by Van Dat
Dutiful kid ekes out a living for his family
Fifth-grader Huynh Trong On has had only one dream: a miracle cure for his mother's dementia.
The 10-year-old native of Phu Yen has lost nearly all hope, seeing his mother's condition quickly deteriorate in the last year.
After finishing school in the morning, the child goes to an outdoor market to make and sell banh xeo (Vietnamese kind of thin pancake) to earn money to feed his mother as well as his grandmother, who is nearly 90 years old, and his uncle, who is too ill to have a job.
Recently, residents in Trong On's community (Hoa Xuan Dong Commune in Phu Yen's Dong Hoa District) were moved to tears when they saw a recent video of the family taped by Phu Yen Province Television.
After it aired, the authorities asked the public to help the child, and a local bank offered to open a bank account for Trong On so that funds for the family could be deposited.
Every day, the boy, who has had the highest marks in his class at the Hoa Xuan Dong Primary School for the last five years, gets up early, goes to school and returns to the market to make pancakes.
On's mother, who is believed to be in her 50s, became seriously ill in early 2013. Since then, he has had to shoulder the family responsibilities. Each day, he earns about VND10,000 (50 US cents). Neighbours often give him vegetables or buy his cakes as a favour.
After he finishes his tasks at the outdoor market, the young boy has to run around the neighbourhood to look for his mother, who often wanders far from home, not knowing where she is. He brings her home and feeds her, the uncle and the grandmother.
In recent weeks, though, On has been on the verge of dropping out of school as the burden of caring for his family has become overwhelming.
Nam Dinh farmer-musicians a rare breed
Farmers in Hai Minh Commune in Nam Dinh Province's Hai Hau District have a special ability. They have neither professional training nor knowledge about brass instruments, but they know how to play and perform, and have been doing it for generations.
In 1910, Vu Van Oån, a villager in Pham Phao Parish established the commune's first orchestra, which consisted of four dioceses with 30 members each.
Today, there are about 800 practicing musicians, divided into 12 small groups of farmers who live in 26 villages in the commune.
Over the years, brass instruments have been an important part of religious life in the area. Members of the orchestra, who are 16 to 70 years old, regularly perform at church services and special events, such as Christmas and Easter.
They specialise in 10 instruments: the clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, alto saxophone, trombone, baritone, bass and tuba.
Most of the people living in Pham Phao Parish are farmers who have added to their incomes with other trades, such as carpentry and the making of brass musical instruments, which are sold in provinces nationwide.
Nguyen Van Khoat, head of the troupe, says the music troupes perform in the province during important national events.
The passion and enthusiasm of the local farmers has helped maintain the commune's longstanding musical tradition, he says. — VNS