Running for Dung

Thang : “When I think about Solidarity Day, I still become very excited! When school resumed last year, the teacher told us we could join the race. Younger pupils could run as well, but not in the race. I felt proud but worried because I knew I had to train for the 3km marathon. Instead of taking my bicycle, I would run to school every day. There was such a crowd on the day of the race! We were so excited that we ran much too quickly to be able to finish the marathon. Many friends encouraged us along the way and I pushed myself—I dared not to stop! 500m before the finish line, I became exhausted and felt as if my head could explode.  I looked behind me and thoughts rushed through my head.  What if our school did not win the race? I thought about Dung and her 2 severely handicapped brothers.  People say it was caused by Agent Orange used during the war. It’s difficult for Dung to take moments to rest because her brothers need constant care. Her parents are day laborers; thus, when they are unable to find work, there is no food for the family. Dung’s family has received support from the community.  Neighbors gave Dung a bicycle and last year, Mekong Plus awarded Dung a scholarship. I thought more about Dung and other schoolchildren in similar circumstances.  If only our school could win the race, Dung’s chances would be better. Dung’s face would not leave my mind. Suddenly, I felt as if I had springs in my legs! I ran as fast as I could. We won that day, and 9 days later I learned that Dung had received a scholarship. I think back and feel so happy that I ran that day!”

Anh, grade 8: “I am lucky, we have all that we need at home. When we returned to school last August, the teacher asked if we wanted to join the Solidarity Race. We thought this was a wonderful idea and so much more meaningful than the amount of money collected. The day of the race, the teacher reminded us that this was not just any ordinary race; we should think about the meanings and implications of it. We succeeded and our friends received scholarships. (…) My parents complained, “You are one of the best students, how is it the others have a scholarship and not you?”  I explained to them that the race was to demonstrate solidarity with the poorest in the village in order to continue their schooling. It was a profound experience and now, the only thing I hope is for this project to continue and expand! I would like to extend a big “thank you!”
[Translated by Bernard Kervyn, 13/3/09]

*Video: see how Dung takes care of her brothers after school. Very moving.