Poor man does his best to help the mentally ill

August 04, 2017 - 11:00

Phạm Văn Nhẫn, 52, a farmer living in northern Hà Nam Province’s Tri Ngôn Village, has spent 34 years helping dozens of people with mental illness.

Nhẫn and his wife at their house in Hà Nam Province. — Photo danviet.vn
Viet Nam News

HÀ NAM — Phạm Văn Nhẫn, 52, a farmer living in the northern province of Hà Nam’s Tri Ngôn Village, has spent 34 years helping dozens of people with mental illness.

Nhẫn and his wife are now taking care of a-50-year-old man who suffers from a psychiatric disorder. The man has lived with Nhẫn’s family for four years.

“He came to our house at midnight four years ago,” Nhẫn said.

While Nhẫn and his wife were sleeping, they were awoken by someone crying outside of the house. Nhẫn investigated the noise and brought the man inside, Dân Việt (Vietnamese People) online newspaper reported.

Nhẫn informed authorised agencies in an attempt to find the man’s relatives but was unsuccessful in tracking anyone down. He decided to look after the man himself.

“The man sometimes cried, sometimes smiled. He is 50 years old but acts like a child,” Nhẫn said.

Nhẫn said his work with mentally ill people began in 1984, when he and his wife were drying straw on a summer afternoon. They discovered an 11-year-old boy with mental illness who was lost.

Nhẫn then carried the boy on his bicycle to find the boy’s family. Nhẫn rode his bicycle along many roads in his village. After many hours, he saw an elderly man who was frantically looking for someone. He stopped and enquired, finding out that the elderly man was the boy’s grandfather.

The boy’s family was extremely grateful and named Nhẫn the boy’s foster father. Nhẫn said he felt very happy at being able to help.

“The happy feeling at that time made me want to help other people, especially people with mental illness,” he said.

Took some convincing

Đào Thị Lam, Nhẫn’s wife, said at first she was not happy with the strangers turning up in her house every few days, sometimes 2-3 people at once. Her husband would take care of them and try to track down their relatives.

Lam, as well as Nhẫn’s brothers, did not understand him and asked him to stop doing it, she said.

“Our income mainly depends on our rice cultivation, we are poor, and I thought we couldn’t afford to take care of any more people,” she said.

Additionally, people with mental illness sometimes screamed and smashed things and she was disturbed, she added.

They quarreled over the issue a number of times, she recalled.

However, Nhẫn continued helping people with mental illness. He started working part-time by keeping vehicles for a bus station near his house to earn more money.

Seeing her husband’s efforts, Lam gradually accepted the things her husband did. She learned to get used to being disturbed. She also got a part-time job to earn more money.

Nguyễn Thị Nụ, 70, a neighbour of Nhẫn said when she saw Nhẫn take people in and look after them she felt very strange because Nhẫn and his wife were poor farmers.

But later when she learned Nhẫn really was a kind-hearted man, she stopped questioning the issue and brought home-grown vegetables and fruits to Nhẫn, Nụ said.

Trịnh Xuân Quynh, head of the village, said Nhẫn was praised for his kindness by the provincial administration.

Great happiness

“It warms my heart”, he said.

He also felt rewarded when people with mental illness were reunited with their families and their families came to his house with thanks.

They also visited his house during the Tết (Lunar New Year) holidays.

“My family is always full of happiness at that time,” he said.

Nhẫn said he would continue helping these people until he dies. — VNS