Thu Hà – Minh Phương
HÀ NỘI — Phùng Văn Trường’s life has been much tougher than most. Born into a poor family in Chương Mỹ District on the outskirt of Hà Nội, he suffers from a rare condition that causes muscle weakness.
The 43-year-old man cannot walk, relying on a wheelchair. His fingers curled up and since the age of 14, his hands can no longer hold things.
Due to his physical disability, he struggled getting to school and had to drop out in the eighth grade.
“I wanted to study but my body was getting bigger day-by-day while my legs and arms were not. My parents also had to do farm work, so it was very difficult for them to accompany me to school, which was about 10 kilometres away,” Trường said.
But stopping school didn’t stop him from learning. Trường made up for the lost knowledge by learning through books.
“I am lucky because I am just physically disabled and my mind is still sharp,” he said.
After growing up, not wanting to be a burden for his family, Trường asked his parents to build him a house on the village main road so he could open a grocery store. But difficulties remained.
“There were times when customers didn’t have enough cash and owned me money but I couldn’t write it down to record it. At that time, I was determined to learn how to write with my mouth,” Trường said.
“It was a very tough journey to start with. At first, I put the pen in my mouth. When putting it in like that, it made me feel like vomiting, and was very uncomfortable. After a few times, I learned to hold it at an angle. When I wrote, I had to keep my mouth shut so sometimes it was very tiring. When I bit hard, it hurt to write for a long time”.
Despite the numerous challenges he never gave up, with the hope that if he could write, his life would be better.
“When my father saw me practising writing late at night, he encouraged me saying that it would be good if I could write, but that if it was too difficult I should give up. But I was determined to make it so my father didn’t need to worry about my life anymore,” he said.
“Fortunately, I gradually got used to it and was able to write. I started writing a little and then wrote more and more. I just focused on writing without thinking of the pain, and then I succeeded.”
Through perseverance, Trường can now write in a beautiful elegant style that many people using their hands cannot.
Knowing how to write in such an unconventional way also opened up a new chapter in his life that he had never thought of before.
More than 10 years ago, after spending time tutoring his nieces and nephews, Trường decided to put his knowledge to better use, and opened his door to receive children in his neighbourhood with learning disabilities.
The free class was widely welcomed by people in the region, with more and more children asking for his help each day.
“The children have been coming to my class for more than 10 years now. They are children with learning difficulties or who can’t study while their parents are busy,” Trường said.
“Teaching them is a tough job. For quick-minded children, we can just tell them one or two times and they will understand. But for these children, I may have to tell them hundreds of times. So I have to be patient.
“There are some children who came here not knowing anything. But after my persistent efforts, they know how to read and write so their families were extremely happy and said ‘thank you’ to me.”
Trường is happy, knowing that he is still helpful despite his physical imperfections.
“What I have done is nothing important. And I don’t want to be called a ‘teacher.’ I am just lucky to have a chance to help children with the little knowledge that I have,” he said.
He is also grateful to have received a lot of support and encouragement from others along the way.
Five years ago, with the help of a friend and other philanthropists, Trường set up a library in his home with more than 3,000 books of different genres, for children in the village.
He named it “Hallo World” hoping that it would serve as a gateway for children to explore the world through books.
“It now serves as a community library. The children who come here to study with me will have books to read after class. I regard books as friends and teachers. If a child loves reading, he or she can learn a lot,” he said.
What worries Trường is that his health has deteriorated over the past few years. Often he cannot get on and off the wheelchair by himself, and there are even days when he has to crawl on the floor.
However, the special teacher insists that he will continue to teach for as long as he can.
“I don’t know when I will stop being able to use this wheelchair or write to help the children. Illness is something you can’t avoid. But for me, I think I haven’t wasted the past 10 years of my life,” he said. VNS