|Creative: Tran Thi Ngoc Hieu and her uncle pose with her painting of Nick Vujicic she created using precious gemstones. — VNS Photo Phuong Vy
HCM CITY (VNS)— "I have no arms and no legs, yet I am complete and lacking nothing."
For 29-year-old Tran Thi Ngoc Hieu of Dong Nai Province, paralysed in two legs and an arm, this was a life-affirming and life-changing statement made by limbless Nick Vujicic, world renowned motivational speaker from Australia.
On hearing that Vujicic was visiting Viet Nam, Hieu wanted to meet him, hug him, tell him how much she admired him and desired to be his friend.
Her disability did not allow her to get to the stage and fulfill her wish, but she still paid a unique tribute to the inspirational man.
The woman with just one functional limb used it to spend seven hours a day for seven days making a picture of Vujicic with precious gemstones like sapphire, ruby and calcite.
The thought of making the 45cm x 30cm work struck her as soon as she heard from media reports that her idol was visiting the country.
"I watched Vujicic's videos in 2003 and they inspired me to come to HCM City and attend vocational training courses and develop a career for myself," Hieu said.
It was not easy for her to persuade her parents to move from their native place to HCM City, but she prevailed.
She felt that "some day I could be like Vujicic, going everywhere and helping every one".
The confidence his videos gave her has been the "power and strength for me overcome difficulties in my life".
Like her idol, Hieu is always ready to help others in need. Currently, at her house in Thu Duc District, she is teaching two children with HIV to make pictures with precious stones.
Her story is just as inspiring as Vujicic's, if not more so.
Hieu was just four years old when a polio attack left half of her body paralysed. Her condition did not improve after treatment at several hospitals, and worsened instead, leaving the rest of her body paralysed as well.
Doctors said they could do nothing more for Hieu, but her mother did not give up. She took Hieu to many acupuncturists in Dong Nai Province and elsewhere.
Her mother's perseverance in flogging the proverbial dead horse saw Hieu regain the use of one arm, using which she learnt to make pictures with precious gemstones and worked later at a company specialised in making them.
Years later, Hieu, realised her long-cherished dream of opening a shop to sell pictures made by herself.
However, she has faced a lot of financial difficulties because her shop is not known to many people. To stay afloat, she sells her works to other shops in the city, but her income is not stable.
Organisers have promised Hieu that they would ensure that her tribute to Vujicic is given to him.
Yet another fan of Vujicic, the hearing-impaired Nguyen Phi Long, paid his own tribute by making a sand painting during a two-hour meeting between the Australian and business people in the city held on Thursday at the White Palace Convention Centre in Phu Nhuan District.
One day earlier, Long was among several people with disabilities honoured by the Hoa Sen Group in HCM City on the occasion of Vujicic's visit.
Long's sand painting has two sides. One carries a portrait of Vujicic and the other presents a typically Vietnamese countryside landscape.
Behind Long's amazing skills is a story that is just as amazing.
Long was born a healthy baby, but when he was just one year old, an attack of pneumonia robbed him of his hearing and rendered him mute.
He was sent to study at the Lai Thieu Boarding School for children with disabilities in Binh Duong Province where he showed an aptitude for painting. In 2005, he participated in Binh Thuan-Green Convergence Festival and was fascinated by the unique artworks made with sand by Y Lan.
He visited Lan's house and begged her to teach him. Just a year later, Long became a skilled artist. Returning to Phan Thiet City, his native place, he opened a 500sq.m sand painting workshop with support from Binh Thuan Province's authorities.
Currently, he owns a company which trains 280 people with disabilities and has created jobs for 60 people.
The happiness was evident on Long's face as he presented it to Vujicic, who was both impressed and moved by the perseverance and skills shown by Vietnamese people, especially those with disabilities.
He said: "It is the first time I come to Viet Nam, but it is not the last." —VNS