different personality, so Toan meticulously observed and memorized them carefully. To do this, there is no other way than to be friends with them through talking and confiding with each other. "Only when they feel like I am their real mother, will they truly open their heart," Toan expressed.
Every year, Toan has only one day off for each month. Therefore, she spends almost all her time at the Village and devoted entirely her energy to the children regardless of day or night. For her, each child is a flower in the sunflower forest, trying to rise out of the darkness and welcome the sunshine of hope for a bright future.
Toan told us the story of Le Bao Chau born in 1996 in Hanoi. Chau was affected by Agent Orange at an early age, causing him blind and unable to speak. Lacking both cognition and intelligence, he has to rely all his daily activities on the support of mother Toan. He can only understand everyday familiar words such as eating, bathing, going for a walk...
Another case is Ly Xuan Miu (born in 2010, from Ha Giang). Miu’s father died early and her mother left her, so she considers Toan as her own mother. Toan told us that one time Miu ran, tripped and fell. I carried her on my back to the medical room and encouraged her: "Please try to eat more, as I carried you on my back, I felt you are underweight!" Saying these things, Toan just couldn’t stop crying.
Not only Chau and Miu, Toan also has to correct each child so that they can control their emotions. Even a small mistake or word can easily hurt and agitate them. When they can’t control their emotions, they are unable to control their behavior, they may easily hit their friends…
Senior Colonel Nguyen Thang Long, Director of the Vietnam Friendship Village, said that the children are provided with the best conditions and care, so that within a certain period of time they can integrate into the community. In the past they stayed here from 3-5 years but now this time has been adjusted to 5-7 years, making the children more confident and master their own lives better.
Regarding education and vocational training, the Village still runs 4 special education classes, 2 practical skills classes, and 5 vocational classes. From 2019 to 2022, 16 children came back into the community. They were provided with start-up capital to do household economy.
Even though Toan still has a lot of difficulties in her job, she is still determined to stick close and wholeheartedly with her children as long as she can. Her happiness is to see the children smile and become “new citizens", who can live their own life independently, without having to depend on anyone.
Source: People's Army Newspaper