A Minor Mountain Miracle

A great story has broken up in the northern mountains of Vietnam that I thought you might enjoy.

You are probably aware we sponsor a young ethnic minority Hmong veterinary science university student. He is our inaugural Chris Rees Memorial scholar and he has achieved a superb first year result.

I first met Sung Thin Pha about 5 years ago when he was a Platypus school student, and after a couple of years he mentioned a brother who had been bedridden for years as his “legs stopped working”. A Platypus friend managed to get a wheelchair to Hanoi by nefarious means, and Diana Tran traveled with me to hand it over up in the mountains. Living conditions in that household are tough, but brother Sung Thin Ha has been scooting around the place for a couple of years now in his wheelchair and has a greatly-enhanced social life.

We have just been told that Ha has had an operation and will be able to walk again. There seems to have been confusion in his case caused partly by communication problems: people of Dao, Hmong and Kinh ethnic groups sometimes have the odd communication glitch. The Hmong do not exactly enjoy top priority anyway, and that may have been part of the problem.

Whatever the story, Ha can now make up for about 8 lost years. We are not in a position to do a great deal but we can at least help him complete his school education. He will probably need a heap of physiotherapy before he can do anything about his future. Anh (our Hanoi employee) is on to it and she is a very good communicator.

His family has asked me to pass on their appreciation of everything we have done: we have not really done a great deal but when we first met Pha he was struggling to stay in school and his brother had pretty grim prospects. Now the family has a veterinarian in the making and a young man who will have help in getting his life together so perhaps the family associates us with better times.

So here’s to all of you for helping make this all possible.
We will track Pha and Ha and keep you informed as their progress.

Thanks for your support

Mr Dong

Upon reaching my hotel in Hue during my third visit to Vietnam, I was approached by a dignified man of perhaps 50 years who offered his services as a cyclo (three-wheel cycle) guide for the day. He had excellent English, and knew his city intimately, so after a fine day we dined together.

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A trip to Hanoi in August 2011 revealed an enormous amount of goodwill towards Platypus, and good advice was offered by officials who work with those doing it tough. Rather than rush about sprinkling school fees all over the place, a more selective approach will be employed whereby people will receive what they need.

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Solid Men

Travelling off the main roads in Vietnam can be an interesting experience. Roads are sometimes quite atrocious as they are used by so many for so many different purposes. Throw in vehicles like the odd water buffalo-drawn cart, horrendously overloaded large Chinese trucks, buses loaded to the gills and sashaying about on dodgy springs, scooter-drawn livestock trailers, small versions of a mobile concrete mixer and mix in a handful of scooter riders travelling about without benefit of licence or even basic tuition and you have a recipe for interesting times.

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