The man who built an alcohol-free village

Last update 16:40 | 29/07/2017

VietNamNet Bridge – People often say it’s not easy to change one’s habits, but a man from Cu Pua Village in the central province of Quang Tri has succeeded and inspired others to follow.

Van Kieu ethnic minority, alcohol abuse, teetotaling campaign, alcohol-free village, Vietnam economy, Vietnamnet bridge, English news about Vietnam, Vietnam news, news about Vietnam, English news, Vietnamnet news, latest news on Vietnam, Vietnam
A big sign that says “No drinking at home – Drink-free village” is hung at a prominent spot in Ho E Not’s house. – VNS Photo Duy Loi

Ho E Not, 44, said the villagers in Dakrong District used to consider tobacco and alcohol indispensable. Most men and women smoked cigarettes and drank alcohol, whatever the occasion. “It had become a custom. Drinking when celebrating new crops, at weddings and funerals,” he said.

Not was no exception. At the age of ten, he started smoking and drinking, growing addicted to both.

After getting married, Not continued drinking every day. To have money for alcohol and tobacco, he didn’t hesitate to sell the little rice left in the family rice basket.

Until one day he saw his children crying out of hunger. He also started noticing that many people suffered poverty and traffic accidents as an effect of alcohol abuse, and his conscience was awakened, Not recalled.

“Villagers trusted me as I was the only person in the village that had finished the sixth grade (out of 12). I also inherited my father knowledge in curing normal diseases like dysentery, digestive disorders, gastritis and colitis.”

Thus, he decided to give up smoking and drinking to set a good example.

Ghosts in forest

Since 2002, he has been serving as the village health official and is determined to build a village free of alcohol. A big paper sign with the motto “No drinking at home – Drinking-free village” hangs in a prominent spot in the middle of his house.

Everything did not go smoothly at the beginning. Many people considered him crazy.

He set out to convince villagers of the harmful effects of tobacco and alcohol. At public gatherings he explained that smoking and drinking were the main reasons for chronic diseases such as liver and lung cancer. Contrary to their belief, “ghosts in the forest” were not the cause, he told fellow members of the Van Kieu ethnic minority.

Besides, smoking and drinking accounted for much of the family expenditure, he said, adding that the money should be spent wisely.

Thanks to his efforts, the number of addicts dropped substantially. Many have copied the “No drinking at home – Drinking-free village” sign and it now hangs in almost every house.

Apart from dissemination of information about the harmful effect of smoking and drinking, Not worked with other village elders to issue regulations for smokers and drinkers. Accordingly, their families were cautioned and told they would not receive State support if they violated the rules.

To encourage compliance, gifts were handed out by local authorities.

Women rejoice

Ten years have passed.

Cu Pua villagers are no longer seen drinking. Soft drinks are offered at weddings, funerals and festive holidays and Ho E Not is a local hero.

Overjoyed at their husbands’ devoting time to cultivation to increase the family’s income, women in the village voted him the head of the Cu Pua Village Women’s Association.

Not’s contribution to the village did not stop with his teetotaling campaign.

Seeing villagers walking over 1 kilometre to the national road No 9, he has mobilised villagers to contribute VND68 million ($3,000) to widen and pave the road, helping ease transportation access.

Not has donated over 2,000 sq.m of land to build a primary school and kindergarten, as well as community houses for villagers. “I have no money so I decided to donate land. Although my children have grown up, children of other villagers can learn at the schools,” he said.

“Thanks to Not’s efforts, Cu Pua has become the only smoke and drinking free village in Quang Tri Province,” said  Ho Van Phoi, head of Cu Pua Village. The number of traffic accidents had declined since villagers don’t drink on festive occasions and holidays.

“The lives of the villagers have changed,” Phoi said.

With 15 years devoted to improving villagers’ living condition, Ho E Not has been granted dozens of certificates of merits. He also had a chance to report his experience at a ceremony to honour village heads and elders who made outstanding contributions to the cause of national construction and defence.

Commenting on the role of heros like Not, Trieu Hong Son, a former official of the Committee for Ethnic Minority Affairs, said village heads and elders play an important role in raising people’s awareness of long-embedded habits. They understand the community’s culture, speak the same language and have the same customs, making it easier for them to persuade others, he explained.

“Village heads and elders disseminating information about State policy, legal and social issues have a strong impact on villagers as they are the best example and the most effective ’bridge’,” he said.

Bui Duy Loi

VNS

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This entry was posted in Enthnic minority people - Đồng bào thiểu số and tagged , , , , by Trần Đình Hoành. Bookmark the permalink.

About Trần Đình Hoành

I am an attorney in the Washington DC area, with a Doctor of Law in the US, attended the master program at the National School of Administration of Việt Nam, and graduated from Sài Gòn University Law School. I aso studied philosophy at the School of Letters in Sài Gòn. I have worked as an anti-trust attorney for Federal Trade Commission and a litigator for a fortune-100 telecom company in Washington DC. I have taught law courses for legal professionals in Việt Nam and still counsel VN government agencies on legal matters. I have founded and managed businesses for me and my family, both law and non-law. I have published many articles on national newspapers and radio stations in Việt Nam. In 1989 I was one of the founding members of US-VN Trade Council, working to re-establish US-VN relationship. Since the early 90's, I have established and managed VNFORUM and VNBIZ forum on VN-related matters; these forums are the subject of a PhD thesis by Dr. Caroline Valverde at UC-Berkeley and her book Transnationalizing Viet Nam. I translate poetry and my translation of "A Request at Đồng Lộc Cemetery" is now engraved on a stone memorial at Đồng Lộc National Shrine in VN. I study and teach the Bible and Buddhism. In 2009 I founded and still manage dotchuoinon.com on positive thinking and two other blogs on Buddhism. In 2015 a group of friends and I founded website CVD - Conversations on Vietnam Development (cvdvn.net). I study the art of leadership with many friends who are religious, business and government leaders from many countries. In October 2011 Phu Nu Publishing House in Hanoi published my book "Positive Thinking to Change Your Life", in Vietnamese (TƯ DUY TÍCH CỰC Thay Đổi Cuộc Sống). In December 2013 Phu Nu Publishing House published my book "10 Core Values for Success". I practice Jiu Jitsu and Tai Chi for health, and play guitar as a hobby, usually accompanying my wife Trần Lê Túy Phượng, aka singer Linh Phượng.

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