Written by Ms. Ha Dang, the director of the Crazy Love Foundation Vietnam team
I met this woman in 2016 at Rao bridge fishing village (later named 1st RBP by Crazy Love Foundation). Her name is Hieu. She looked so much tiny to compared to all the others...
With the introduction of her neighbors, she agreed to tell me about her life, which she herself did not remember very well... “I think I was born in 1975, wandering with my parents around the foot of the bridges, along the river for living. After their death, I had been alone in life wandering everywhere till I ventured back to this fishing village and have stayed here for more than ten years now...."
Her old neighbor, Bich added, "when arriving here, she looked as awful as from the mud rising up, half as small as she is now ... We thought she was could not be alive. If she was in fact dead, it was better to put her in an old boat and let her drift away down the river ... Maybe she would get luck enough to wash ashore and people there would report the local council, so that she would get buried properly ... Everyone here is so miserable that we really couldn't do anything for her ... But she survived… She is infected with HIV.
Now she helps people in the village, fishing for about VND 50,000 a day or picking up plastic bottles along the river for her living... Sometimes, in cases of storms or heavy rains, it is considered as her whole week of hunger... Regardless of all these miseries, she always welcomes Alyssa and I with a very big nice smile whenever we come to the village.
The special thing that impresses me is how much she loves her cat. She said that she had been raising him for a long time, as her beloved child, as her best friend... That I have known of the story of the woman and her cat for years... Today, when I went to the fishing village with the volunteers, she welcomed us with her big smile as usual ... Suddenly I discovered one more dog on her boat. I asked her about the dog. "I saved it on the day of the Kitchen Guardian Day in the Year of the Dog, in 2018," she remembered. "...As I was collecting plastic bottles along the river, I saw a bag drifting... it seemed that there was something moving inside... I guessed someone had thrown away a dog or a cat so that I rowed as fast as possible.... I picked up and opened the bag. There appeared him a pitiful dog with 2 broken legs. That was probably the reason why they threw him away....” We have been living, sharing everything together, since then. For over 2 years she raised the dog and cat considering them her own children. The dog wagged her tail happily whenever seeing her.
"Can I take your picture, please." I said. She was excited running into the boat hugging the dog back for photos. "She even saves meat for them while she eats just vegetables instead," Ms. Luu, a neighbor from another boat, added. She hugged the dog up out of the boat saying happily, "Let's play for a while, babies." When she let him go on the land, the dog looked stout and strong and ran very fast regardless of her lame back legs. Watching them playing, she shouted reminding the big black dog, "just kidding baby, don't hurt your little brother!!!" Looking at her playing around happily with her cat and dog, like a child, we can see the joy and love shining strongly deep in her eyes. Despite her surrounding circumstances of hunger and poverty, her heart reflects joy and life.
She's a survivor.