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Siblings live in pigpen following family tragedy in northern Vietnam

Siblings live in pigpen following family tragedy in northern Vietnam

Sunday, April 14, 2024, 09:00 GMT+7
Siblings live in pigpen following family tragedy in northern Vietnam
Thanh Long, Ngoc Hoa, and Minh Tan now call their aunt's former pigpen home. Photo: Vu Tuan / Tuoi Tre

The night rain battered the dilapidated house, threatening its collapse. Each droplet soaked the mud walls, rendering the interior as sodden as the outdoors. Concerned neighbors rushed to rescue the three children, who are half-orphans, huddling in fear in a corner.

Nguyen Thanh Long, a sixth grader at Lang Quan Middle School in Yen Son District, Tuyen Quang Province, northern Vietnam trembled as he recalled the previous night’s rain.

The following morning, neighbors united to hastily mend the dilapidated pigpen of Long’s aunt, providing temporary shelter for the three siblings. 

Their former home, unable to withstand the elements, had succumbed to wind and rain.

Pigpen replaces house

Long’s younger sister, Ngoc Hoa, a third grader, gazes emptily at the remnants of their old house’s foundation. 

“Dad’s gone. I don’t know mom’s whereabouts,” she chokes out, tears mingling with the cold mountain rain.

The current abode for the Ngoc Hoa siblings is their aunt’s makeshift pigsty. 

Patched with leaves and tarpaulin, it provides scant shelter. 

One corner, suspended from bamboo poles, serves as their sleeping quarters, while another is designated for cooking.

“We had no other choice but to repair this pigpen,” Ly Thi Lien, the aunt of the children, said with a heavy heart. 

“Though the thatched roof leaks, the columns are sturdy enough to withstand strong winds. 

“Since their father passed away, we've brought the children home to share meals together.” 

In the village, the Long siblings’ family used to stand as the poorest. 

With the children’s father deceased and their house collapsing, their aunt’s family, also their next-door neighbors, assumed the title of the most impoverished in the local community. 

Struggling under the weight of their circumstances, the aunt now bears the additional burden of caring for the three young children.

Lien’s modest house, built with a government loan of VND20 million (US$800) five years ago, still lacks funds for essential repairs. 

The wooden doors are secured tightly with ropes to prevent them from swinging open in the wind.

Not long ago, Lien’s family maintained a small pig herd, providing a modest source of income with each litter sold. 

However, a disease outbreak claimed the pigs’ lives, and the family, unable to afford replacements, repurposed the pigsty into a makeshift shelter for the children.

Needy helping needy

The sudden calamity left the three siblings emaciated and bewildered. 

Despite enduring poverty in the past, their family home provided a sanctuary where the chill of the wind penetrating the walls failed to evoke shivers.

Long, accustomed to shouldering household chores ahead of his peers due to their financial struggles, once found solace in the presence of his parents. 

Despite their hardships, Long excelled academically, earning certificates of merit annually. 

During parent-teacher meetings, his father would lovingly stroke his head, his smile offering reassurance. 

That evening, the meal shared in their tattered home would radiate the sort of warmth that transcended their usual hardships.

However, tensions escalated last year, marked by increasing arguments among the parents. 

Often, the three siblings sought refuge behind the house, where Lien and her husband found and welcomed them with open arms and meals. 

The following morning, they silently would quietly return home to retrieve their schoolbooks and supplies before heading for school.

On one occasion, returning home from school, the siblings discovered their mother absent, while their father was drinking alone. 

Long, perceptive beyond his years, grasped the situation -- their mother had departed. 

Meanwhile, the younger siblings, yearning for their mother’s presence, sought solace under blankets, tears silently streaming down their cheeks.

At the end of last year, the family received a charitable gift of VN8 million ($320), a sum that may have been the largest the children’s father ever held. 

With plans to repair the roof, purchase proper clothing for the children, and enjoy a cozy Lunar New Year holiday, hopes were high. 

