VietNamNet Bridge – Huynh Thanh Thao may not have studied at school, but she's trusted enough to teach the children at Trung Lap Thuong Commune, Cu Chi District, HCM City.
She, like many thousands of others, was affected by Agent Orange. She suffers from fragile bone disease (Osteogenesis imperfecta) which has not allowed her to grow normally.
At the age of 25, she weighs 25kg and stands just 65cm in height. She may be confined to a wheelchair but she has found a role for herself in village life.
Her mother, Nguyen Thi Xuan, realised that Thao wanted to go to school but she was concerned that Thao's body was not robust enough.
Xuan bought primary schoolbooks and taught her daughter the ABCs. And when her mother was busy, Thao studied with her sister.
Thao never thought of one day she could teach other children. Everything came by chance 10 years ago when a worker living next door asked Thao to look after her daughter, Vo Thi Diem Trang, when she was at work.
Besides playing, Thao and Trang learned together. Thao began acting as Trang's tutor, and Trang achieved very good academic marks. Now, Trang is a leading student at Trung Lap High School in Cu Chi District.
"That time I didn't learn from Thao only but I also listened to her fairy tales," says Trang, "she knows many stories and tells them in an absorbing way."
Good reputation has wings. Parents brought their children to Thao who was able to work in helping others.
To Thi Chau also brought her daughter to Thao.
"Besides teaching the alphabet, Thao also teaches the children love, optimism and kindness," Chau says.
Most of her students are children of poor workers, so she never collects money from them.
"At 14, I become a teacher for the children in the village," Thao says, "but due to my poor health, I could only teach about 10 in a class."
Sometimes, class is interrupted by bad weather, or when suffers a reoccurrence of her disease.
Thao loves reading as much as learning and teaching and she often asks for old books other people intend to throw away.
She once spoke on a communal radio station about her work, and revealed that she hoped to collect more books for the poor children living in the neighbourhood.
Since that day her friends and kind-hearted people across the country have sent a continual stream of books and newspapers to her.
Thao now has a small library with more than 3,000 books and newspapers.
"I still remember the day when I opened the library," Thao says, "many children came despite the heavy weather".
"I was determined to pursue my book collecting dreams."
The library has also attracted adults. Thao saves money given by the adults to organise activities for the children such as a story-telling competition, a mid-autumn party, presents on Children's Day and trips to historical sites.
Despite her poor health, Thao is still active in charitable activities. She calls on other people to help the elderly, orphans and the disabled. She has organised dozens of charitable trips to visit needy people.
She lives every day trying her best to lead a life of value, bringing happiness to others.
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News