|Presentation: Thuc (right) gives presents to children during a charity trip. — VNS Photos nghean.com
Le Trung Thuc has adopted dozens of disadvantaged students and helped them change their lives for the better. Quang Long reports.
Le Trung Thuc calls himself the world's happiest single man since he's the father of 77 children.
His happiness stems from seeing his adopted children grow up and his training centre in the central province of Nghe An flourish and provide job opportunities to thousands of students.
He has dedicated his life to helping disadvantaged children and orphans who learn valuable skills from him so they can escape poverty and lead productive lives.
Born in Phu Tho Province's Viet Tri City in 1964, Thuc moved to Nghe An's Vinh City at the age of 24 to work at a vocational school, right after graduation from the Ha Noi Art and Culture College.
His affinity for disadvantaged children began during a business trip to provide free training for 20 disabled children, as well as children from families who had contributed to national liberty, in Do Luong District.
"After a three-month training session there, I could not hold back my tears at seeing disabled and underprivileged children living in desperate conditions without a vocation. I decided to rent a house and stay there to provide free vocational training for them," Thuc revealed.
In order to survive in such a poor rural area, he had to supplement his income from teaching in the morning with income from other kinds of work. He and his students earned a living by doing anything he could, including growing vegetables, raising pigs, collecting waste bottles and making tofu.
He recalled the first difficult days when he started setting up his own school. The children told him that the rice barrel was empty and they were hungry.
"It was my worst nightmare," he said. "We didn't sell anything on rainy days, so we had to eat tofu to alleviate our hunger."
|Special occasion: Underpriviledged children receive gifts from the Centre on holidays.
Over time, more and more children from the neighbourhood came to ask for his help in training for a career, which inspired him to set up his vocational training centre. He spent many sleepless nights thinking about ways to set up the centre so his trainees would have certificates and find jobs more easily.
"The best way to help those children is by giving them a job so they can support themselves and know how to make society accept them," Thuc explained.
In 1998, he decided to sell all of his valuables, including a motorcycle, a gold ring and a guitar, to raise funding for the purchase of 10 sewing machines to teach students how to make clothes to sell in the market.
In 2000, local authorities gave him a 3ha plot of land in Luu Son Commune. Gradually, he built a centre for teachers and poor students which has since grown in prestige.
Thuc and his students cleared the land and planted trees. With support from villagers, they collected bricks to build the school. To earn money, Thuc took on various jobs, including raising livestock, growing vegetables and opening a tailor shop near a construction site.
Gradually, the centre took shape. At present, it employs 35 teachers and workers, some of them graduates of the school.
In 2001, the Nghe An provincial government decided to fund the facility and rename it as the Centre for Job Introduction and Vocational Training, under the direct management of the provincial Department of Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs.
|Right moves: Instructors at the Centre teach children how to sing and dance.
Called Nhan Dao (Humanitarian), Thuc's centre has trained thousands of handicapped children and orphans over the past years, and many of them have found permanent employment.
The centre has since organised three training courses per year and attracted many students from the south.
Since the centre was spacious enough to receive more children, Thuc began looking for and finding abandoned children in hospitals and bus stations. Thuc gave them his family name and treated them as his own children.
Sometimes, he and his colleagues even found new-born babies. One of them is Le Thi Linh Tam. When Tam grew up, she expressed doubts on whether she was Thuc's natural daughter. She asked Thuc where her mother and grandparents were.
Feeling extremely sad, Thuc embraced the little girl and told her he was her real father. He said her maternal grandparents passed away and her mother went away on business.
To ease her worries, Thuc immediately brought Tam on a visit to his parents in Viet Tri, where she was welcomed with open arms. She felt solace upon knowing that she has a father, grandparents and relatives like other children.
Thuc assumed the office of centre director for more than seven years but spent most of his salary feeding the orphans.
"In spite of the financial support from the provincial Department of Labour, Invalid and Social Affairs, we still had many problems, especially when we began adopting little orphans," Thuc said.
The people of the provinces of Nghe An and Ha Tinh gave him the nickname Thuc Nhan Dao, or Charitable Teacher Thuc.
He has been a vegetarian for many years and has expressed his desire to devote his life to needy children, like a monk.
Sometimes, his close friends would ask him to get married and raise money to assist his family. However, he has rarely thought about his personal happiness. He just wanted to spend the money to upgrade the classrooms, buy more equipment, lease land to expand the school and adopt more needy children. — VNS