Cuong is 16 years old, and at the same time, is the only breadwinner of a family of four. The boy has to leave a lot behind to take on the responsibility.
The rustic wooden road-side house in Ba Khan commune, Mai Chau district, Hoa Binh province barely has anything but a mat on the floor of the living room and a few beds in the inner side with worn-out pillows and blankets. Don’t mention the dark kitchen, and nothing as a bathroom. Wind and dust can freely roam inside the house.
Cuong and his mother are busy scaling loads of sweet potatoes in front of the house. But none of those goods are theirs, they only do the scaling service which hardly helps them earn well.
The family owns a few acres of corn farming, but a recent flood swiped all before they could do anything. Something common in this mountainous area.
Layers of difficulties laid on their backs, but it is not something that happened overnight.
It started 9 years ago when Cuong’s father had a serious traffic accident and got his back severely injured. He couldn’t do anything but staying in bed, not mentioning working. As if the burden of feeding two growing kids and a patient was not hard enough, a few months ago, the father’s condition got even worse.
His kidneys, after a long time of serving a motionless body, became inflamed. He has to be transported to the hospital in the town to have hemodialysis, monthly. The family got deeper and deeper in debts.
That’s why Cuong had to drop out of school after finishing secondary. He can’t afford his studying when his father remains in bed with multiple diseases, his mother is ailing and younger brother is at primary school. The 16 year old boy decided it was time for him to take on the challenge.
But he actually has limited options: He can’t go away to the towns or cities to work, who will take care of the family back home? No one will hire an adolescent anyway. Jobs around the commune are also scarce and enough adults are in line.
Not a dry eye remains listening to Cuong’s story. Those problems seem to never go away.
His only hope now relies on a pregnant pig in the shelter behind the house. The sow and a few materials for the shelter were given to him by Mai Chau ADP of World Vision Vietnam as he was among 10 MVC (most vulnerable children) in Ba Khan commune chosen for a training session on livestock.
Cuong joined a week long workshop to learn how to take care of the pig, prevent diseases for her, and of course, get her inseminated. With those knowledge, Cuong has devoted his time for the pig, hoping she grows well and reproduces.
The hard work seems to pay off. Recently the sow has given birth to some piglets so that Cuong can grow until they are big enough for selling.
A light at the end of the tunnel but it is still too early for Cuong to come back to his dreams. Cuong wishes to be able to resume the education soon, to finish high school then college. He wants to become a doctor to cure his father and take care of his mother and younger brother.
But at least he can stick to his biggest desire now: To stay near his family and start his own business right on the soil of his home town.