Despite suffering from a bone disease that confined her to a wheelchair, Nguyen Thi Lan Anh has never given up her dream of representing physically disadvantaged people as a National Assembly delegate. Ngan Anh talks with Lan Anh about her drive to overcome challenges.
Inner Sanctum: You were born with brittle bone disease so your childhood must have been very difficult. What are your memories from that time?
I was born in Song Cong Town in the northern province of Thai Nguyen in 1978.
My childhood was different to that of other children in that I spent a lot of time in hospital.
Right after I was born, I was diagnosed with a genetic disease that makes my bones britte, meaning they break easily. Sometimes the bones break for no known reason. So I was sent to hospital regularly. Each year, I was in hospital between four to five months. It was really difficult for me to walk because my legs were always in plaster casts.
As I got older, the disease had less effect on my life, however now, I have to get around in a wheelchair.
Inner Sanctum: Having to rely on a wheelchair is difficult. What are the challenges you have had to overcome?
Of course, I faced many challenges and a great deal of sadness.
One of my biggest disappointments was that I could not go to school like other children. At that time, I was so disappointed and sad. I could not do anything because I was just a child.
Until the age of nine, my grandmother carried me on her back to school and I had the chance to learn a little. But most days I was at the hospital, so my teacher came to teach me there.
I also could not join in public activities and games. I hated communicating with others because I was very shy but now I have developed my communication skills and consider them as one of my talents.
I overcame all these difficulties because I understood that I can be useful and my disadvantaged condition is not a misfortune. It is just an inconvenience to some extent.
Inner Sanctum: You are now a project co-ordinator at a non-government organisation and you have many important roles in several social organisations. How have you achieved these successes?
I am a project co-ordinator at Inclusive Development Action. Recently, I also became a member of the presidium of the Viet Nam Youth Union for the 2010-15 tenure. I am also deputy head of the Ha Noi Disadvantaged Women's Club.
I really love to study. I always told myself that although I could not walk like normal people, I could still excel at my studies if I tried.
All my efforts paid off as I had the chance to go to high school and attend the Foreign Language University.
After graduation, I pursued my dream of finding ways to help disadvantaged people. And the dream is coming true.
I think that I have to do something to prove to the world that disadvantaged people like me are not useless. We can try our best to integrate with the rest of society.
I am very sad because there are many disadvantaged people who have no employment.
When I see that they do not know how to integrate, I want to help them. However, my ability is limited. So, I need support from the wider community.
Inner Sanctum: It's really admirable to see you fulfil both your housework and social work. How do you manage to do that?
For a normal woman, it is hard to fulfil both jobs. They have to work at the office and then come back home to take care of the children.
For me, it is even harder.
Like any other mother, I worry when my child gets sick and take joy in experiencing milestones such as a child saying their first word.
It is difficult for me to teach my son to walk. However, I am lucky to have help from my husband and sister.
Inner Sanctum: I am curious about your marriage. Can you tell me some stories about it?
I met my husband during a field trip. He helped me many times.
When we fell in love, many people tried to keep us apart because they thought that it was too hard for a disadvantaged woman to marry.
However, my husband has never thought that my disability is a challenge. He loves my soul and he overcame everything to marry me.
Now, we have a two-year-old boy and we are a happy family.
Inner Sanctum: What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
I have many dreams.
One of them is opening an association for disadvantaged Vietnamese youth.
In the next 10 to 20 years, I want to become a deputy in the National Assembly so that I can be a representative for disadvantaged people, especially disadvantaged women.
Inner Sanctum: What is your advice for physically disadvantaged people in Viet Nam?
I do not dare to advise them because I am not as good as many other disadvantaged people.
However, I think that disadvantaged people will achieve successes in many fields. Everything will turn out well if they try their best.
Smile at everyone and they will smile back at you. — VNS