|Man on a mission: Vo Than is chairman of the Study Encouragement Society in Que Son District, a voluntary organisation that raises funds for impoverished local students. — File Photo
Vo Than, who was widowed when young, has devoted his life not just to raising his own children, but to helping impoverished students in his hometown stay on in school. Le Cong Son
Vo Than, chairman of the Study Encouragement Society in the northern province of Quang Nam's Que Son District, is a volunteer benefactor of studious children in his hometown. Every year he uses a part of his savings to support students who are likely to drop out school due to their family's financial trouble.
Than recalls a time he was helped as he travelled from Da Nang to HCM City in search of benefactors for students of difficult conditions. The 70-year-old man was sitting on a hard seat among a disordered pile of luggage and a fellow passenger asked him the reason for what he was doing.
"I simply explained to him that I was going in search of scholarships for poor students in my hometown and I was not allowed to waste too much money on luxuries for myself. To my surprise, he offered me his soft bed on the train. What he did was nothing but an encouragement for me to keep moving on," Than says.
Although at his age, his health does not allow him to work all the time. But whenever he hears that there are good students whose conditions do not let them attend school, Than immediately finds a way to help them by writing to benefactors across the country.
Recently Than successfully created a charity project called "The Rice Pot of Love, which provides food support for 30 poor students during their examinations. He also persuaded a large number of charity donors to give a hundred bicycles, scholarships and laptops to them.
Although living far away from his beloved students, Than never misses a day of bicycling to their houses despite of the weather and distance.
"It brings a tear to my eye that the project I have nurtured for a long time finally has become a reality. In my hometown, life is still hard, but no matter what happens I still wish to take care of my poor students. I feel sad whenever one of them drops out of school," he says.
Nguyen Thi Van Anh, a seventh grader of Que Phong Primary School, has been under Than's guardianship for a long time. Having lost her father at an early age, and with her mother suffering from illnesses all the time, she does not own a bicycle to attend school everyday. When Than learnt about her, he immediately had his grandson's bicycle fixed and brought it to her directly. At the same time, he also mobilised villagers to help build a new house, costing around VND50 million (US$2,398) for Anh and her mother.
"If Than did not show up to help us, I could not have been able to continue my studies. He is really our living saint," Anh emotionally says.
Recently, a bricklayer from his neighbourhood whose son has a stomach disease, fell from the scaffolding and suffered a head injury. Than immediately called for help.
He also helps a family of four mentally-ill people living in Dong Phu hamlet get proper treatment.
"Although Vo Than does not have any kids who attend school, his generous heart is worth honouring. Having been with him through lots of social charity activities, I feel his passion and devotion for this job. Thanks to him, lots of unfortunate people living in rural places are able to access education again," says Pham Phu Cu, rector of Que Son's Tran Dai Nghia High School.
When Than was asked if ever felt tired with his charity work, he simply responded, "Since I love this work so much, I never feel exhausted. It is because my work is greeted and honoured by many people. This encouragement helps me stay attached to this job".
In times of difficulty, Than's pursuit can be considered nonsense and unbeneficial. But life is getting better thanks to many like him. — VNS