Viet Nam News
by Nghĩa Hiếu
As a child, Nguyễn Thị Hải Yến of Đông Triều town in the northern province of Quảng Ninh province dreamed of becoming a teacher. A serious accident, in which Yến lost both legs, threatened to end that dream. She was 18 years old, full of confidence and hope for the future.
The accident proved to be a challenge for Yến, and she was determined that it would not stop her. She would go on to inspire and encourage others to overcome similar fates. And eventually, after much sweat and tears, Yến managed to see her dream come true.
We visited one of Yến’s classes, and saw both students and teacher engrossed in a lesson. Yến was teaching English pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, illustrating points with her hands.
The students, aged between 25 to over 50, were all engaged in taking notes and practising the language. After class, Yến told us her life story, in her living room which doubles as a classroom.
When Yến was 18 she had an accident and lost her legs, making her dream of becoming a teacher seem impossible.
“Waking up in the hospital, I felt desperate, hopeless. I would have to stop my studies, and my ambitions seemed so far away. Many times I contemplated killing myself. But thinking of all the things my parents gave me, I chose to live,” she said.
Yến had to take a vocational training course but three years later she was determined to return to her studies and graduate from high school.
“Initially, I learned to sew and read a lot. But even three years later I still held onto the dream of becoming a teacher,” said Yến.
After a lot of effort, Yến passed the entrance exam and was admitted into Việt Nam National University’s English Studies Major.
Teacher Yến said that most of her students showed significant progress. — Photo Nghĩa Hiếu
“I chose English Studies because I had been passionate about English when I was in high school,” she said.
Yến was not only an exemplary student, but was also active in social work. Yến gathered other disadvantaged people to share difficulties and provide support.
Moved by the strong will of Yến, a man fell for her and defied disagreements from both of their families. They married in 2003, and moved to settle in the south of Việt Nam, eventually starting a family with one son and one daughter. At that time, Yến worked as an editor for travel magazines and newspapers.
Unfortunately, 10 years later, Yến and her husband divorced, and she brought her four-year-old son back to her hometown of Đông Triều.
Seeing that there was no club or organization for the disabled in the locality, Yến founded the Đông Triều Disabled Club. A year later, she opened the first free English class in her own house with the aim of improving local peoples’ communication skills, and developing their social networks. As word spread, the class grew, with more students attending and parents starting to send their kids.
She has taught about 800 students over the past 10 years.
Trần Thị Vinh, a student said “Attending class, I have the chance not only to acquire new knowledge but also make friends with other people in the same circumstances. We share life experiences as well as consult each other to overcome difficulties.”
“I can see that my communication has improved a lot since attending Yến’s class. I no longer feel inferior like before,” said Vinh.
Teacher Yến said that most of her students showed significant progress, and their English communication skills were getting better every day.
“Even now, I still dream of being a high school teacher, standing in front of the class and teaching English,” said Yến. VNS