Sadly yesterday was my last day at LSN-V. I really can’t believe it since it feels like I just got here. Over the past ten weeks I have been privileged to work with the dedicated and creative staff here in Dong Hoi. Special thanks to everyone for making me feel so welcome and at home: to my trusty translators and partners in crime Kim Hoa and Giang, to Chi Hong and Chi Dung for their guidance, to all the Outreach Workers who made time in their busy schedules to tour around Quang Binh and introduce me to survivors, and to Anh Luong for keeping us all safe on the chaotic highways of Vietnam. LSN-V is a well-oiled machine and I hope that I was able to contribute to their mission during my short stint here. I am also thankful for everyone who made this experience possible with their support, encouragement and feedback–it would not have been possible without you all.
For those of you who have enjoyed my posts I hope that you’ll check out LSN-V’s brand spankin’ new Tumblr blog: (http://lsnv.tumblr.com/). They will be posting more survivor stories and videos on there, so please continue to keep abreast of all the amazing work these folks are doing day in and day out.
To leave off I’d like to introduce you to another survivor. All the survivors I have met over the past few months have left an imprint on me that I won’t try to sum up. I have been humbled many times over by their generosity and optimism. To them I am indebted.
Despite the intense midday heat and our very late arrival, Mr. Vo Minh Quang was a fountain of energy when we finally showed up at his home in Nam Trac commune. Luckily for me, his is a contagious energy. I had been doing interviews since the early hours of the morning and didn’t know if I was up for another one but Quang’s enthusiasm and good mood quickly transformed mine. I soon realized that this trait explains a lot about his character.
Mr. Quang has been active in his community for over twenty years. After the war ended and Quang finished secondary school he got a job with the local authority as a guard. At that time he was also appointed Secretary of the Commune Cooperative (later becoming the Secretary of the Commune Youth Union). Mass organizations like the Cooperative and the Youth Union operate in every commune. They make up Vietnam’s civil society and are run on a voluntary basis. Quang has been involved with them at one level or another since the war and believes community service has been essential to his spiritual recovery.
Quang’s father died when he was a young boy and even though he was just a child, Quang was left with the responsibility of helping his family. Near the end of the war, as Quang was on his way to collect wood from the forest a bomb exploded in his path. He recalls that the sky was dark and filled with clouds that day, a detail he remembers because he never saw the plane that dropped the bomb and by the time he heard its engines above, it was too late. He lost his left leg and spent 6 months in the hospital. He was 10 years old at the time.
But Quang is quick to emphasize the support he received from his family and the community. They gave him notebooks so he could continue with school and offered spiritual advice. He says that because he was very young when he was injured that he labored at improving himself and recovering. As a result, Quang has become a sort of super-survivor: one that has much to teach but simply leads by example.
Twelve years ago Quang was elected Village Head–no small accomplishment given the stature of the position and the all too common stigma against persons with disabilities in Vietnam. Quang remained in that position for 10 years, plugging away at improving his community without ever getting compensated for his work.** This kind of commitment to service is not only admirable, it’s rare.
Given Quang’s obvious belief in the importance of civil society, he was disappointed that there was no mass organization for persons with disabilities in Vietnam. Needless to say when LSN-V opened up in 2003, Quang was elated and got involved immediately. Since then he has seen the positive effects on survivors be they spiritual, physical or financial. Quang himself has benefited, receiving a cow through LSN-V’s Direct Assistance program. Financially, things have been hard for Quang’s family and the cow has been a great help in increasing his income.
But despite any challenges he has faced, Quang’s character is defined by service to others, by the perspective that: Not everyone has been as lucky as me, I need to give something back.
And that pretty much says it all.
**On a side note, it was not Quang who mentioned that he was not paid for his work. I naively asked Giang (my coworker and translator) if that job paid well and she explained to me that these positions are strictly voluntary.
Posted By Gretchen Murphy
Posted Aug 14th, 2009