Mạnh was born in Bac Ninh province and at age twenty-six, is the “baby” of the family. Youngest of three children, he has an older brother, thirty-three and an older sister, thirty-one years of age, who has a business with her husband.
Together, they make and build a variety of wooden products, including furniture and door and window frames. His older brother helps his fifty-four-year-old mother, a shopkeeper selling grocery items and more. His father, also fifty-four, is a construction worker.
Mạnh grew up with normal eyesight and attended school through the end of ninth grade, leaving school in order to help his sister and brother-in-law in their woodshop and earn money for himself and his family. He even helped them set up a small kiosk in their home from which to market their products. Throughout his school years and continuing even to this day, Mạnh’s primary pastime and obsession have been playing and watching football (soccer to Americans). He wants everyone to know that he is a huge fan of Leeds, in the UK, and he watches whenever he can and still plays, though nearly blind, whenever he can. He says it’s scary, but he loves it. It is worth noting that his sight is so poor that even when I held three fingers up close to the screen, during our video chat, so that they filled the entire screen, Mạnh was unable to make anything out but a complete blur of a dark spot on the screen. Many of his colleagues, though seriously vision impaired, were at least able to distinguish this much.
After working with his sister and brother-in-law for several years he followed the recommendation of his grandfather, who recommended that he join the army, feeling that this would help him to mature and assuring him that what he would learn from the experience would make him more confident. This was fated to become a life-changing decision in more ways than one. Two years into his service he was charged with clearing a minefield in extreme northern Vietnam, near the border with China. Here, while using a metal detector in search of mines he accidentally set off a landmine. The explosion sent shrapnel into his eyes, stomach and other parts of his body, blinding him almost entirely and permanently, and leaving metal parts in his body to this day. In fact, it has been only quite recently, during the coronavirus shutdown, that he has undergone minor surgery to remove some metal pieces from his hand. Yes, he had managed to rise to the uppermost ranks of all therapists at Omamori, becoming a Master Teacher, while serving his clients with shrapnel still embedded in his hand.
Though his medical costs were covered by the government due to his service in the military, and even though he was and is assured of lifetime financial assistance to help compensate for his “class one” injuries (those considered most debilitating), Mạnh explains that at the time he felt nothing but despair feeling that there would be no hope and nothing left in life for him. Resigned at the time to a dreary and dismal future, Mạnh went to work in a Tam Quat studio nearby where he worked for about a year before learning about what appeared to be a better opportunity from browsing the social media.
Once coming to Omamori, Mạnh enthusiastically embraced the training, exhibiting great natural talent and a strong work ethic, and has now become one of only three Master Teachers at Omamori. Like most all of the therapists who have come to Omamori after prior Tam Quat experience, Mạnh is quick to point out the professional atmosphere and friendly, supportive environment fostered amongst the staff. It seems especially clear, however, when talking to Mạnh, that he is also very focused on the financial advantages to working at Omamori. Whereas he was only able to earn, on average, about 4-5 million VND per month in his prior employment, he now earns from 9-10 million VND per month.
If Mạnh seems focused on money, he most certainly is. In addition to having set up the retail kiosk selling wood products from his sister’s home, once coming to Omamori and establishing himself as a master therapist, he also set up his own studio as a side business. He did this in conjunction with a partner, but with the blessing and support of the management of Omamori. Though he was cautioned that establishing a successful studio would be far more difficult than it might appear on the surface, Mạnh and his partner persisted and leased a property preparing to do business. It took only a few months, however, for them to realize that they were undercapitalized and would be unable to sustain themselves until such time as they became fully established, with enough of a following that they could survive and thrive. Rather than sustain continued losses, they sold the practice for a loss and went back to working full time at Omamori.
At the time of this writing, feeling all the more acutely the loss of time and financial opportunity while unable to work, Mạnh has been studying the property markets, looking for a way to leverage his savings and build capital to start his own business once again, but with a deeper understanding of what it means to be properly capitalized and a fuller appreciation of what might be required in terms of marketing and staffing, based on his accumulated experience. Mạnh says that his dream is a simple one: to make enough money in business so that he can ultimately give assistance to others in greater need than himself.
In closing our conversation we briefly discussed the white cane initiative to which the Ministry of Planning and Trade has lent its support. Mạnh is one of the few who has taken full advantage of the program, accepting his white cane with pride and using it actively. He says that it has made a significant difference to him in reducing his fear when out walking and by giving him greater confidence, while measurably increasing his feeling of independence.