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Published: September 6th 2008
The irrepressible Miss Luong has the sunniest smile and a terrific sense of humour to go with it.
During the last year or so of the American War (as it is termed in Vietnam) Luong was a happy twelve-year old living with her family in a village thirty kilometres from Hoi An. Then one fateful day a bomb was dropped so close to her family home that it was instantly incinerated. Whilst the rest of her family scrambled out of the inferno relatively unscathed, Luong's lower body took part of the blast and she lost both legs.
Though she had attended school until Year 3 and can thus read and write, this was the end of Luong's education as she had no means by which to get to school. As is the Vietnamese way, particularly in times of adversity, Luong improvised.
Over the past 34 years she has moved herself around using two small red plastic stools which she holds and places alternately on the ground in front of her as she moves her body along. These stools have become her legs. Her manouverability is so amazing that she can even run a small shop from her home - selling essentials to support herself and her aging parents.
Luong was very keen to be part of
I think about Luong everytime I walk up and down steps these days..... and how much I used to take for granted.
the Lifestart Foundation Women's Workshop that was run by one of our volunteers Sherry, from Philadelphia. One of the ladies in the workshop, Hanh, explained to me that Luong would probably not be able to attend as she lived a long way out of town and could not afford to close her little shop to attend. Lifestart Foundation has given Luong a food allowance for the days she attends workshop classes and Hanh has offered for Luong to stay at her home on the nights she needs to remain in Hoi An. Hanh and Luong have struck up a lovely friendship and I have no doubt that they thoroughly enjoy the weekly "sleepover and girl time"!
Extremely adept at craft skills Luong can see the potential of adding some craft lines to the household goods she presently sells in her little shop. When Luong shuts her shop for two days a week, she assumes her role as an integral member of the Lifestart Foundation Women's Workshop as part of the embriodery card team. As the workshop banter continues around the group Luong, who generally has a quiet demeanour occasionally breaks into outrageous and contagious laughter as she shares a
NGHE, HOA & LUONG
The three ladies form the embroidery card group. Nghe and Hoa walk on their hands and Luong with no legs uses her red plastic stools to move around.
Luong had an old wheel chair but was thrilled to bits when Lifestart Foundation was able to give her a new light weight wheel chair. This has made moving around at home at lot easier. Need less to say that Luong was literally " over the moon " when I told her that she was next in line to get a three wheel motorbike courtesy of Lifestart Foundation supporters. Luong's motorbike took some considerable modifying, however she has just received it and the photo's say it all.
Her two red plastic stools will still be required around her home but for any longer distances a whole new world is about to open for her.
The three wheel motor bike will give Luong much overdue independence and freedom, it will also enable her to socialize and not to be so isolated.
With a few breaks going her way now, Luong's future is looking more assured, but first she must learn to ride the motorbike! Given the challenges she has faced and conquered this is one she is going to enjoy.
Thank you so much to the Lifestart Foundation supporters who donated the money for
READY FOR CLASS
Luong is pictured in the wheelchair that we use for transfering the ladies into the classroom. Again, Lifestart was very fortunate to have this wheelchair donated.
Luong's three wheel motor bike. This motor bike truly is so much more than transportation for Luong, it almost has had the same impact as giving her back her legs.
Lots of love from Karen.
P.S. I fly back to Vietnam next week on Septmber 11 ( lucky I am not superstitious!). I will apologize in advance as the frequency of the blogs for the next few month's may not fantastic due to the large work load I will have when I am in Vietnam. I am taking my first long service leave in 30 years!!!! and will be in Vietnam for the next three months. In my dreams, I would be sipping a nice cool drink, sitting on the beach overlooking the South Chine Sea. The reality for my long service leave will be significantly different!........
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