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Woman remembers what it was like to be poor

Update: August, 14/2016 - 09:00
Thiền is always seen busy either raising her ducks or helping poor neighbours to build houses. Photo giadinh.net.vn
Viet Nam News

A woman in the province of Đồng Tháp has memories of being very poor.

Now that she is not as poor as she was when she was younger, Võ Thị Thiền likes to help people who are still poor.

To make money to help them, she raises ducks.

She also plants trees so that when poor people’s houses break, she can offer them wood to help them fix the houses.

by Tâm Bình – Thu Hương

Võ Thị Thiền from Phong Mỹ Commune in the southern province of Đồng Tháp is always seen busy raising her ducks to save every penny - for charity.

Thiên is not well-off, but she is rich in her generosity. Since 2000, she has supported and built about 30 new houses for poor residents of the commune and the vicinity.

Though it is not hard to find Thiền’s house, which is located in the middle of nowhere by following the pathway along the canal, it is not easy to find her at home.

“She is absent from home all the time. If she is not busy fixing some houses, she can be found leading her ducks to the nearby fields,” said Nguyễn Văn Phương, the village chief.

Thiền had just returned home after helping her neighbour Ba Tâm to fix his house on the day that we arrived. She warmly welcomed us into her house and invited us to drink sweet-smelling lotus tea with which Tư Lớn, for whom Thiền has just built a new house, presented her a few days ago.

“Though I’m old, I’m still healthy enough to work. Money can be spent, but only neighbours’ affection remains, so I support people with more difficult lives, also to set examples for my descendants,” Thiền said.

She is modest about her contributions, calling them minor deeds dictated by her heart and not by a desire for fame. She might play down her good deeds, but seems to remember clearly how disadvantaged are the recipients of her generosity, like widower Hồng without children, 80-year-old Tư Lớn living alone, Được Em’s poor family with many children, etc.

“There are still many poor people, what a pity that I could not help them all,” Thiền said.

She does not seek donations and uses the money she earns. She not only raises ducks,  but also plants rice on a three-hectare field and sandalwood trees on her land to have wood to build houses for the poor. The ducks and rice bring her a stable income, a considerable amount of which has been used for local charitable activities.

According to the village chief, each year she has also supported many families with money or building materials to fix their dilapidated houses.

“In addition, as soon as she hears about a muddy road causing difficulties for children going to school or adults going to work, no matter how far away it is, she will immediately buy material to pave the road,” he added.

Thiền said her charitable work is a way for her to repay that with which life has endowed her family, especially when they were mired in poverty.

“In 1978, after overcoming the war and a historical flood, all the villagers lived in hunger. My family had no rice but to use sorghum to cook porridge,” recalled Thiền.

 “Then we ran out of sorghum and had to boil green bananas to alleviate our hunger. My father had to struggle very hard to feed his many children. One day, when we got so hungry, he took a risk and stole a rice basket from Tư’s family in the nearby hamlet.

“Unfortunately, he got caught by Tư. He was thinking that he would be put into jail but then, unexpectedly, Tư lifted the rice basket to his shoulders and gently asked him to take it  home,” she said.

Never forgetting Tư’s kindness, which helped his and other families to emerge from poverty, he started to help poor households in the village.

After he passed away in 2000, Thiền took up her father’s dedication to charity.

“I used to feel very worried, because I did not know how to help the poor while my family was not well-off and my children were still young. One day, I took the risk of buying 200 ducks, while praying for my father’s help in raising them and earning money to help the poor,” she said. “I felt as if my father had supported me because the ducks grew very quickly.”

She used the first money earned from selling ducks to buy land and set up a house for Sáu Việt’s family, her neighbours. They had no children and had to live in a hut on a villager’s land.

After the initial success, Thiền realised that the ducks could offer a stable income for charity, and started to raise more. In all, she has raised more than 6,000.

 “For so many years, I’ve been pretty lucky at raising ducks. Few have died even when epidemics broke out, but the price they could fetch was my biggest worry,” Thiền said.

“At times, the ducks were sold at a very low price. I prepared all the wood but still lacked money, so I had to delay building houses for the poor until I saved up enough.”

In the past 16 years, despite many ups and downs and a difficult life, she has not been discouraged, carrying on with her charity and fulfilling her role as a wife and mother. Not only is she an active member of the local association for the elderly, she has also educated her children to be beneficial to society.

Recently, Thiền was presented with a certificate of merit by the Đồng Tháp provincial authority in recognition of her significant contribution to local charity.

