Overcoming difficulties with determination

December, 02/2018 - 09:00

For people without disabilities, studying architecture is hard enough, but the challenges are multiplied when you have no hands. Dương Hữu Phúc has overcome all to become an architecture student.

Dedicated: Dương Hữu Phúc at class in the Hà Nội University of Business and Technology. Photo coutersy of Dương Hữu Phúc
Viet Nam News

By Bùi Quỳnh Hoa

Dương Hữu Phúc, a third-year student at the Hà Nội University of Business and Technology’s Department of Architecture, carefully draws his homework on a computer in a slum along Nguyễn Khoái Street in Hà Nội’s Hai Bà Trưng District. He is able to use the remains of his amputated arms to move the mouse and type with dexterity.

“It’s much easier for me now we are allowed to do the technical drawings on a computer rather than by hand. I can work as fast as my classmates,” Phúc said.

An explosion at a workshop in his native village in Lạng Sơn Province four years ago forced doctors to amputate both his hands, just 12 days before his high school examination.

“I felt depressed that I had lost my hands forever,” he said. “Then one of the wounds became infected, and doctors were forced to amputate a third of my arm.

“It was so painful, and I had no hope for the future. I could not do anything without my hands. Everything was gone, even my dreams of becoming an architect,” he said.

Phúc’s mother, Hoàng Thị Phượng, also can’t help crying when she thinks about those difficult times.

“Phúc has lived in poor conditions since he was a child, in both body and mind,” Phượng said. “His father and I divorced when he was only five. Phúc lived with me. Back then we were so poor that the only thing I had was love for my son.”

“The day I heard about Phúc’s accident, my heart broke. Without money, I couldn’t do anything but hold him and cry.”

It took Phúc about two months to recover, two months to adapt to the circumstances, and about a year to rejoin society. 

“I started to learn how to use my arms to hold and move small objects using my chin and legs,” Phúc said.

“Step by step, I was able to lift bigger things like chairs, look after myself and even write my name without any help,” he added.

Phúc managed to overcome his complex to finish 12th grade at Lạng Sơn Province’s Continuing Education Centre in 2016. He then passed the Hà Nội University of Business and Technology (HUBT) entrance exam and became a first-year student at the Department of Architecture in July 2016.

“My mum used to take me to the centre and pick me up each day, no matter how hard it was for her and whatever the weather,” Phúc said.

“We were happy and nervous at the same time I was accepted to HUBT. Happy because I passed the university exam, but nervous because we had no money to pay for the high tuition fees. My mum had decided to come to the capital and work from dawn till dark to earn a small amount of money to pay for my school fees and our daily lives.

“To show my gratitude for her sacrifice, I promised to try my best to study, without a day off, and gain more successes in life. I don’t want to waste her devotion for me,” Phúc said.

For people without disabilities, studying architecture is hard enough, but the challenges are multiplied when you have no hands.

According to architect Trần Thu Huyền, a lecturer at HUBT’s Department of Architecture, the lecturers were all surprised by Phúc.

“Hands play a very important role in architecture, along with intelligence and aptitude,” Huyền said.

“Phúc is an unlucky guy. However, over the past three years he has shown his disability has not affected his studies. His marks are always high even though we don’t give him any breaks,” Huyền added.

Means to an end: Phúc’s head wreaths are ready for sale. Photo courtesy of Dương Hữu Phúc

Vice director of HUBT’s Department of Architecture Nguyễn Tiến Bửu agreed with Huyền.

“Phúc is a special student who we all love and try to help as much as we can,” Bửu said.

“We have a great respect for his optimism, hard work and passion for studying. His will and passion for architecture are stronger than others who are more fortunate than him,” he added.

In order to help his mother earn more money, Phúc has got a part-time job selling head wreaths at Hoàn Kiếm Lake.

“My mum works so hard. She’s a cleaner. She’s also suffered from kidney and heart problems for a long time, as well as goiter. Supporting her is very important to me.

“Each month I earn about VNĐ2-2.5 million (US$85-107) from selling head wreaths. I only work on the evenings at the weekend, so I have enough time to study. The most important thing is that I want to try my best in my studies and then be able to design and build a small house for my mum,” Phúc said.

Life is sometimes hard and challenging but miracles still happens when love and determination overcome difficulties. Like the lyrics of the song You Raise Me Up say:

You raise me up, so I can stand on mountains

You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas

I am strong, when I am on your shoulder

You raise me up, to more than I can be. VNS