They call him “Little Long” because he is short, but if you saw a picture of him with nothing to compare his height with, you would see a normal 26-year-old man, perfect in all aspects, not dwarfed. He is just little. Long was born to a poor veteran family and has a sibling who is also very short. He could not go to school because the prevailing attitude was that it was a waste of money educating someone who was so “different.” When Little Long came to the village he met Suel Jones, a veteran of the American war (as it is called in Viet Nam) who volunteered for many years at the village. People who knew Long at that time will tell you that at first he could not even look people in the eye when talking because of his low self-esteem. He was not used to talking to anyone and would break into nervous giggles when asked even a simple question. One got the impression that he was mentally disabled. But after getting to know him, Suel realized that Little Long was in fact quite smart. In subsequent conversations, Long confided to Suel that his big dream was to study IT (Information Technology) so that he could do what every other young man does—make money, help his family, find a girlfriend, start a family of his own. To do these things he needed a profession. Eventually Suel organized a group of his expat friends to raise the money to send Little Long to school to study IT. This is how Little Long started out as a resident at the village and is now a teacher. Thanks to his own efforts and the help of many friends at VFV and abroad, Long can now look you in the eye and tell you what he thinks.
August 15, 2012
June 5, 2012
Meet Ms. Pham Thi Long, Housemother at Friendship Village. During Ms. Long’s 10 years at VFV, she has seen many children come and go. Some came in wheelchairs and left walking. She thinks that simply the improved sanitation and nutrition of the village makes a big difference in the students’ health. Many, of course, come from quite poor families where a disabled child cannot get much attention because parents are busy working. Many spent all day (and night) in one spot with little stimulation or interaction with others. At VFV they have friends/roommates who understand people living with disabilities because they themselves live with disabilities. Ms. Long has much work to do looking after so many of “her children,” but receives lots of help from the less limited-functioning housemates. She says that she just does not know what she would do if the residents did not help each other. It is just like a big family.