“Located in a remote area, Phong Mỹ Commune is home to many poor households, many of which have stable and better lives thanks to Thiền’s help. She has set a good example that needs to be praised and followed,” said chief Phương. VNS

 

 

GLOSSARY

Võ Thị Thiền from Phong Mỹ Commune in the southern province of Đồng Tháp is always seen busy raising her ducks to save every penny - for charity.

A penny is a small coin.

A charity is an organisation that helps those in need.

Thiên is not well-off, but she is rich in her generosity.

Generosity is the quality of being unselfish and willing to give.

Since 2000, she has supported and built about 30 new houses for poor residents of the commune and the vicinity.

A vicinity is an area.

Though it is not hard to find Thiền’s house, which is located in the middle of nowhere by following the pathway along the canal, it is not easy to find her at home.

The middle of nowhere” means a place far away from anywhere and, perhaps, difficult to get to.

“She is absent from home all the time. If she is not busy fixing some houses, she can be found leading her ducks to the nearby fields,” said Nguyễn Văn Phương, the village chief.

Absent means not present; away from her home, in this case.

“Money can be spent, but only neighbours’ affection remains, so I support people with more difficult lives, also to set examples for my descendants,” Thiền said.

Affection means love.

Your descendants are your children, their children (your grandchildren), their children (your great grandchildren) and so on.

She is modest about her contributions, calling them minor deeds dictated by her heart and not by a desire for fame.

Modest means humble.

Contributions are things people give towards a cause.

Minors deeds are small things that someone does. If it is dictated to her that she should do them by her heart(which holds qualities like love, kindness and dedication), it means that her heart tells her to do them.

To have a desire for fame means to want to be famous.

She might play down her good deeds, but seems to remember clearly how disadvantaged are the recipients of her generosity, like widower Hồng without children, 80-year-old Tư Lớn living alone, Được Em’s poor family with many children, etc.

To play down your good deeds means to say things that make people think that you do not do many good deeds when, in fact, you do.

People who are disadvantaged have very little luck in their lives.

Recipients are people who receive things.

A widower is a man whose wife has died.

She does not seek donations and uses the money she earns.

To seek donations means to look for things that people give.

The ducks and rice bring her a stable income, a considerable amount of which has been used for local charitable activities.

To have a stable income means to bring in much the same amount of money on a regular basis.

A considerable amount means a lot.

According to the village chief, each year she has also supported many families with money or building materials to fix their dilapidated houses.

A dilapidated house is one that is falling apart.

“In addition, as soon as she hears about a muddy road causing difficulties for children going to school or adults going to work, no matter how far away it is, she will immediately buy material to pave the road,” he added.

To pave the road means to give it a hard surface, usually with cement or tarmac.

Thiền said her charitable work is a way for her to repay that with which life has endowed her family, especially when they were mired in poverty.

Endowed means provided.

To be mired in poverty means to be stuck with being poor and not having the chance to be able to live better.

“In 1978, after overcoming the war and a historical flood, all the villagers lived in hunger. My family had no rice but to use sorghum to cook porridge,” recalled Thiền.

To overcome a problem means to win over it.

 “Then we ran out of sorghum and had to boil green bananas to alleviate our hunger.”

To alleviate hunger means to make the suffering of being hungry less hard.

Never forgetting Tư’s kindness, which helped his and other families to emerge from poverty, he started to help poor households in the village.

To emerge from poverty means to come out of a state of being poor. In other words, to stop being poor.

After he passed away in 2000, Thiền took up her father’s dedication to charity.

Dedication means being willing to give a lot of time and effort to something.

After the initial success, Thiền realised that the ducks could offer a stable income for charity, and started to raise more. In all, she has raised more than 6,000.

Initial means “at first”.

“Few have died even when epidemics broke out, but the price they could fetch was my biggest worry,” Thiền said.

An epidemic happens when many people, or in this case ducks, become ill with the same disease at the same time.

In the past 16 years, despite many ups and downs and a difficult life, she has not been discouraged, carrying on with her charity and  fulfilling her role as a wife and mother.

To be discouraged means to be persuaded not to carry on with something you are hoping to achieve.

Not only is she an active member of the local association for the elderly, she has also educated her children to be beneficial to society.

Children who are beneficial to society are useful and good people who help society.

WORKSHEET

State whether the following sentences are true, or false:

  1. Võ Thị Thiền has had such good luck with her ducks that none have ever died when epidemics have broken out.
  2.  Đồng Tháp is a province in the south of Viet Nam.
  3. Võ Thị Thiền started off farming ducks by buying 200 of the birds.
  4. Tu sent Võ Thị Thiền’s father in jail for stealing.
  5. Võ Thị Thiền is so busy she is not always at home.

ANSWERS:

 

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2016
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. False; 2. True; 3. True; 4. False; 5. True.

 

 

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