Mr. Le Tien Dung’s family is the Agent Orange Campaign’s fourth beneficiary! Karen (AP staff) visited the family in January and I was fortunate to check in with them again this month.
Mr. Le Tien Dung and his wife, Ms. Dang Thi Miet, greet us at their front door.
Mr. Dung and Ms. Miet warmly welcome us to their home. Mr. Dung is sporting his veteran’s cap and pin on his shirt. He pours us tea as we sit around the table. Although Ms. Miet sits behind us, she is just as engaged in the conversation.
The family’s health
Both Mr. Dung and Ms. Miet joined the army prior to 1969 and were directly exposed to Agent Orange. The exposure has had a significant impact on their family’s health including their children and grandchildren. The reach Agent Orange poisoning has had on this family is harrowing–12 of their 13 children suffered and died from its effects. Their surviving daughter and two grandchildren are also victims of Agent Orange.
Mr. Dung has little to report about his own health. He remarks that he is aging but otherwise it is unchanged. Before saying anything else he begins to talk about his wife’s health condition.
It is obvious that Mr. Dung is severely concerned for his wife’s wellbeing. Ms. Miet had a surgery to remove a tumor on her back within the last two years (they weren’t exactly sure the date). Unfortunately, she stills feels pain when the weather changes. She is currently feeling pain in her neck. Ms. Miet has a goiter and the doctor has advised her to have surgery to remove it but they cannot afford it right now. Despite these difficulties, Mr. Dung and Ms. Miet seem optimistic and determined to care for their daughter and grandchildren’s health above their own.
Throughout the conversation, Mr. Dung’s demeanor was positive and often hopeful. Sometimes, usually during moments of pause however, I caught an unmistakable look of pain or hardship in his eyes.
Le Thi Ngoc (39 years old) is the couple’s only surviving daughter. Like her two children, she suffers from the effects of Agent Orange exposure. Since Karen’s visit, her health has not changed.
Ngoc’s daughter, Le Thi Phuong Thao, is 10 years old. She does not receive Agent Orange compensation as a third generation victim. The exposure has most severely affected her vision. It has worsened since January. Thao is treated regularly at the Dong Hoi eye center but her condition has worsened beyond their ability to most effectively treat her. She has had to go to a specialist in Hanoi twice this year. Thao is eligible for an eye surgery that will significantly improve her quality of life but must wait until she turns 18. As such, she will continue to rely on the medication to treat her symptoms for the next eight years.
The cow and calf
Because of their age, Mr. Dung and Ms. Miet’s income is primarily derived from the compensation they receive from the government. They are unable to farm and live from the vegetables, fruits, and herbs grown in their garden. Mr. Dung and Ms. Miet received a cow and calf in 2016 from Peace Fellow Ai Hoang’s family. Both animals are growing well and the cow is scheduled to breed once the calf has been weaned.
Mr. Dung plans to sell either the cow or calf to purchase a motorbike for Le Hoai Nam (his grandson) to go to school. Nam lives with Mr. Dung and Ms. Miet. He is Ngoc’s son and suffers from mental disabilities related to Agent Orange. He experiences violent episodes when the weather changes. Mr. Dung adds that these episodes do not happen regularly. A motorbike would greatly help the family’s situation. Mr. Dung and Ms. Miet also genuinely seem excited to gift their grandson a motorbike and look forward to it.
The couple believes they will sell the mother cow because the calf has greater potential for future breeding (due to her excellent physical qualities). They estimate the mother cow will sell for approximately 18M VND but will wait for the calf to grow for at least 2 more years; the calf is currently valued at 10M VND. Ultimately, however, their choice will depend on market price and need. Unfortunately, their current needs (motorbike, goiter removal surgery, etc.) are greater than the potential profit of one cow and they must prioritize their needs.
A portrait of Ms. Miet: Her smile and gentle manner compounded with her obvious strength are captivating.
Mr. Dung and Ms. Miet will continue to meet with an AEPD Outreach Worker. When the time is right (based on market price and calf maturation), AEPD and the Le family will discuss cow sales. They are transparent about their intentions and trust AEPD to guide them in their business plan. It’s heartening to see the rapport AEPD has built with them and how invested the Campaign and the couple are in the future of their business plan as a sustainable source of revenue creation. Although their need is greater than their income production, the Le family remains hopeful.
Posted By Marcela De Campos (Vietnam)
Posted Sep 19th, 2018