Hang, age thirty-eight, is from Nghe An Province, one of four children. Her father died in a traffic accident twenty years ago, in 2000. He and her mother, age seventy-five, had both worked in the same company as accountants.
Her older brother, born in 1972, was also the victim of a serious tragedy when as a result of a bad traffic accident he suffered a stroke which has paralyzed one entire side of his body. Fortunately his wife and oldest son are supportive and hold good jobs enabling them to help provide for the family. She also has a younger brother, now enrolled in college. Divorced in 2008 after having separated from her husband prior to her own personal tragedy, Hang is now a single mother and has an eleven-year-old daughter. She and her daughter live together with her older sister in their home in Hanoi.
One might think this to be a story of family tragedy, knowing that Hang, too, has fallen victim to her own tragedy, suffering a terrible stroke in 2012 causing partial paralysis in one hand and largely depriving her of her hearing. (Thanks to the miracles of modern technology--and her determination to get better--my video chat with her was actually easier than trying to talk to her in person.) But this is far more a story of survival and of success than it is one of tragedy. Hang’s constant smiles and laughter bore easy testimony to this fact.
Hang has little memory of her childhood but remembers well her time in high school. She was shy and studious, focusing on her favorite subjects--math, physics, biology and chemistry, and shyly admitting to an unrequited interest in a certain young man. She confesses that it was her interest in him more than a passion for study that led her to apply for entrance into Vietnam’s foremost institute of technology, Vietnam Polytechnical Institute, where she gained admission upon graduation from high school. It came as both a surprise and a disappointment that her friend wasn’t accepted that year. Though he applied again and was accepted the following year, she was never able to date him. She has subsequently lost touch with him, such as often are the romantic aspirations of youth, alas.
She finished the grueling five-year program required for a degree in biochemistry and went to work for her uncle in his environmental company. Here she was involved in the design of various sorts of distilling and drying equipment. Following this job she was hired by a Japanese company involved in the extraction and mining of rare earth. Her job was to test the quality of the extracted material to ensure quality control. While working there she suffered the stroke that resulted in her hearing loss and partial paralysis. Though, after partially recovering from the stroke she was able to go back to work, unfortunately, this company went out of business not long after this. When she tried to apply for professional work elsewhere, her hearing loss meant that no employers wanted to consider hiring her. Subsequent to this she was only able to find employment in one other professional job, inspecting electronic equipment in a manufacturing plant. Finding this work unsuitable for health reasons she searched for other employment but was only able to find a series of jobs doing unskilled work, including clerking in a supermarket and her last job before coming to Omamori, working as a shipper for an electronics store.
It was while working here that her older sister, an attorney herself, and friend of our director’s husband, also an attorney, learned about the work of Omamori. Though Omamori’s mission itself is generally specific to assisting the blind through providing training and employment, our director’s broader mission has always been to assist the many in Vietnamese society who suffer from disabilities. It was decided that Hang’s situation merited making an exception to the normal hiring policy.
Hang was hired on a trial basis in November of last year, at which time her only experience with massage therapy was with the acupressure techniques she had learned and was using on herself to try to make improvements in her physical pain and partial paralysis. Since coming to Omamori she has mastered both the Omamori and the Swedish massage techniques. Whether due to the work she has learned to do with her hands or simply to the natural healing that has occurred with time her paralysis has improved and even her hearing seems to have improved somewhat, as well.
Having endured great personal tragedy and survived so much, Hang explains that her only dream now is to earn enough that she and her daughter may one day travel the world together.