Le Van Y, a war veteran from the Mekong River Delta province of Ben Tre spends the allowance of a war invalids and profits from his 2,700sq.m of coconut trees to assist disadvantaged students. — Photo plo.vn

Despite being a war invalid, Le Van Y, commonly known as “Tám Ý”, has overcome difficulties and lent a helping hand to disadvantaged people in the neighbourhood.

Thanks to his assistance, dozens of underprivileged students in the province have had the chance to continue their schooling over the past 40 years.

Talking about why he decided to do so, the 86-year-old man said seeing poor students reminded him of his tough life.

He said he felt pity when seeing students drop out of school due to their families’ financial difficulties.

Y said he always remembered late President Ho Chi Minh's teaching that the nation had to fight against three enemies, namely hunger, illiteracy and foreign invasions.

“I was born and grew up during the war. I did’t have chance to continue schooling so I suffered a lot of failures in my daily life,” Y told Pháp Luật thành phố Hồ Chí Minh (HCM City Legal) newspaper

“My father died when I was a small child. I dropped out of school at the age of 10 and worked as a helper to support my family,” he recalled.

Then he joined the army and ended up having a leg and hand amputated, becoming blind in one eye and suffering other wounds on his body.

After the country’s reunification in 1975, he returned home and never married.

In 1978, he came to each family to mobilise children and their families to let the kids go to school.

In addition to paying school fees, Y also bought books and other learning materials. He even provided them with rice. Initially, he succeeded in persuading eight students to go back to school.

Later, four students graduated from university while the rest have finished 12th grade.

Y said he spent the allowance of a war invalid and profits from farming 2,700sq.m of coconut trees to assist disadvantaged students. However, sometimes he had to borrow money from relatives to cover tuition fees or purchase bikes for the students.

“I have two elder brothers who are well-off. I asked my brothers to lend me gold which I would sell for money to support the students,” he said.

“I told them that it would be better to lend to me rather than keep the gold in the safe,” Y said, adding that he used money from selling coconuts and his monthly allowance to repay his debts.

Currently, he is providing assistance to more than 20 poor students.

Nguyen Thi Bang Chau, 14, from a poverty-stricken family in My Son Dong Hamlet, is among them.

Her parents had to travel tens of kilometres to earn money to support the family. They find it hard to afford three meals a day so sending the children to school is a luxury the family cannot afford.

Acknowledging the problem, Y decided to help cover Chau's tuition fees and learning materials.

“He has bought a bike for me to help me to get to school easier, as well as clothes and food,” Chau said, adding that she felt secure to continue studying with his assistance.

“I am grateful for his support and promise that I will strive to study well and never make him disappointed,” she said.

Y’s efforts have paid off as most of the students receiving his assistance study well and have success in their lives. He has become a “grandfather” to many generations.

“I feel glad as many students have been successful. Sometimes, they come to visit me although they are busy with work. I consider them my grandchildren and that feeling comforts me in my old age,” he said.

Nguyen Van Tai, a post-graduate, who is a lecturer at Can Tho University is another example.

“I am very grateful for Tam Y who supported me during my study at Can Tho University. With his help, I completed the university programme and can continue study further,” he said.

Dang Thanh Du, chairman of Mo Cay Bac District’s Veteran Association, said Ý has made a lot of contributions to the association’s work in the locality.

“He does not only whole-heartedly care for poor students but also helps other war veterans escape poverty,” he said.

Despite his weak health, he upheld the moral of Uncle Ho soldiers “thương binh tàn nhưng không phế” (Wounded soldiers are disabled but they are still useful), Du said.

For Y, helping children is his pleasure and his calling in his old age.

“I will continue to support children in difficult circumstances till the end of my life.”  VNS

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