In Vietnam, blind farmer inspires the sighted

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In Vietnam, blind farmer inspires the sighted

Ho Van Dung sets a trap to catch eels in the field in Kien Giang Province, southern Vietnam. Photo: Chi Cong / Tuoi Tre

Ho Van Dung, a farmer in Kien Giang Province has been blind since the age of three. Despite his disability, Dung has a reputation for his incredible farming and eel-catching skills.

Dung’s incredible skill has grown to such proportions that people travel from across the province, located in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, to his home in Hamlet 9, Vinh Hoa Hung Bac Commune, Go Quao District, Kien Giang to find out whether he is truly blind.

The family breadwinner

According to Dung, he lost his sight at the age of three due to an unknown disease.

“My parents were very poor at the time and tried their best to treat my disease, but nothing they tried worked,” he divulged.

Despite his disability, Dung has spent his life excelling at skills normally reserved for the sighted, namely farming and eel-catching.

Catching eels in a rice field is no easy task, and according to Dung, “there are no secret tips.”

“As a blind man, I have my own way of setting the trap,” he said.

“I use the same tools as everyone else, but I seem to be more lucky.

“I never go home without eels.”

For Dung, the journey to catch the eels is more difficult than actually catching the slithery creature.

“I can’t see the way, and I often fall over in the field,” he said.

“Sometimes I cut my feet on nails, plants, and broken glass.”

He works in the fields every day, typically catching at least a kilogram of small eels that can then sell for VND80,000-120,000 (US$3.5-4.4) in order to support his family.

Much of his success in farming and eel-catching is owed to his heightened senses of smell, hearing, taste, and touch, according to Dung.

In fact, his senses of hearing and touch are so sensitive that he can pinpoint the time simply from the sounds of birds chirping or the feel of sunlight on his skin.

“The birds often sing loudly in the morning and I know it’s about noon when the wind starts to blow a certain way,” Dung said.

Although he is blind, Ho Van Dung has been making a living for his family of five for about 40 years. Photo: Chi Cong / Tuoi Tre

Although he is blind, Ho Van Dung has been making a living for his family of five for about 40 years in Kien Giang Province, Vietnam. Photo: Chi Cong / Tuoi Tre

A supportive family

While Dung works the fields, Anh, the love of his life, prepares meals for their family.

“My wife is really good at cooking,” Dung proudly shared.

Anh, 40, is a strong, resourceful, sighted woman who met Dung in 2000. The two fell in love immediately.

“It seemed to be destiny for us. I fell in love with him the very first day we met,” she recounted.

Now, years later Dung still seems surprised to have found such an affectionate love.

“I thought I’d never find love because I am blind, but she loves me and became my wife,” Dung said.

“We live with many difficulties because we are poor, but we will always be together.

“My life is simple but I am incredibly happy.”

Between catching eels, diving to collect soil, and spraying pesticides, the couple earn VND100,000-200,000 ($4.4-8.8) a day. They also raise pigs.

“I am illiterate but my children should not be,” Dung said.

“My two oldest children dropped out of school to become workers because they didn’t want my wife and I to have to work so hard.

“Now I am determined to give my youngest daughter the best chance to learn.”

Tran Van Trieu, Dung’s neighbor, praised him for his cleverness and professional skills.

Trieu said that many people want to hire Dung to work on their farms because of his thoroughness and attention to detail.

“He knows exactly whether there are eels in this area or not,” Trieu said.

“I admire him a lot.

“He is capable of anything, just like anyone else.

“I am not blind but I cannot catch eels as well as he can.

“He seems to have such a happy family.”

The eels are caught by blind man Ho Van Dung. Photo: Chi Cong / Tuoi Tre

The eels are caught by blind man Ho Van Dung. Photo: Chi Cong / Tuoi Tre

Enjoying music after work

Dung has a fondness for traditional music.

He can play the guitar and sing both folk songs and ‘cai luong,’ traditional type of music from southern Vietnam. Many people enjoy listening to him during their breaks from work.

Dung learned to play the guitar all by himself by listening to others and practices it every day .

He used to make a living by playing music at weddings for a fee of VND200,000-500,000 ($8.8-22). Now he only plays the guitar as a hobby after work.

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