If only Nhon had taken the stairs. Then he’d have had the chance to play football with Vietnam’s Paralympic football team ...
Just imagine getting to represent Vietnam in the Paralympics! Nhon found it hard to stop thinking about it, but he was woken from his daydreams by the noisy shouts of the other children. The shuttlecock was right by him on the ground. He’d missed.
Nhon picked it up and hit it with his badminton racquet. Badminton was great, but not as fun as football. And someone from Vietnam’s Olympic committee had actually approached him and asked if he wanted to be on the country’s football team for young people with disabilities. Nhon was born with a developmental disability that affects his brain function.
When he was telling the nurse later what had happened, he realised his brain had been playing tricks on him. Instead of running to the stairs and walking down, Nhon jumped. He screamed in pain as his foot collapsed beneath him. The children who had been urging him on laughed at first. Then they went quiet and ran to get the nuns.
So no Paralympic Games for Nhon. He had sprained his foot. And Vietnam’s Paralympic football team hadn’t managed to qualify anyway. So maybe it wasn’t such a big deal about his foot.
Nhon is tall next to the other children at Duc Son pagoda’s section for differently abled children. Several of the younger children are sitting in the next room, drawing. A nurse is helping a little boy who is blind.
Nhon presses brown pulp into a steel tube and turns a lever to feed the thin wooden stick through the tube. Once the stick comes out the other side, it’s a finished incense stick that can be used in the pagoda when the children and nuns are praying to Buddha. The pagoda also sells incense sticks to people who want to burn them at home.
Nhon’s mum was living on the street and begging when she fell pregnant. She met a woman who said that she should seek support fromthe nun Minh Tú at Duc Son pagoda in Huế. Shortly after, Nhon was born in the pagoda’s children’s home. He inherited his mother’s challenges, having difficulties learning to speak, read and write. He often felt angry and found it hard to control his body movements. With the support and help of the nuns and other children, Nhon has become calmer and feels better.
Nhon is popular with everyone at the pagoda. He helps out with the younger children and with cleaning while the other children are at school. When the children get back, they play football with Nhon.
Text: Erik Halkjaer
Photo: Jesper Klemedsson