Nhung, age twenty-six and one of five children, was born into a rice and tree farming family in Thai Nguyen province, north of Hanoi. Her father, age sixty and her mother, age fifty-four are both farmers, as is her older sister, who is also blind.
Neither the cause of her sister’s blindness nor that of her own is known. In addition to her older sister, married with two children, she has two older brothers and a younger sister. Due to their mutual visual impairment she feels that she shares a particularly strong common bond with her older sister. The family keeps some farm animals in addition to maintaining the family rice and tree farm but they do not market these animals.
Growing up, Nhung wanted to learn to play the flute as a child but with no money to buy one for herself she was limited to what little she was able to learn at school. With no access in school to special teaching or facilities for the blind, Nhung, the only blind student in her classes found keeping up with her classes a constant struggle even though her teachers and her friends were very supportive and tried to help her whenever possible. After nine years in school Nhung finally decided that the struggle was no longer worth it and left school to stay at home, helping with chores in the home and on the farm wherever possible. She describes herself as being shy and simple, wanting only the means to support herself, enjoy her love of the flute and be able to relax and “watch” television.
At age 18, however, Nhung joined the local chapter of the Blind Association where she was first exposed to massage techniques. Here she learned some Tam Quat techniques and was offered the chance to work in a Tam Quat studio. Later, in 2018 she was able to join a special training course in Swedish massage techniques offered by teachers from Omamori Spa. This was a special training session advertised nationwide and made available, free of charge, to blind youth from all over Vietnam. Even with no prior training or experience she became the top student in the class. She successfully completed the course and was granted a certificate giving her the official documentation necessary to engage in massage as a means of earning money. Her food and lodging during the course of training were paid for by the Blind Association while the instruction and certification was provided free of charge to the Blind Association by Blind Link, the non-profit foundation which has spawned Omamori Spa and which provides employment to many of its trainees.
Though Nhung continued working in a Tam Quat studio for some time after completing this course of training, in September of 2019 her former instructor, Nham, from Omamori recruited her to come to Omamori for additional training, and ultimately to work for us here. She soon learned just how different life would become. Not only were the techniques employed at Omamori vastly more complicated and sophisticated but so, too, was the working atmosphere and environment extremely different.
Whereas the physical environment in the Tam Quat studios had been very rudimentary Nhung discovered a luxurious and relaxing workplace, beautifully decorated with artwork and live flowers and plants and soft music, carefully calibrated to ensure that the visiting clients would be made to feel as comfortable and relaxed as possible. Equally, if not more important to Nhung was the difference in her interactions with her clientele. In her prior employment the clientele, perhaps influenced by the physical environment, often came with an entirely different attitude and set of expectations. Too often, she felt that her clients treated her as a lesser human being, even as a servant, often engaging in inappropriate behavior. Even after just the exposure she had had to the professional training in Swedish massage she received from her visiting instructor at the Blind Association, Nhung began to overcome some of her shyness. Once coming to Omamori, however, she has increasingly gained confidence and is now much less shy than before.
Since coming to Omamori, Nhung has exerted herself in every way imaginable, and in the short time she has been here, she has mastered all of the basic massage techniques offered by Omamori. She has also worked extremely hard at mastering the English that therapists are asked to learn, striving even to learn some of the English used by our receptionists in guiding and assisting our clientele. Her eagerness to learn and progress has endeared her to her instructors and to her colleagues. She confides that in her free time she has now finally found the time and the means to engage in studying the flute. Still too shy to perform in front of others, nonetheless, she has managed to collect six flutes of her own and practices whenever she gets the chance.
Recognizing the difficulties and the limitations of the life of a farmer, and in particular, watching her sister’s struggles, Nhung says that she has a clear and simple dream. After she gets married she wishes to run her own massage studio in order to be able to provide a stable life for her and her family. With her magnetic personality and her insistent dedication to self-improvement, earning her the Vietnamese sobriquet “cham-chi” or “go-getter”, in English, it seems likely that she will achieve her dream and probably much more.