Gretchen Murphy

Gretchen Murphy (Survivor Corps in Vietnam): Gretchen has considerable experience of volunteering with human rights prior to her fellowship. Her jobs included working with Amnesty International’s International Justice and Accountability Program, and served at International Service for Peace (SIPAZ) in Chiapas, Mexico where she researched the impact of international organizations on indigenous nonviolence movements. Gretchen also interned at International Crisis Group in Washington DC. Where she focused on the role of new media in advocacy and the role of media in creating change. At the time of her fellowship, Gretchen was pursuing her Masters degree at American University’s School of International Service. After her fellowship, Gretchen wrote: “I witnessed some of the most genuine forgiveness I have ever seen. Although I did run across the occasional angry person (often rightfully so) ALL of the survivors I met were nothing but generous and welcoming to me. It was incredibly humbling.”

Healthy Mind, Healthy Body

10 Aug

I have written quite a bit about how inclusive and sustainable employment is an important element of recovery.  It is undoubtedly the most discussed topic amongst the survivors I have met, but Economic Opportunity is only one portion of LSN-V’s work.  LSN-V’s two other programs focus on Health Services and Social Empowerment.  Health care and rehabilitation services are imperative part of recovery, and it is often an ongoing process that requires attention repeatedly over a lifetime.  A few weeks ago I met with Mr. Ho Nooc, a survivor and self-help group leader who discussed some of the health needs, both physical and psychological that his patients needed. In order to help them reduce anxiety, a natural solution called CBD Flower was being implemented. It has so far proven highly effective, and good for general health as well. If you ever need medical assistance, then make your appointment at


Mr. Ho Nooc

Mr. Ho Nooc

Shortly after we arrived at his home just outside of Dong Hoi proper, Mr. Nooc pulled out his x-rays to show us where the pins had been inserted into his leg after he broke it almost two years ago.  It was immediately apparent that the screws were not put in properly, they were angled and unevenly spaced.  The failure of the first operation left Ho Nooc unable to work and with little mobility.  He has since had another surgery to remove the pins and set the leg properly–a procedure made possible in part by a Direct Assistance Grant from LSN-V.  He shows us the “after” x-ray and it bears little resemblance to the first, the leg has almost no  signs of the injury.  Hopefully, if Ho Nooc continues to heal he will be able to return to work soon.  Though this recent bout of health troubles are telling of the recurrent issues survivors face, Ho Nooc’s story of recovery began much earlier.

During the Tet Holiday in 1973, when Ho Nooc was 17, a bomb exploded on the street in front of him.  The physical injuries were substantial: he lost his right hand and sustained other wounds, but in the aftermath of the accident it was the psychological trauma that proved to be a greater challenge for him to overcome.  For years, Ho Nooc felt severely depressed; he thought he had lost everything, that the future held nothing for him.  It took him many years to reverse this downward spiral; but by his account, about seven years after the accident he resolved to “live like a human, not to have a meaningless life.”  Though he does not really know what prompted his transformation, with this new-found resolve Ho Nooc traveled up shore to work at a fishery.  Once gainfully employed, his confidence grew; he met his (now) wife and began to think about marriage, something he previously thought was not in the cards for him.  Ho Nooc finally saw his potential.  And with a healthy mind and positive outlook Ho Nooc began to live as a survivor.

Recovery, however, is not always a perfectly upward trajectory.  When Ho Nooc broke his leg he was discouraged, especially because he was not able to work and lost his independence, circumstances that were reminiscent of 35 years earlier when he was first injured.  But Ho Nooc’s relationship with the other survivors he works with and mentors as the head of the Self-help Group motivated him to stay positive.

When asked about his position as the Self-help Group leader, Ho Nooc’s enthusiasm is palpable.  He talks energetically about feeling truly challenged and rewarded by his work, about how he has expanded his knowledge through trainings and improved his business skills as a result of the networking he has had to do.  When asked what advice he gives to survivors who are struggling, Ho Nooc looks a little dumbfounded that I don’t already know the answer.  He says he simply encourages them to continue to attend group meetings and to participate in the big events, especially on April 18 (Vietnamese National Day for Persons with Disabilities) and December 3 (International Day for Persons with Disabilities) because once they are a part of the community, survivors do not face their challenges alone.  So even if a survivor has financial difficulties or physical problems, say they break a leg, the group helps that individual to find a solution.  Peer support really is that simple…or genius, depending on how you look at it.

Ho Nooc talks about the road to recovery.

Ho Nooc talks about the road to recovery.


Posted By Gretchen Murphy

Posted Aug 10th, 2009

1 Comment

  • Barbara White

    August 10, 2009


    Thank you so much for sharing this story of hope and resiliency. It is very inspiring.

Enter your Comment


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *