Blind woman dares all odds to see a brighter future

A thin, blind young woman about 1.57 meters tall, Nguyen Thi Men is not likely to impress anyone at first sight. But the more you learn about her life, the more you are in awe of this incredible person.

Men reviews her lessons before a new class (Photo: SGGP)
Blind at birth, she was just eight years old when her mother left her at the Ho Chi Minh City Child and Elder Welfare Foundation.
 
She lived in a dark, unseen world that had no happiness, no smile in it. We can only try to imagine the pain and hurt she felt during her childhood.
 
When she was 14, she was transferred to the HCMC Blind Association. There, she had chance to learn a few skills and also work to earn some income. After learning to provide therapeutic massages, she was promoted to work at a massage parlor operated by blind persons. At that time, she thought her life was finding its way to happiness, but, yet again, fate did not smile at her.
 
While most people visit massage parlors operated by blind persons to support them, there are some who do not come for just a massage. On one working shift, an old customer sexually harassed her. Shocked, she asked permission to quit, not daring to reveal the true reason, only saying she was not feeling well.
 
She lost a vocation, and her faith was shaken, but she held on to the dream of a better life, of finishing college and finding a job to stand on her own feet like a normal person. She chose to study with the HCMC University of Social Sciences and Humanities. But the path to the university, difficult for most persons, was particularly ardous for a blind girl like her.
 
One of the first obstacles Men had to face in preparing for the university entrance examination was to raise the tuition fees for attending classes. Listening to the radio everyday, she had a long list of prospective employers. However, none of them accepted her, and offered no excuse for their rejection. Not giving up, Men decided to sell lottery tickets and use the income to pay the class fees.
 
At the first class, Men met with a lot of skepticism and even rude curiosity by her classmates. Nobody believed that she could finish the class and pass the test. Her teacher was not an exception.
 
As the days passed, however, the skepticism turned to admiration of her intelligence and her will power. During the tutorial class, her teacher only called out the reference numbers of the correct answers, instead of reading the full answer. Since there was no book from this class for blind persons, she could not follow the lessons and directions at first. This girl was still not daunted. She bought a tape recorder using money earned from selling lottery tickets and asked everyone in her school, from classmates and teachers to supervisors and school guards, to read answers from every lesson into her recorder. Her patience, diligence and sincerity left no one untouched. Using her recordings, she eventually had a book of her own in Braille.
 
Now people were not so surprised when she passed the entrance exams, and was accepted into her dream university.
 
Men has to wake up before 6am and walk to the wholesale lottery ticket seller armed with only a stick to find her way, unaided by anyone. Departing from Cong Quynh Street in District 1, Men does not take the bus from near her place, but walks all the way to Tran Hung Dao Street to catch it there. She does this to save as much as possible for her studies.
 
Her working area is District 6, quite far from where she stays. Everyday, for every 100 lottery tickets sold, she earns VND60,000, of which VND20,000 is used up for eating and drinking and the rest is saved. She had not informed her teachers from the association that she sells lottery tickets for a living, afraid that her teachers would prevent from doing it, deeming it too dangerous for her. She says she understands their affection and fears for her, but still wants to earn money on her own to pay her school fees.
 
By dint of hard work and thrift, Men has been able to buy a netbook which helps her a lot. She has completed her first year with good grades, and compiled a collection of academic texts for blind people that she has herself made.
 
In her free time, Men keeps a diary and pens poetry. Not surprisingly, her poems carry a lot of pathos. Men explains: “At a young age, mother took me to the Ho Chi Minh City Child and Elder Welfare Foundation and left me there without even saying goodbye. Any blind person, not just me, would have thought about death at least once.
 
“But that was my past. Now I choose to send my sadness to the poems. Now, as I grow, I love my life all the more.”

By Mai Huong – Translated by Truong Son

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