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Tiếng Việt

The "silent boatmen" of Agent Orange victims

As a teacher, everyone wants to receive congratulations from their students on the Vietnamese Teachers' Day, November 20th! However, there is no flower nor congratulation from students for the teachers at the Center for Supporting Victims of Agent Orange and Miserable Children in Da Nang City,  because the "students" at the Center are all victims of Agent Orange.  Here, the teachers are truly "silent boatmen" with noble hearts. Regardless of hardship, they persistently and wholeheartedly guide their students - victims of Agent Orange - with a burning desire that is to help children rise up and integrate into the community for a better life.


 The silent people of special children

It can be said that teaching for normal children is already a hard job that requires a lot of effort. This is even more challenging when teaching the children who are victims of Agent Orange and children with disabilities. Due to the effects of Agent Orange, their minds are not normal. During class, the children lose concentration. They hardly take in the knowledge that teachers convey. The children learn very slowly, and many of them do not understand anything. During class, they show neglect, cry, fight with their peers, and even fight back the teachers... At that time, the teachers have to resort to all soft skills they have to ease them down. It takes them much more time to absorb the general knowledge as compared to normal students. Therefore, the teachers there have to be persistent and patient with the children in every letter, every word, every action when teaching them skills to make craftwork. Because of this they are not only their teachers but also their fathers and mothers who have immense love, rich educational experience.

The teachers at the Center are happy with the paintings of their students, victims of Agent Orange

The emotions of the teachers at the Center are mixed with sadness when their efforts come to nothing because of the children’s inability to absorb, and sometimes happiness because of their progress... All create intense emotions in the teacher-student relationship at this special school. The teachers here voluntarily take on and make up for the unfortunate lives that suffer many defects of the creator with all their responsibility, perseverance and immense love.

Teaching with all love

We went to the special education, culture, and skills class  for children under 20 years old of teacher Nguyen Thi Kim Yen, who has been working at the Center for over 15 years. The class has 12 children with different types of disability, such as: deaf-mute, Down syndrome, autism, cerebral palsy... To teach these children, Yen must put in 3 or 4 times more effort to "get along" with them. She confided, in the first days meeting the children of this class, even though I was mentally prepared very carefully, I still couldn't avoid being confused, especially when they couldn’t control their behavior. It was the boundless enthusiasm and love for the victims of Agent Orange that pushed me to come to and love them more.

Nguyen Ngoc Phuong's incense making class was also extremely "special" because teacher Phuong is also in the same situation as the children. He was also affected by Agent Orange from his father. Phuong said that he did not know how to make incense at first. When he saw that the Center had an incense making machine which had broken down and no one was able to repair it, with his technical knowledge and curiosity, he repaired and put the machine into operation again. Up to now, the Center has invested in a number of new high-tech automated  incense making machines. Therefore, currently the Center's incense has been distrubuted for many organizations and individuals in the city and Hanoi.

As the classes are full of "special" students, the management and nurturing of the children are also more special than usual. Many children with disabilities may easily get angry and destroy things, so the teachers must always keep an eye on them, not letting them hurt themselves or their peers. Communication is hard for them, but learning is even harder  because they are less cooperative even though they are grown up. For this reason, it is necessary to have extra lessons so that in addition to teaching knowledge, teachers also teach them the simplest skills such as: holding objects, wiping hands, washing feet, or recognizing necessary objects, personal hygiene.... That is the expression of Mr. Dung, Ms. Huong, Ms. Trang, Ms. Lan, Ms. An, Ms. Thanh... who have been teaching at the Center for many years, but they have never been given a single flower by their students on the Vietnam Teachers' Day, November 20. However, they never feel sad, but instead, sorry for their special students.

Washing feet, wiping hands are simple things for normal children, but it may  take weeks or even months for children who are victims of Agent Orange to learn to do. In order for the children to distinguish and name familiar objects, it takes them a long period of time, sometimes up to half a year.

Currently, the Center is nurturing 110 victims of Agent Orange, with 17 officials, teachers, and staff. Most children have impaired hearing, seeing, speaking, and limb movement; some children suffer from cerebral palsy and intellectual disability. Each type of disability requires a specific teaching method and specific goals not as normal schools. After learning at the Center children can read the alphabet,  count numbers, know how to control their behavior, integrate into the community, take care of themselves... Each child needs a specific way of teaching, but the common "lesson plan” is love and perseverance.

Priceless spiritual gift

Unlike their colleagues at schools in the normal education system, for teachers at the Center for the Protection of Victims of Agent Orange and Unfortunate Children in Da Nang city which belongs to the specialized education system for children with disabilities, the celebration of the Vietnamese Teachers’ Day, November 20, here is also "special" compared to other schools. While other schools are full of wishes, gifts, and songs from students expressing gratitude to their teachers, there is no flower nor wish at the Center on this special day.

Ms. Vo Thi Thu, Deputy Director of the Center, who has worked at the Center for more than 17 years, said: For many years, on the November 20 anniversaries, me and the teachers at the Center have never received any flowers nor wishes of students. We just encourage each other, try to help children practice regular therapy, teach them knowledge, vocational training, and skills so that they can recover their health and soon integrate into the community. That is the gift the children give us after for our efforts. Particularly in 2023, the Standing Committee of the Da Nang City Association held a meeting to congratulate us. This is an encouragement for us to try harder, and do better in the care, education, and nurturing of Agent Orange victims.

For the teachers at the Center, it is a source of pride and an invaluable spiritual gift that motivates them to continue guiding "special" students who are victims of Agent Orange on their way to acquire  knowledge to integrate into life like other normal children. The happiness of the teachers here is also very different. It is the growth and maturity of the children of Agent Orange victims. They hope that the children will have necessary life skills and integrate into the community, thereby reducing the burden on family and society.

On the Vietnamese Teachers' Day, November 20, students everywhere excitedly present their teachers with fresh flowers and best wishes as a kind of gratitude. However, at this special school, eyes filled with hope, optimism, and desire for the future of the children who are victims of Agent Orange are a priceless gift that gives them strength and courage to continue to dedicate and persevere in imparting knowledge, life skills, and love to prepare for their future, with the hope that they can lead good lives. Thanks to their effort, these unlucky children can work, affirm themselves and integrate into the community, becoming useful people for their family and society.

Tra Thanh Lanh - Vice Presdient of Da Nang City Association


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    The "silent boatmen" of Agent Orange victims

    As a teacher, everyone wants to receive congratulations from their students on the Vietnamese Teachers' Day, November 20th! However, there is no flower nor congratulation from students for the teachers at the Center for Supporting Victims of Agent Orange and Miserable Children in Da Nang ...