Then, the children’s mother returned; and joy filled the air. 

Thanh Long, Ngoc Hoa, and Minh Tan with their deceased father when he was still alive. Photo: Supplied

Thanh Long, Ngoc Hoa, and Minh Tan with their deceased father when he was still alive. Photo: Supplied

Yet, amidst their parents’ new arguments and eventual separation, tragedy struck -- the father took his own life with a rope, leaving the three children bewildered and adrift in life.

Lien’s family took on the responsibility of arranging funeral services for her brother-in-law and providing meals for the three children. 

After the 49-day mourning period, the deceased man’s siblings visited, but eventually leaving the children alone in their old, dilapidated home. 

Now, each day, they attend school in the morning, dine at Lien’s residence, and return home in the evening to huddle together in their aging dwelling. 

Hoang Dinh Thu, head of Village 21 in Lang Quan Commune, Yen Son District, Tuyen Quang Province, said that the local government previously included Thanh Long’s family in a program aimed at assisting households with the construction of new, temporary homes to replace deteriorated ones. 

However, this program required families to prepare some independent funds, which Long’s father, when still alive, failed to arrange due to financial hardship. 

As a result, their house remains as it is.

In the wake of the father’s passing, the village came together to support the children. 

Contributions ranged from rice and monetary donations to vegetables and bamboo shoots. 

However, they could not afford repairs to the children’s old house, which is in a state of disrepair, posing a safety risk.

Eventually, the community deliberated and arranged for the children to move into their aunt's home.

‘Enough schooling’ desire

Every morning, Long rises early to assist Lien with cooking, preparing a simple meal of white rice accompanied by salty dried fish and a bowl of sweet potato leaf soup or, on more fortunate occasions, a packet of instant noodles cooked in ample water to serve as broth. 

Afterward, Long escorts his youngest brother Minh Tan, a first grader, to school, while his third-grade sister makes her own way there. 

In the afternoon, the trio assists their aunt with household chores before heading to the stream to forage for vegetables.

“I fear I won’t be able to attend school anymore or even have rice to eat,” Long confessed, his voice choked with emotion. 

“The rice my father bought has long been depleted, so now I rely on the rice from my aunt’s household.”

The boy timidly clasped his slender, blue-veined hand to his knee, his worn pants sporting a hole in the center from prolonged decay rather than a mishap. 

Beside him in the pigpen, Hoa and Tan’s trousers bore similar tears. 

Hoa’s gaze remained distant and melancholic, while Tan treasured two photos of his mother, one of which had lost its protective plastic covering. 

Often, when alone, Tan would tenderly gaze at his mother’s photo.

Lien revealed that witnessing Hoa’s solitary bouts of tears was heart-wrenching, while Tan spent many nights pining for his mother, frequently asking, “When will mom come home?” 

As for Long, he displayed resilience, consoling his younger sibling in the pigpen, “Stop crying, mom can’t hear you!”

Despite her tears, Lien found solace in her nephews and niece’s education. 

Each year, Long earned academic honors.

Since their father’s passing and their mother’s departure, teachers had encouraged Lien’s family to prioritize Long’s schooling. 

In Lang Quan Commune, a struggling community, exemplary students like Long are rare.

Both Hoa and Tan had once garnered praise from their teachers, but their academic performance had waned since their family’s separation. 

However, Long endeavors to help his siblings with their studies each evening. 

He harbored no lofty ambitions, merely yearning for sufficient food, clothing, and enough schooling for all three.

To support the children, readers can make transfers to the following account: 

Recipient: Tuoi Tre Newspaper

Account number: 113000006100

Bank: Vietnam Joint Stock Commercial Bank for Industry and Trade (Vietinbank)

Branch: Branch 3, Ho Chi Minh City

Please include the following content in your transfer reference: “Assistance for the children in the April 12, 2024 print issue.” 

We will ensure the funds are promptly delivered to the children.

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Tuoi Tre News


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