Growing up unable to walk, Nguyen Thi Sari overcame a lifetime of obstacles to bring home a victory at the Southeast Asian Para Games (ASEAN Para Games), but despite her athletic success, she still considers running a free English class to be one of her top achievements.
After finishing high school, Sari, a resident of Can Duoc District in the Mekong Delta province of Long An, opted out of attending university in order to find a job and help support her family.
The next several years were spent battling a series of obstacles: returning to academia as a university student, earning a degree in English, and competing in international swimming competitions despite having only limited use of her legs.
Still, she overcame all those obstacles and has even added one more achievement to her list: opening a free English class in her community.
The classroom where Sari teaches is only about 10 square meters, but every Saturday, Sunday, and Monday from 5:45 to 7:30 pm it is full of smiling students eager to learn and make use of the room’s board, desks, and chairs.
Now, in the seven years since she opened the class, Sari has taught over 100 underprivileged children from Can Duoc and the surrounding districts English, math, and literature.
“[When I first started learning English], I had no basic knowledge of the language, so I was worried that I would not be able to keep with up my classmates. I also didn’t have enough money to pay for extra lessons,” Sari said.
“This class is a way for me to upskill underprivileged students so they can have a smoother path than I did.”
|Poor students attend Sari’s free English class in Can Duoc District, Long An Province. Photo: Supplied|
Pleased to be called ‘teacher’
Sari earned a Bachelor’s degree in English studies but has no a pedagogical certificate, only a dream to help students in need.
In order to balance teaching and swimming for the national team of disabled swimmers, Sari often asks the boss to allow her to leave early.
Van Huynh Nhu, a junior at the Van Hien University in Ho Chi Minh City, said that she joined Sari’s class when she was younger. Now, when she returns to her hometown, she visits Sari to ask questions about English grammar.
“I was taught by Sari for four years. I loved learning the language from her. Sari is very devoted to teaching,” Nhu said.
An excellent disabled swimmer
Nguyen Thi Sari, a veteran member of Vietnam’s national disabled swim team, has earned 26 gold medals, 13 silver medals, and one bronze medal during her time on the national team.
At the ASEAN Para Games, she has won five gold medals, 10 silver medals, and four bronze medals.
She was honored as the best swimmer at the ASEAN Para Games 2009 after winning three gold medals.