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Published: June 11th 2008
Legs that don't work and an eye removed for an unexplained reason............... but still the sunniest of smiles!
Thong ( pronounced "Tom" ) is another member of the Lifestart Foundation disabled group living with Polio. I call him a "can do " kind of man because there is not a whole lot that Thong won't have a go at.
Thong walks on his hands, his legs simply do not work. So he puts his sandals on his hands, crosses his legs into lotus position and off he goes...........and by golly he's really fast!
Thong contracted polio when he was one year old. He explained to me that Polio took his legs away. His family was very poor, they took him to many hospitals and he spent one year in a German Hospital in Vietnam. The doctors wanted to send him to Germany for treatment however his mother was too worried and frightened to allow him to go. Nothing could be done for Thong in Vietnam, so he had to learn to walk on his hands.
Thong did not have the opportunity to go to school, instead his sister and a neighbour taught him how to read and write.
He had no friends and spent a lot of time in bed, he told me that other children
KAREN & THONG
It is always a pleasure visiting Thong at work in his bonsai garden.
were unkind to him and he felt his life was a waste. He remembers being very sad a lot of the time.
At 20 years of age Thong started to make a few friends and now thanks to the disabled support group he has lots of new friends. Unfortunately though, Thong tells me he still frequently deals with prejudice.
Having been disabled for many years Thong worked out a long time ago that if he needed to get from A to B then he better work out how to do it himself because no one was going to carry him.
Thong is one of the "luckier" people that I know. He is fortunate to live in a house with his brother and his little family a few kilometres out of town. Thong's brother has given him a comfortable sunlit room and has placed his bed under the window which provides Thong with a lovely view over the garden.
Aside from Thongs obvious problems with his mobility his biggest worry was that he could not get a job, which in turn translates to no independence, no food!. No one would employ him because of how he looked.
THONG'S SUNLIT BEDROOM
Thong's brother has placed his bed under the window, providing a lovely view over the garden. There is a "Wrap With Love" blanket on the end of his bed.
I am beginning to realize that where possible the better option for many of these people who are living with disabilities is to help create a sustainable self employment opportunity for them. This removes the possibility of exploitation by potential employers and also creates a much greater degree of self confidence and self worth.
Thong's brother has a small nursery; it provides enough income for the family to live simply. Thong wanted to be useful and not a burden on his family any longer so we sat down together to work out what his options were. Thong has a great love of gardening and was particularly interested in Bonsai.
After much discussion about the viability of a Bonsai business, together Thong and I decided that training to learn this art would be a wonderful idea for his future independence. Bonsai is very popular in Vietnam especially at festival and TET time. Lifestart supported Thong through his training period of 12 month's, employing a trainer to come to Thong's house three times per week to teach him.
Lifestart set Thong up with all of the tools he needed including a custom-made " Lazy Susan " which
acts as a turntable for him to place his plants on . Ground level is the most comfortable way for Thong to work.
Thong has now completed his training and has been given employment working with his brother. I always ask Thong if there is anything that he needs. Each trip he only ever asks me if he can get a new Bonsai book to read so he can improve his knowledge.
Thong dreams of eventually having his own business but is very happy working for his brother and being independent for the time being.
Thong is a real character and a bit of a "lad". I recall needing a lift somewhere one day and he quickly borrowed a three wheel motorbike and in no time had me flying down the highway at break neck speed!
In addition to Thong's lower body disabilities which are a result of Polio, he has also had one eye removed for dubious reasons. Thong told Dr. Josh and I that he had an eye infection and the next thing that he knew the doctors were removing his eye!
Thong has a strong upper body but we are worried that
prolonged strain on his shoulders is now causing big problems for him.
Our shoulders were not designed to carry the weight of our body and Thong's shoulders are wearing out. I am currently looking into ways to help people like Thong reduce the strain they are placing on the good parts of their body. ( stay tuned as I will have some exciting news in the near future.)
Thong told me last trip that he accepts the life he has been given and is content to make the most of it. He is very happy with his new life which includes friends, support, employment and of course a degree of independence.
Thong is another wonderful example of how giving a relatively small opportunity to someone can actually change a life profoundly and forever.
Lots of Love from Karen.
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