One of the things I have been very amazed by is the resilience of the Vietnamese people–especially the 11 families that we have supported. Though their plights are heavy and they are filled with constant struggle, they continue to move forward. Learning the history of Dong Hoi, Vietnam has been essential to my knowledge about the families here as well. It has been less than 100 years since the war that struct so many families and yet the community here continues to thrive after much reconstruction. Many speak about how this place was nothing but a crater and it has been able to find its way back to a productive community. The conversations with our families have been humbling. In every encounter, the families are very welcoming and open to the many questions that Ngoc and I ask them. They are happy to show off the cow or buffalo that they were given.
Mothers like Ms. Vo Thi Toa who at the age of 72 years old has to take care of the entire household on her own continues to stretch her resilience by ensuring that both of her sons and grandchildren have food and medication. Ever since her husband died, she has been a single mother and the main carer for not just her family, but also her new cow and calf which are growing well.
Mr. Tran Thi Tha and his wife Mrs.Ngo Gia Hue are another example of family resilience. Their three daughters are the joys of their life and they know that their conditions are permanent. Yet when I visited this family, I saw no sadness but laughter and smiles and a sense of pride for cows that Mr. Tha has raised. Their strength comes from ensuring their children are okay and they can maintain their household.
Mr. Pham That and his wife, who is also a landmine survivor, are increasing in age and things are becoming harder and harder for them. Their son and daughter both live with serious disabilities, and caring for them is essentially a full time job for the parents. I can tell during our visit that it saddens them that they have to keep their daughter restricted to the back of the home and that there is not much help they can give to their son. And yet they still manage to find a way to support their family and not focus on their worries.
These caregivers have sacrificed everything to take care of their disabled children. It is very interesting that with so much construction and building in the city, there is not a facility where the disabled children affected by Agent Orange can be treated. Another disadvantage is that their symptoms vary widely, and even with all of our technology, many victims cannot trace their symptoms directly to Agent Orange. I know from our conversations that there is a clinic and a mental facility but both of these are difficult for families to visit multiple times. For most families, just travelling to get there is too expensive.
After visiting with these families, I was so humbled by the amount of work they are able to get done with the little they have. They are so determined to make better outcomes for their lives. I think it’s important that more advocates help and support organizations like AP that work to find sustainable plans for vulnerable communities. I also think that we must now begin to take advocacy to a new level in order to help more Agent Orange affected families. Maybe we should start thinking about ways to change the environment for disabled people or think about the transportation that many families spend so much money on. I am not sure what the next steps will entail but I know that these families will continue to be resilient.
Posted By Mia Coward (Vietnam)
Posted Aug 13th, 2019