AO victims overcome challenges to build better lives

August 10, 2021 - 08:00

Nguyễn Văn Hùng, Director of Hùng Phát Construction and Development Investment Company in the northern province of Hà Nam used to be very unconfident because of his lameness since a boy.


Nguyễn Văn Hùng (left), Director of Hùng Phát Construction and Development Investment Company in the northern province of Hà Nam is a secondary Agent Orange victim.  — VNA/VNS Photo Đại Thắng

HÀ NAM — Nguyễn Văn Hùng, Director of Hùng Phát Construction and Development Investment Company in the northern province of Hà Nam lacked confidence as a boy due to his physical impairment.

Born with one leg being longer than the other he was a secondary victim of Agent Orange as the son of a Vietnamese soldier who fought in the battles in the central province of Quảng Trị. This was where the US military sprayed large volumes of Agent Orange.

Hùng said that during his childhood, he remembered many of his peers would laugh at him when they saw him walk.

“I was bullied so much that I became a very shy boy,” Hùng said.

However, as he got older, Hùng realised that he had to overcome his lack of confidence to do something more useful for his family, he said.

“My parents are usually unwell. I have younger brothers and sisters to take care of and my family was very poor for a long time,” Hùng said.

After graduating from high school, Hùng did not continue his schooling but bought a three-wheeled vehicle to carry farming and agricultural products for other households in his hometown of Tiên Sơn Commune.

His family had to borrow money to buy the vehicle and it became their main source of income.

In 2001, Hùng got married. He and his wife rented land to grow rice, raise fish, poultry and pigs.

A few years later, with their savings and bank loans, Hùng bought a truck for carrying construction materials.

From a small business trading construction materials, Hùng and his wife boldly opened a company with an investment of VNĐ5 billion (US$217,000).

The company not only helps them generate a stable income but also offers regular jobs for 12-15 people who are children of veterans, most of them also AO/dioxin victims.

Hùng’s employees get a monthly salary of VNĐ 4-7 million each, a good rate compared with the average living standards in Hà Nam Province.

Three years ago, Hùng expanded his business to the garment sector. He established a garment company, making products for export.

Nearly 100 local workers are working for Hùng at the garment company. They get a salary of more than VNĐ5 million monthly.

Hùng donated over 100 sq.m of land, construction materials and more than VNĐ100 million to open a road and other public works in his neighbourhood. He also offered financial support of more than VNĐ20 million to the province’s Association for Victims of AO/dioxin.

“I’m so proud of my grandfather and my parents who fought to protect the nation against invaders,” Hùng said.

“I always tell myself that I must not surrender to fate and my physical disability,” he said, adding that he was constantly making an effort to make his life better.

Physical and mental hurts

In his seventies, veteran Bùi Gia Viễn has lived with the impact of Agent Orange for more than 50 years.

Viễn volunteered to go to battlefields in the central province of Quảng Trị in 1968. The province was among localities that were most affected by the Agent Orange that the US military sprayed in Việt Nam.

Viễn returned to the north of Việt Nam in 1973, got married and had four children.

His first son got a mental disorder due to the impact of AO and died a few years ago.

Viễn said that after leaving the army, he started raising ten female pigs and then, more than 500 chickens and ducks to collect eggs.

When having more capital, he raised 15-20 buffalo.

“Many times, I did not have the energy to manage the farm because of the wound on my right leg and poor health condition caused by AO,” Viễn said.

“I used crutches or wheelchairs when herding the buffaloes. I made a makeshift tent at the field to easily see my ducks,” Viễn said.

Viễn’s farming gradually turned prosperous. He built a new house, sent his children to school and kept expanding his business.

Now, he earns VNĐ300- 400 million yearly. 

“I’m much luckier than soldiers who died on battlefields. So I have to live and overcome all daily hardships," he said.

As an AO victim, Viễn said that he was thankful to the local authorities and organisations, especially the AO victims’ association, for their support.

Nguyễn Trọng Giao, president of Hà Nam Province AO/dioxin victims’ Association said that Viễn and Hùng were among AO victims who have been overcoming difficulties to lead a better life.

The province reported more than 11,800 people affected by AO. They were all struggling because of physical and mental pain, Giao said.

The province’s AO/dioxin victims association regularly offered them help.

The association offered interest-free loans - VNĐ10 million per person per year – to about 300 victims so that they could start businesses.

The loans were not much but suitable for the borrowers to invest in farming to generate an income, Giao said.

The provincial association also called on support from individuals and organisations to AO/dioxin victims so that more victims could access support.

Their pain could be relieved if they recieved the community’s support and care, he said. — VNS