Stories of Hope: Nguyen Van Tam from Vietnam

Living in a small, dark, hot room without ventilation, Mr. Nguyen Van Tam (born in 1957) collects iron scraps from construction sites around his place to earn a living. The room is large enough for just three people to step in. “At least I have a place to hide from the sun and the rain”, he said.

Years ago, life took a harsh toll on Tam, forcing his wife to leave due to the weight of poverty that loomed over them. Now, his 27-year-old son is working in construction sites far from home, so his only friend is the radio. All the other belongings, the old TV and rice cooker, are all on his bed, which is his most valuable possession. When the tide rises in the suburb of Vinh Long province, this bed becomes an island, sheltering Tam and his belongings from the floods. All the electricity in his house is borrowed from kind neighbors.

Picture: Mr Nguyen Van Tam with his only companion – the radio

Earning only 4 – 8 EUR per day, Tam couldn’t afford government health insurance. For this reason, ECF team in Vietnam supported him with 100% of the cataract surgery costs on his right eye, which had reached its final stage, causing excruciating pain. His fear of blindness was greater than the fear of surgery, so he agreed to have the operation under the doctors’ persuasion. After the surgery, the vision of his right eye was restored, which made him so happy that burst into tears as he could see clearly and went back to work to earn some money.

But Tam doesn’t toil just for himself; his son is his motivation. He dreams of supporting his son’s marriage, despite their financial struggles. He yearns for his son to escape the cycle of poverty. He doesn’t want his son to endure what he went through. He stated “I want to continue working to support my son for his marriage, but we’re too poor. The young lady doesn’t want to live in a poor family.” He wants to provide his son with a better future so that his son can become more confident, get married, and build a family.

However, he also has cataract in his left eye which is yet to be treated. Having only one healthy eye prevents him from working under the blazing sun during the morning and in the dusk. ECF is now coordinating with Vinh Long Eye Hospital to work on the surgery for his left eye very soon.

Mr. Tam is just one of the many people that ECF Vietnam is trying to help in regaining their visions. We understand how challenging a person and a family has faced without clear vision and how important our support for those living under poverty.