Viet Nam News
By Ngân Chuyên
Despite her handicap, 21-year-old Lê Hương Giang is an outstanding student. Audiences are familiar with her beautiful voice when they listen to the national radio, the Voice of Việt Nam (VOV), where she collaborates on a show.
In particular, over the last few years, the visually impaired woman has won several prizes at important competitions.
Four years ago, with the idea of creating a talking cash register, Giang won third prize at the International Science and Technology Competition – Intel ISEF for students in Việt Nam. Thanks to this prize, she was selected for the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Việt Nam National University) that she now attends, without having to take the exam.
Talking cash register
Giang impressed many people when she created a model of a "talking" cash counting machine, which can distinguish between fake and real notes, and tell the value of the money. Thanks to this, visually impaired people can hear the voice from the machine.
“It’s like a gift for the many of my friends who work as sellers but cannot see. Hopefully, they will now have more advantage in selling goods.”
Giang said that the idea came to her when she saw many of her visually-impaired friends quit school to work as sellers but face difficulties in counting money.
As she had never created a machine before, she asked for help from a volunteer student at the Hà Nội University of Science and Technology to make the machine.
Together they looked for books from abroad and bought the materials. They finished creating the machine after four months of research.
The machine can count up to 500 bank notes in 30 seconds.
“I hope that in the near future the machine will be manufactured and put into operation to help visually impaired students in Việt Nam and elsewhere in the world,” she said.
When she was two months old, she began to suffer from degradation of her retina — a disease much more common in elderly people. Her vision gradually became dim.
“Friends and relatives of my parents told them that they should be prepared to raise a handicapped child for the rest of their lives. But my parents didn’t think that way. When she was three years old, her parents sent her to a public nursery school near their house.
“They always told me ‘You can do this’ whenever I doubted my abilities. This sentence has always followed me,” she said.
“My parents taught me how to use my soul to replace my eyes to feel life. I then started to discover the world with my soul,” she said.
Her parents sent her to different hospitals, but finally they lost all hope. When she was six years old, she almost totally lost her vision (1/10).
In 2001, her parents sent her to the Nguyễn Đình Chiểu Secondary School that teaches visually impaired children.
“The period I moved from the primary school to the secondary school was the most difficult time of my life. At that moment I couldn’t see anything. I also had to get acquainted with a new school, new teachers and friends, it was not easy.”
The years studying at the school helped her understand more about the life of visually impaired people, learn how to love herself more and to look after herself.
“My classmates helped me get acquainted with the darkness, beginning with how to learn Braille, how to orient directions on the roads, how to avoid falling,” she recalls.
Giang wanted to quit her studies in the last year of secondary school because she always got worse results than her classmates.
Many of her classmates also quit the school without finishing their studies, to return to their native areas to work in a local Association of Blind People. This made Gang become even more depressed. But she met some volunteer students who encouraged her a lot.
“Each morning, they came to help me do exercises or read books after class. They asked us about our dreams for the future, told us many interesting stories about their volunteer work and their fondness of contributing their youth to the community. I then had a dream: one day I will take part in a green summer campaign.”
Giang then began to take part in extra curricular activities such as cultural exchanges, writing articles for the school newspaper and making ceramic products. She was highly appreciated by her classmates and teachers for her optimism and joy of life.
Make the impossible possible
After finishing her studies at the Nguyễn Đình Chiểu School, Giang decided to enter Thăng Long High School, one of the city’s best schools. She was the first visually-impaired student in the school.
“I applied for Thăng Long High School, one of the top schools in Hà Nội. Many told me that I was crazy, it was difficult to get in even for people who are not handicapped. But I wanted to study in the best environment. When working with students who are not handicapped like me, it forced me to integrate with the world outside,” she said.
Giang then succeeded in entering the school and earned outstanding results. In 2012, she won the bronze medal at the “Global IT Challenge for Vietnamese and Korean Youth,” an information technology competition for disabled students in Incheon City of South Korea.
Now she also works as a collaborator on the programme Niềm Tin Ánh Sáng (Belief in Light) on the VOV traffic information channel on the national radio, the Voice of Việt Nam.
A second-year student in psychology at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Giang dreams of studying abroad after finishing her studies here. After that, she hopes to find a post at a non-governmental organisation to support handicapped children, particularly in remote regions.
She has been to many countries such as South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Singapore and Thailand.
She has been to many remote regions of Việt Nam to help and share with parents and handicapped children facing many difficulties in life.
“In the future, I want to open a centre to give psychological advice to autistic and other handicapped children in Việt Nam,” she said. VNS