Viet Nam News
Giang Thư Quân
HỘI AN – Lê Phú Lâm from Quảng Nam Province is convinced that it’s never too late to get a fresh start on life.
At 14 he dropped out of school, and instead of studying he and his friends organised large-scale robberies, extorted money from restaurants, hotels and bars for "protection", and served as debt collectors.
The first phase of his career in crime lasted two years. He was arrested and sentenced to six months probation for robbery. At the end of the probationary period, he was given another 18 months of probation, and was then arrested for mugging and sentenced to four years in prison.
Test of time
The days spent in the confines of prison converted Lâm, as did the support of his parents and particularly his wife. He kept thinking of the son he hadn’t seen in a long time and only remembered him as very small.
“One day in prison is like a lifetime in hell, and I had no idea when I could go home,” he says.
Determined to change his life around, Lâm was a model prisoner and after one and a-half years in jail, he was set free.
“I felt mixed feelings of joy and sadness when I enjoyed the very first meals with my family. Ten days out of prison I learnt that my wife had been diagnosed with a thyroid gland tumor. A doctor said she needed an operation and would probably lose her ability to speak,” Lâm recalled.
Lê Phú Lâm, a former prisoner turned taxi driver, serves free rice porridge and soy milk to poor patients at Hội An General Hospital. — Photo xaluan.com
Life after life
For three years after being released from prison, Lâm could not find stable work. His applications were rejected due to his “unhealthy” background. With two children to look after and a sick wife, the family became impoverished.
More than once he thought of returning to his former way of life as a source of income.
Once again, his parents’ support and perseverance saved him. He eventually found a job as a taxi driver.
Receiving his first pay, Lâm decided to do something to pay back his debt to society. He embarked on charity activity, helping those who had fallen on hard times as he had.
His charitable project was born of a visit he paid to his wife in hospital. There he saw many poor patients asking for bowls of porridge, and knew what he had to do. With his wife in recovery, Lâm set out to bring bowls of porridge to the needy.
“This way I can express gratitude to my relatives, my family and friends who had not left me during the darkest time of my life. I wanted to do something meaningful to redeem myself and to show my gratitude to this life,” Lâm said.
With continued help from family and friends, Lâm and his supporters serve up to 85 portions of rice porridge and 100 portions of soy milk for needy patients in front of Hội An General Hospital every Tuesday morning. They have been at it for the past two years, in every kind of weather.
In a recently-televised “Say Sorry” TV show on Channel VTV9, Lâm took the opportunity to say “Sorry” to his wife for not taking good care of her and the children. He also apologised to his parents for failing to support them even though he is already 30 years old. He also expressed his regret for all the worries, tears and hardships he had caused them. — VNS