‘There were days we shared a loaf of bread between two of us, or begged for money from neighbors to buy noodles to eat’
A student in southern Vietnam has struggled for around a decade selling lottery tickets to earn money for his poor family while nurturing his aspiration to enter college.
Every early morning, with a bundle of lottery tickets Dang Chi Lam leaves his small, dank house along a back alley in O Mon District, Can Tho – the largest and most modern city in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region.
Lam treads the streets and tries to sell out the tickets as quickly as possible before returning home to cook food for his incapacitated father, who has suffered from debilitating idiopathic bodily swelling for around ten years without any medical treatment due to poverty.
The rest of Lam’s time is dedicated to self-study and revision.
The student became the breadwinner after his father showed signs of the disease and his mother passed away.
He worked as a dishwasher and errand boy at a bread shop then.
“My dad didn’t know I was doing these jobs. I lied to him that I was taking extra classes and doing group work,” Lam recalled, mentioning his time after finishing grade six at 12.
“I didn’t know how we could live if I didn’t make money.”
Lam afterward switched to selling lottery tickets to have more time for his middle school education.
He ignored the contemptuous look and ill words from peers and schoolmates.
“I didn’t feel ashamed at all of juggling ticket sales with schoolwork. Sometimes I even sell tickets in the school. What's important is that you can do what others can’t.”
Lam and his father experienced unforgettable hardships.
“There were days we shared a loaf of bread between two of us, or begged for money from neighbors to buy noodles to eat. We had to sell our dog. And that’s the most saddening.”
During middle school Lam went to class wearing the same clothes, which consisted of pants just below the knees and a worn-out shirt, recounted the father, 51-year-old Dang Chi Hoang, who used to be a dumpling street vendor.
The father said his life would have ended but for his son’s help.
Lam wishes to attend the Can Tho University of Medicine and Pharmacy, considered a prestigious institution in the Mekong Delta, to learn what he likes and said he remains undeterred despite having failed the examination to gain admission to the school for three times.
He desires to become a doctor in order to make his father proud.