As his wife prepares lunch, 44-year-old Hoang Than talks with his two children, 9-year-old son Hoang Anh and 6-year-old daughter Hoang Thi Dieu Anh, about their first day at school. The kids just started school after their summer break. The photo above is a picture of happiness, father and children together.
However, it was not always this way. Than has overcome much tragedy in his life.
In 1991, Than lost one hand and both legs, below the knee, in an explosion of wartime ordnance. Than was searching for scrap metal when the tragic accident happened. Although he survived the blast and managed to stay alive, Than was permanently disabled at the young age of 20.
Three years later, Than’s life changed. He had already met a girl, Le Thi Hiep, who lived in the same village of Ai Tu. They had fallen in love. Hiep said she had loved Than before his accident, and her love for him was so great that she could not turn him down just because he was now a triple amputee, facing severe disabilities for the rest of his life. They got married.
After several years of living with Than’s parents, the couple moved out to try to build their own life. Their first child, a son, was born in 2000. Two years later, they managed to construct a small wooden house with their limited savings. A second son was born in 2006, but the couple’s joy was short-lived when the older son died in a traffic accident that same year.
In 2008, Project RENEW’s Victim Assistance program reached out to Than’s family and gave them a breeding cow to raise which could generate extra income. A daughter was born in 2009, and their neighbors, the local community, contributed support to rebuild their house. Then in 2013, Than was provided with a pair of artificial limbs by Project RENEW’s Prosthetics and Orthotics Mobile Outreach Team. The P&O technicians examined his stumps and fabricated a set of custom prostheses for Than in 2013. He now can walk independently.
“I sometimes feel sad because of my disability, because I can no longer work fulltime to support my family,” Than said. “However, my two growing children are a strong motivation for me, so I keep on going. And the local community and Project RENEW have supported us. I want to thank them for giving help to my family.”
Twenty-four years after losing his limbs, Than constantly reminds his children of the lingering threat from unexploded bombs. “I keep telling my kids not to touch any strange objects they might encounter. I ask them to report their sightings of UXO immediately to their teachers or to myself.”
While his wife raises pigs and chickens at home, Than tends the family’s three cows – the offspring of the first cow donated by RENEW in 2008. The couple also cultivates a small field which yields enough rice for the family to eat. Though the family’s brick house has not yet been plastered – a project that will come later – the home provides them with shelter from the rain and heat, and security, and happiness.
It is a modest dream that Than would not have dared to imagine when he suffered his accident 24 years ago.