by Hoang Ha
Seven-year-old girl with disability aims to become a doctor
Nguyen Hoai Thuong, the second child in a low-income family in HCM City's Cu Chi District, was born with bent legs and without hands, most likely due to Agent Orange sprayed in the district during the war.
Because of the care that was needed for Thuong, her mother, Tran Thi Cam Giang, had to stop working. But when her daughter was two years old, Giang began carrying Thuong on her shoulders while she sold lottery tickets on the streets. Giang said that customers loved Thuong and showed her a lot of support.
Despite their poverty, every week Giang took the girl to a physiotherapy centre in District 3, dozens of kilometres away from Cu Chi. As a result, by the age of 4 Thuong was able to feed herself, brush her teeth, get dressed and arrange her books.
This year, she is entering the second grade with a new prosthetic hand, which has helped her improve her handwriting and use a calculator. She also received a four-wheeled table from her parents which helps her move around and take part in activities.
Thuong, who wants to be a doctor some day, has won the hearts of many students with her humble manner.
In June, the War Legacies Project, a US non-profit organisation run by American Susan Hammond, provided financial support to purchase prosthetic legs for Thuong. She followed a strict timetable every day, learning how to walk by using the legs.
Despite the pain, she maintained a positive attitude, and after one month, she could walk five to six steps. According to her doctor, her legs are not straight, and need an operation.
"We're running out of money. I've stopped selling lottery tickets and only sell jackfruit to make a little money," Giang said.
Japanese photographer works to protect elephants in Viet Nam
Niimura Yoko, a 75-year-old Japanese photographer, says she has probably visited Viet Nam's Central Highlands about 30 times since 2002 to take photos of elephants. For the last decade, she has also been active in conservation efforts as well.
"I can't remember exactly how many times I have visited Dak Lak," Yoko said. "My daughter said other people get bored after a few visits, so why you are still so interested in elephants there!"
Yoko said that in 2002, while taking photos of a little girl living in a village in Buon Don District in Dak Lak Province, she saw an elephant walking quickly across a garden behind the girl.
She said that in Japan elephants could only be seen in zoos, where they are kept in enclosures.
"It's great that the animals are allowed to wander from place to place and live in harmony with humans here. They seem to be very happy," she added. "So I told myself I will see them here again at any cost."
Local residents advised Yoko to visit Yok Don National Park, where she followed mahouts to capture the life of giant animals with her lens.
"In Buon Don, almost every mahout knows Yoko. Despite her age, she travels to Viet Nam every year to photograph elephants, even at night," Y Mut, a 47-year-old mahout, said.
Yoko said she had shot over 20,000 photos of elephants in Asia, the majority of which were taken in the Central Highlands of Viet Nam.
In 2006, she held a photo exhibition "Cohabiting with Elephants" in Tokyo. After the exhibit, many publishers were interested in publishing her work in photo books.
As a former primary school teacher, Yoko thought of using her images of elephants to raise awareness among Japanese students about the need to safeguard the intelligent animals.
"In 2006, my photo book Zou to Ikiru (Elephants in Viet Nam's Central Highlands) was published with 15,000 copies, and then reprinted with 7,000 copies," Yoko said. "It is used as a reference book at libraries in most primary schools in Japan."
In 2009, Yoko founded the Yok Don Forest Trust which carries out activities to protect elephants. The foundation, with 80 members, offers financial and technical support and helps raise people's awareness about the protection of animals. — VNS