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Vietnamese doctor dedicates life to helping women, children in border village

Wednesday, September 04, 2019, 11:01 GMT+7
Vietnamese doctor dedicates life to helping women, children in border village
Trinh Duc Thien takes care of medicinal plants in a medical station he helped build in Quang Tri, central Vietnam. Photo: Cong Trieu / Tuoi Tre

A doctor decided to settle down in a distant village in central Vietnam more than 20 years ago and has since dedicated his life to helping needy villagers, particularly protecting local women from a dangerous superstitious belief.

Trinh Duc Thien, 51, graduated from a medical university in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue and in 1998 made a bold decision to move to a remote commune in neighboring Quang Tri Province to help poor people.

A Vao, where Thien chose to spend his later years of life, is a small commune on the Vietnam-Laos border with only 600 households living in hardship and superstitious beliefs.

One of the unfounded beliefs the villagers used to have is that pregnant women must only give birth alone and far away from the village.

Laboring women would have to move to makeshift shelters built deep in the woods to have babies delivered on their own.

This superstitious belief accounted for the increasing death rate of local newborns, and Thien knew he had to take matters into his own hands to eradicate the dangerous custom.

“I found it extremely abnormal and somehow terrifying,” Thien recalled when he first learned of the superstition in A Vao.

He began convincing local people to build a medical station for childbirth and allow women to labor there. After years of exerting efforts, Thien finally put an end to the irrational custom at the end of 2004, when no more pregnant women were forced to give birth in the forest.

“Thanks to Thien, women in the village can now give birth in the medial station with proper facilities,” Ho Thi Nghi, a 42-year-old A Vao resident, said.

Thien also built a place of worship inside the medical station so villagers can ask for ‘spiritual approval’ to have their medical conditions treated the modern way.

The villagers started to have a habit of seeing the doctor when they felt ill without worrying about punishment by spiritual forces.

“I know what I’m doing and I will continue no matter what others might think,” said Thien about people’s suspicion of his deeds.

Duc Thien and his oldest adopted son collect homegrown vegetables in their garden in Quang Tri, central Vietnam. Photo: Cong Trieu / Tuoi Tre

Trinh Duc Thien (L) and his oldest adopted son collect homegrown vegetables in their garden in Quang Tri, central Vietnam. Photo: Cong Trieu / Tuoi Tre

Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper has recently visited Thien and his family in A Vao and discovered interesting facts about this doctor, who has a heart of gold.

Thien and with his wife have two children, but the couple has adopted more than 20 kids from local families with low living conditions.

The couple said they wanted to help the children pursue their studies since their biological parents could not afford it.

Thien tried his best to raise his many children and put food on the table despite his limited monthly budget, something many say the doctor does not necessarily has to do.

But his wife, Hoang Thi Thuong, underlines that they just do what they think should be done.

“We don’t care how others think, we just couldn’t see children growing up without proper education,” Thuong said, explaining their motivation for providing for such a big family.

Thien and Thuong in July traveled to big cities to ask for donations of clothing, books as well as stationery to give to their children for the new school year, which officially starts this week.

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