Viet Nam News
A swimming accident that took both his legs has spurred Nguyễn Văn Chung to become a champion of the paragames pool, and is looking ahead to more successes, Lương Thu Hương reports
Finish high school and become a driver.
This was Nguyễn Văn Chung’s dream.
Chung was born into a poor family, the smallest of six children, in rural Thường Tín District, south of Ha Noi, 33 years ago.
The American War was long over, and his life was the same as other children in rural areas, a lot of hard work, and simple aims, like becoming a driver.
He was close to his achieving his dream, studying in the ninth grade, and doing manual work like carrying wood or transporting beer in the night to meet his tuition expenses.
Then, in an instant, all his dreams and hopes were dashed in very cruel fashion.
He remembers that day very clearly.
“After a morning of working on the fields for my mother, I was asked to swim down the river to fetch a bucket and a spanner by the manager of the village’s water-pump.”
Healthy and clean: Different kinds of SIM soaps to meet different tastes, like mint, beeswax honey, cinnamon and moringa (from left to right). VNS Photo Trần Phương Nga
As he neared the pump, it sucked him in and cut off both his legs.
“I thought should have died. It felt it was unfortunate that my life was saved.
“After two weeks in the hospital, I was treated at home for six months. There were many times that I thought of letting go. I wanted to die.”
His mother’s love kept him going through these dark moments.
“It is the thought of my mother during the saddest and the most discouraging moments that motivated me and developed a strong will and determination within.
“After returning home from her work in the fields, she always held me in her arms and cried. I found myself so useless, being a burden on my mother.”
Not wanting his mother to feel sad and cry all the time, Chung decided that he would overcome his plight. He started to learn how to stand up and move around the house by using his hands as his legs, and later, by using two plastic chairs. He fell many times and hurt himself, but he allowed nothing to crush his spirit.
After six months, Chung was able to move on his own, and as soon as he could do that, he thought about learning how to swim.
“I learnt about sports for people with disabilities in general and swimming in particular, thanks to a fellow patient in the hospital.”
Legs are very important for swimming and other water sports, because they both propel the body and keep it balanced. What Chung wanted to do was very difficult, but he had been a good swimmer before, and he relearnt very quickly.
The very same year, Việt Nam hosted both the SEA Games and the Paragames. Chung enrolled and was selected as a member of the nation’s swimming team.
Explaining his choice of sport, Chung says: “I chose swimming because I thought that I had to stand up high in the place I had fallen. Swimming took my legs and made me disabled. I decided to choose swimming to train and seek a new life for myself.”
At the end of the year, in the Paragames, Chung won two silver medals with an award of VNĐ15 million (US$660), which he used to repair the house for his mother.
Now, he has been a member of the national swimming team for 15 years. He has won one gold medal in Thailand, two bronzes in Malaysia and Indonesia, and has lost count of the number of medals he’s won in national competitions.
After his success in sport, Chung decided to take another big risk: enter the business world with a start-up that would prioritise three criteria: cleanliness, safe for health and environmentally friendly.
“I understand that I cannot not pursue swimming all my life. Moreover, I also want to start a business to earn more money and help my mother. But running a business does not mean thinking about money to put into your pocket. Why shouldn’t I do something that can not only earn me money, but also benefit society?”
Two years ago, he’d learnt about handmade soap from a friend who also taught him how to make it totally from natural ingredients.
“It takes a lot of effort to make a bar of soap manually, even for normal people; so, for a person with a disability like mine, the difficulties seemed to double.”
Double or treble, he did not give up.
The process of making a SIM soap, Chung’s handmade product – involves many steps.
“First I purchase soap base from the Biotech Pharmaceutical co-operative where my friend works, and then get other natural ingredients like honey, pollen, turmeric powder, citronella powder and rice bran. The base is cut into smaller pieces and cooked in a bain-marie until it melts.
“At that point other ingredients are added, to create a variety of soap bars. The mixture is then poured into moulds. As soon as it cools, it will be cut into small bars and wrapped with the label before being taken to the market.”
Since it only uses natural ingredients and uses no chemical, Chung’s SIM soap is healthy for users. For instance, rice bran helps freshen and eradicate dead skin and cinnamon warms up the body and prevents skin from drying in winter. Even for the aroma, Chung uses natural attar that is safe for health.
The first SIM soap bars have been introduced to customers via the Green Market held every weekend in HCM City and received much positive feedback from users.
Vũ Kim Anh, a member of the Green Market organising board, said Chung’s soap had been tested before it was accepted for sale.
“Many customers enjoy the product and return to the market frequently to buy more. They comment that SIM soap has natural fragrance that lingers on the skin for long time, and can be used on the face, too.”
The only drawback of the product is that it is not foamy.
“However, I think it is better to create a soap with less foam, but keep it safe for health. Furthermore, it is eco-friendly, unlike other kinds of soap in the market.
“My main job is still that of an athlete. This natural soap contributes partially towards meeting our monthly expenses – my mother’s and mine. I make the soap according to orders received. There are days I make up to 500 bars to distribute to shops in Hà Nội and HCM City.”
Chung’s message for other people with disabilities is straightforward: “God is fair to everyone. I believe that as long as there is will and passion, every person with disability can harvest similar success.” VNS