Le Ngoc Lam, 13 years old, was the youngest participant in the Swedish massage course co-organized by the Ninh Binh province’s Blind Association (NBBA) and BlindLink in August, 2020.
Growing up in the rural Thach Binh commune, Lam was born with a congenital eye disease. His mother is a garment worker and his father works at a carpenter shop. His 26-year-old sister has been working in China for two years. In the second semester of 1st grade when he was 6 years old, Lam suddenly lost his eyesight and had to quit school. His former teachers felt bad that Lam had to stay home alone for two years, so they convinced his parents to let him return. As a result, Lam entered the 3rd grade but then quit in 5th grade because he couldn't get along with other sighted students in the class. Lam said that when he was in school, though he was teased by his schoolmates, there were also good friends. He is still friends with a former classmate named Minh, with whom he sat for those years.
Staying at home, Lam learned to live in the dark by himself. He can do some chores such as washing dishes and cleaning the house. When his sister divorced and brought her 7-year-old disabled child home to live with him and his parents, Lam had a new duty: to look after the child who can neither speak nor walk, only crawl due to cerebral palsy.
Lam loves swimming and playing the flute. He recalls: “When I was about 6 years old, I accidentally fell into the pond one day. Fortunately, my father saw that and was able to save me. The next day, he decided to teach me how to swim. At first, he taught the traditional way, but I couldn't swim at all. As he was a martial arts master, he refused to accept his failure in training, so he decided to use a different method: tying a log across my body. Instinctively, I had to struggle for survival and try to float. When I sunk, he pulled me up. Using that method, in just 3 days, I was able to dog paddle really well. As time passed, I taught myself the backstroke.”
Lam is also a flute player—a passion that he discovered in an unexpected way. . One day, while wandering a field in a sad mood, he heard the sound of a flute, played by a cattleman nearby. Maybe because the tune was so good, or maybe because it captured exactly how he was feeling, Lam stayed and listened for an hour. From that point on, Lam loved listening to the flute. One day, while using his mother's smartphone, Lam stumbled upon the talkback function for the blind. Eventually, he learned to use the device’s talkback features to go on Youtube to learn how to play the flute. During one of his “trips" on the internet, Lam found a brand name “Sáo trúc Mão Mèo" and by chance ordered a flute for his practice. When it was shipped to his house, he felt so scared but bravely told his mom the story. Fortunately, his mother didn't scold him and paid 220.000 VND (10 USD) for the first musical instrument of his life.
At the age of ten, Lam became a member of the Blind Association, which enabled him to participate in 3 courses - ICT, “tam quat” (a kind of Vietnamese massage), and Braille. Lam said that he really likes the ICT and tam quat courses because it helped him some knowledge to use smartphones, and with tam quat skills, he could become a therapist to earn money.
The first time he studied the Swedish massage course was also the first time that Lam learned English with a foreigner, Mr. Mark Stapelkamp, who joined the workshop through Zoom to help Lam and the other students with their pronunciation. “When I went to school, I liked to learn English the most. I enjoyed this course a lot and am determined to graduate successfully.”
Lam has a bright smile, but sometimes sits contemplatively like an old man. When asked about his dream, the boy sadly said: “I don't know what to dream yet. What I dream of most is that the light returns to my eyes, so I can go to school like my friends. I also want to get a job so that I can earn money to support my parents. ”