A woman saves the life of alcoholics in Dak Pao Village, Son Mau Commune, Son Tay District, Quang Ngai Province. Alcohol used to be their barrier to poverty reduction in the village.
Dinh Thi Hang, chairwoman of Son Mau Commune Women’s Union, is this woman. She helped locals fight against alcohol “ghost” in Dak Pao mountainous village.
Village of alcoholics
The path from the heart of Son Mau Commune to Dak Pao Village is as charming as a painting in the cool weather. Hills stretch to the horizon while local farmers are in the fields.
Dak Pao is home to Ca Dong ethnic people.
Hang said that several years ago, it was common to see drunken men lying next to their motorbikes on the streets in Dak Pao.
“Ca Dong people often drink, but in Dak Pao, they drink too much. They drink until they get drunk and fall.
“Their health may not be good enough to work with the drinking habit. The number of alcoholic men was higher than the number of working men,” said Hang.
Of course, the poverty in the village was the result of drinking.
Figures showed this fact. The village had 50 households but half of them were poor.
Every home had alcoholics. In some families, both the wife and husband were drinkers.
As their kids were not taken care of, teachers and the local government were forced to step in.
Hang said people called it the alcohol “ghost” village instead of Dak Pao.
Dak Pao is half-hidden in Truong Son Dong Forest, where the real torments were caused by alcoholic drinks.
Domestic violence was among them. Drunken men lost their minds and beat their wives and children.
When the husband could drink, his wife also drank. They drank despite their poverty.
“Although officials came to advise them, they deeply abused alcohol, causing domestic violence. The broken-hearted scene I witnessed was kids having cold meals while their parents got drunk,” Hang shared.
Fighting against alcohol “ghost”
Son Tay is the poorest area in Vietnam. Poverty reduction and education are going to be key targets in the next few years.
However, its economy has improved in recent years.
In June 2019, Son Mua Commune People’s Committee and Party Committee hosted a meeting on local economic development.
Hang attended the meeting and proposed getting rid of alcohol drinking in Dak Pao, which was the best way to help the village escape poverty.
The Son Mau Commune authorities totally agreed with her.
|Dinh Thi Hang (right) talks to Dinh Thi Vum, whose husband used to be an alcoholic. Photo: Tran Mai / Tuoi Tre|
Years ago, villagers chose alcohol rather than their job. Officials even saw them getting drunk in the afternoon although they had just advised them to give it up in the morning.
Hang proposed her plan “Women say no to alcohol drinks” and conducted the plan in Dak Pao first.
“I think that women are easily approached as they may be too tired of drunken men in their family,” said Hang.
Hang knew that it was such a difficult journey but villagers could not get rid of poverty if they continued drinking.
The Son Tay Commune Women’s Union set up a team to oversee villagers.
Her plan finally got the initial rosy results. More and more villagers gave up drinking and returned to their fields.
“Those getting back to farming work become a mirror of others,” shared Hang.
A new life in Dak Pao
Dinh Van Ton and his wife Dinh Thu Muoi both used to be alcoholics. They now have a better life thanks to Hang’s team.
The couple was punished many times because of getting drunk as they had committed legally themselves to giving up drinking before.
When they got sober, the couple realized that they received a lot of punishment records.
Since then, they stayed away from drinking and their mental health was better, too.
Currently, to earn their living, Muoi collects wattle tree bark while her husband collects coffee beans in the Central Highlands.
“I feel better since I stopped drinking. So does my husband. We now try to work to make a living,” Muoi said with a smile.
Like the couple, Dinh Thi Vum’s husband used to be an alcoholic. When he got drunk, he beat his wife Vum.
She could not stand him and even walked 20 kilometers in a forest to return to her parent’s home with her kids.
Hang and her team had to advise Vum and her husband. Fortunately, the husband realized his mistake and apologized to Vum. He also promised to stop drinking.
“My family got better thanks to Hang. We now have enough money to build a new house,” said Vum.
The family of Dinh Thi Nhieu also got a good result when giving up drinking.
“I feel happy since I stopped drinking. My kids now study better,” Nhieu said.
Dak Pao currently has only 15 poor households. Many local students have passed the university entrance exams.