A father of two born with birth defects, Bui Van Phuong, a man in Hanoi, was heartbroken to learn that their deformities were linked to Agent Orange. The man promised himself to teach them to thrive in life.
Every day, Phuong takes his oldest daughter, Bui Phuong Hieu, on his old motorcycle to Tu Lien Market, located in the capital city’s Tay Ho District, so she can help her mother sell clothes.
Hieu is a good-natured and obedient daughter with whom local vendors in the area are familiar.
A family-oriented girl
Despite suffering from severe deformities due to Agent Orange, Hieu, aged 33, still said that her condition was better than that of Thanh, her younger brother.
When Hieu was little, she attended school like her peers.
However, after she fainted and fell to the ground many times, her teacher got worried and requested her parents to take her home.
The girl had to quit school then.
Her brother also dropped out of school later as his teacher discovered his hands cannot move to hold a pen.
It was then the father had to accept the fact that his kids are the disabled.
“Some people recommended my family send the kids to a center for the disabled. But I love them so much, how can I do that?" Phuong said.
“We sold our houses twice in order to pay their medical bills and ended up settling in this small house.
"Despite being disadvantaged, I always teach them not to complain about their situation, instead, they have to try their best to take ownership of their lives."
Learning that their parents have had to work hard to bring them up, Hieu and Thanh always strive to help their family ride out difficulties.
Every morning, Hieu wakes up early to help her mother prepare breakfast.
By 5:00 am, the whole family goes to the West Lake area, where Hieu and the mother sell clothes, while Thanh and his father offer bicycle pumping services for a living.
Later in the morning, Hieu and the mother move to the Tu Lien Market to continue their business.
Even during the days when she is under the weather and suffers from a terrible headache, Hieu still makes it to the market as she cares about her family.
“I’ll try as much as I can. I wish our family would have a better life and always stay happy and healthy,” Hieu said.
During the fourth wave of COVID-19 last year, the family had to suspend their business.
At the time, only when someone contacted Phuong via mobile phone to request repair services, the family could get some money to afford food and other daily activities.
Being told that the family would receive financial support, Hieu made a rapid calculation in her head, saying that she could buy some items to serve their small business such as a delivery trolley and a sugarcane juice machine.
“When I earn more money, I will take better care of my parents and Thanh,” Hieu said determinedly.
Study to change life
Nguyen Danh Tuan, aged 19, residing in Duong Lieu Commune, Hoai Duc District, Hanoi, has had difficulties walking for many years.
Tuan has congenital pseudarthrosis and a lipoma (fatty tumor) on his left head. He cannot walk since his feet are partially deformed.
When he turned nine, his family decided to take him to a larger hospital after many failed efforts to seek medical treatment that left the family burdened with debts.
Finally, fortune smiled on him, the boy at the time could walk a little bit even though his legs were still weak and he was not able to do heavy work.
“I am trying every day to learn to become a graphics engineer, though I know my path to that career would be tough,” Tuan said.
Tuan’s mother, Dam Thi Lan, has to work harder to afford tuition fees for both Tuan and his brother.
The 53-year-old woman has to work very far from home to make ends meet.
As for Tuan’s father and the children, they make incense for a living but earn only a little.
When Tuan entered college, his mother had to take out loans of VND50 million (US$2,141) to pay for his tuition fees and buy learning equipment for Tuan and his younger brother, who is a 10th grader.
After school, Tuan spends time helping his father make incense and tidying up their house.
Tuan said he never thought about dropping out of school, although he finds studying quite difficult and usually lags behind his classmates.
“Given my health problems, I think that only studying will help me find a suitable job to change my life and share the burden with my parents,” said Tuan.