Saturday, April 25, 2009

Agent Orange woman writes Obama

Citing herself as a living evidence of the terrible impacts of dioxin during the Vietnam War, Tran Thi Hoan, 23, who is missing two legs to her knees and her left hand, has written a letter to US President Barack Obama.

Hoan and her small corner at Hoa Binh Village, HCM City.

Hoan is a second-year student at the HCM City University of Foreign Languages and Information Technology (HUFLIT). She told VNExpress online newspaper that she wrote to President Obama a month ago, after the US Supreme Court once again rejected the petition of the Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin (VAVA).

Dang Hong Nhut, the chief of HCM City Association for Victims of AO/Dioxin Office, said that Hoan’s letter was translated by a US-based relief association for Agent Orange victims and sent to the US President. An Agent Orange victim herself, Nhut didn’t have high hopes, but she said that at the least, the letter will supply the US President more reliable information about Agent Orange victims in Vietnam.

“It is very sad because once again, the voice of Vietnamese people who became disabled because of dioxin was ignored. I decided to write the letter when by chance I read on the internet a letter Obama sent to his daughters, in which he expressed his hope that all children in the world might be happy. I thought that he is sentimental, so I wrote the letter,” Hoan said.

Hoan said in September 2008, she and Dang Hong Nhat, the chief of the HCM City Association for Victims of Agent Orange/Dioxin Office, went to the US. After meetings with American lawyers, veterans and intellectuals, Hoan was convinced that many people in the US still pay attention to Vietnamese Agent Orange victims.
“At that time, I placed hope in the petition to the US Supreme Court, but finally it was refused,” she added. She was disappointed but she didn’t give up. Hoan said her letter to Obama expresses her innermost feelings. “I hope he will spend some time to read and think about Vietnamese Agent Orange victims,” Hoan said.
Hoan has been living in the Hoa Binh (Peace) Village, ran by the HCM City-based Tu Du Obstetrics Hospital, since she was 6. Her parents are farmers in Binh Thuan province. Her six brothers and sisters show no effects of dioxin poisoning, but, Hoan says, there are many other disabled children in her home village.
Because of her handicaps, when she reached school age, Hoan was not admitted by local schools. Luckily, someone advised Hoan’s parents to bring her to Hoa Binh Village, where the disabled child was accepted and where she has now lived for 17 years.
“After school hours, I help others to take care of kids living in the village,” Hoan said. In Hoa Binh Village, there are dozens of disabled children who are second, third and even fourth generation Agent Orange victims. Inside bodies handicapped by dioxin, their hearts still beat stronger than ever.
Hoan said she has been luckier than many other Agent Orange victims, and still hopes her small letter will reach President Obama.
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