Viet Nam News
THANH HÓA — Although he has retired for more than a decade, 68-year-old Nguyễn Văn Hởi – a former teacher in the central province of Thanh Hóa – is still at Đông Vệ Ward’s office every day.
It is part of the professionalism he thought a chairman of a Study Promotion Association should have when communal leaders asked him to take the job.
“I thought long and hard about it,” said Hởi. “I wouldn’t have taken the job if I couldn’t think of practical ways to encourage children to study.”
Despite his meager allowance, every morning he comes to work at the commune’s office. Every night he meets with leaders of each ward’s study promotion team and visits disadvantaged households to encourage parents to keep their children in school.
Over the last eight years, Hởi has helped several dropouts return to school. Nguyễn Công Sơn, residing in Mật Sơn Street, is one such student.
A few years ago when Sơn was a sixth grader, his mother had had enough of her violent, alcoholic husband and left the house. Finding himself at a dead end with no money, Sơn’s father forced his son to drop out of school.
When the case was brought to Hởi’s attention, he decided to visit Sơn’s family and talk to his father. “People told me not to, because he could get really nasty when he was drunk,” Hởi recalled. “They said I could get beaten if I went there.”
But the warnings did not stop him. “I thought, ‘I’m doing something good – why would he beat me?’ and came to his house. There, I found not a single piece of furniture,” Hởi said.
“I told Sơn’s father to try to provide him with two meals a day, and I would take care of the rest,” he said. “Then I asked our supporters to contribute clothes, textbooks and a bicycle, and asked Sơn’s school for a tuition fee deduction.”
As well as helping disadvantaged children get an education, Hởi also keeps an eye on their study progress and provides encouragement to them.
He remembers Nguyễn Thị Hà Phương well, a student with disabilities residing in Quảng Xá 1 Street who taught English free to children in the commune for several years.
Last year when Phương was accepted to Hồng Đức university, after visiting her house and congratulating her in person, Hởi informed several philanthropic organisations of Phương’s achievement and asked them to support her.
Some VNĐ15 million (US$660) was given to Phương by the Thanh Hóa Study Promotion Association and the Association for Support of Vietnamese Handicapped and Orphans. “It wasn’t much, but it’s something to encourage her to keep on striving,” Hởi said.
A golden heart
Vũ Văn Năng, leader of a study promotion team in Quảng Thắng Ward, said Hởi has the skills to encourage learning that several of his colleagues want to learn.
“We’ve applied what he tells us, but we’re still far behind him,” Năng said.
As much as he is willing to share all his experiences, working methods and documents he has collected, Hởi believes what’s important is a personal touch.
“You have to really care about the students, think of them as your grandchildren,” he said. “If they lack textbooks, buy them textbooks. If they lack transportation, give them bicycles.”
“They can only feel at ease and have the will to study when their fundamental needs are fulfilled,” he said.
To have money to provide necessities for students, Hởi sent letters to every organisation and sponsor inside and outside of his commune. “It’s not compulsory and they don’t need to contribute if they don’t want to, but seeing my enthusiasm, most of them are willing to help,” he said.
“I sometimes paid the students’ tuition fees with my own money.”
Seeing the senior visiting the children every night, some locals said Hởi was ‘weird’ and ‘had too much free time on his hands’. But that doesn’t ruffle his feathers.
“It’s a joy in my retirement,” he said. “It’s the fact that I’m helping someone that counts.” — VNS