Blind but ambitious teacher Nguyen Phuoc Thien travels 420 km every weekend to teach English lessons to children living in poverty.
Blind but a vision in the mind
People living in Nguyen Thien Thuat Apartment Building in Ditrict 3, Ho Chi Minh City all know about Nguyen Phuoc Thien, a blind English teacher who has extraordinary energy and a kind heart.
Teacher Thien and his students in Phan Thiet
Teacher Thien lost his sight when he was 9 years old after a fall which detached his retinas. His mother had to try hard to persuade the local schools to accept her disabled son to continue his studies with normal students.
Thien worked hard to follow his classmates. To the surprise and admiration of everybody, he finished high school with high marks. With a love for English, the young boy enrolled and passed the entrance exam to Ho Chi Minh City University for Teachers Training, majoring in English. After 4 years, he received a BA.
When asked why he want to be a teacher, Thien recalled a time when he was in high school. “Seeing my good English, my classmates asked me to tutor them,” he remembered. “And I realised I like this work.”
Now, teacher Thien has had thousands of students. Through some distance-training courses, he has students from as far as the central Nghe An Province or the Northern Nam Dinh Province.
And a warm heart
Thien only spends 50% of his income, the rest he supports for charity work. “Although I am blind, I know there are still many more people suffering much more than me,” he expressed. “I understand them and I want to share the pain with them.”
Besides English, the teacher also teaches his students to treasure the life and open their heart for unlucky people.
In a business trip to Phan Thiet City in the southern central province of Binh Thuan, Thien was moved when hearing about many small children having no chance for school. “This is a tourist destination and they are trying to earn money by providing some services for visitors,” Thien said. “I had thought a lot about how to help them and then I decided that the best way is to teach them English.”
Under the blazing summer heat, the blind teacher went to each child and persuaded them to join his free English class. More than 100 children have joined the class. It was really a challenge for the blind teacher at first because these students come from very different backgrounds. However, his enthusiasm has won the hearts of students.
Teacher Thien in a class organised at his home
The class is organised every weekend. On Saturday morning, Thien has to get up very early to take a xe om to Sai Gon Station and then catch a train to Phan Thiet. After finishing the last lesson on Sunday afternoon, he catches the train back to Sai Gon. This timetable has been strictly followed for over a year. It costs some VND 3 million ($150) for each trip and his poor students are trying to help him with the costs.
Teaching equipment he brings to these classes include a laptop and a guitar. “Sometimes I teach my students through songs,” Thien said. “Music usually gets to the mind more easily.”
Thien has made two albums for teaching. He is also working as a translator and interpreter to support his elderly mother as well as performing social work.
Teacher Thien's mother is very proud of her son