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Learning to overcome adversity

 

The joy of receiving the Australian Awards Scholarship of new recipient Ms. Phan Thi Rat
The joy of receiving the Australian Awards Scholarship of new recipient Ms. Phan Thi Rat

Education &Times Newspaper – On the Pre-Departure Briefing Session for Australia Awards recipients, Ms. Phan Thi Rat, a special Master candidate, received a lot of congratulations from her friends and fellow recipients. With her bright smile, Rat inspires people around her to live positively and strive forward. 

Relentlessly pursuing knowledge 

Born into a low-income family in Phuoc Diem commune, Ninh Phuoc district, Ninh Thuan province, like her sisters, Rat’s limbs have been weak since childhood. Rat finds it difficult to move, to hold and to grasp things. Her study journey was extremely difficult, sometimes it seemed that she would have to give up her dream. At primary school, Rát could walk a short distance by herself. To continue her study at secondary school which was about 5 km away from her home, she was helped by relatives, family members and friends to go to school for 4 years. According to Rát, during all these years, she did not dare to look directly into the eyes of other people. The disabled body gave this sea-born girl the feeling of inferiority which made her alienated from her friends and she become a maudlin.

After completing high school, she wondered whether to study further or not. “I remember what my father told me – Try your best to study further, someone will help you eventually.” – shared Rát. Rát had a real struggle during the first days she came to HCMC for school. Far from her relatives and friends, along with her shyness, Rát did not dare to ask for any help. From going to the market, washing, cooking and catching buses, Rát had to manage to do it all on her own.

In 2011, during her study at Ho Chi Minh City Open University, she received the DRD’s Companion scholarship, which she paid back by tutoring children who were in the same situation at the May Man Shelter (Binh Tan District, HCMC). Looking at the boys and the girls studying avidly with smiling faces, despite their disabilities, made her feel warm. That was the first time in her life Rát realized that she was lucky because she still had her family, teachers and friends who supported and loved her. A body defect is just an inconvenience Ráther than a disability.

Since understanding this, she has started to open her heart, learn to listen and share her stories and viewpoints about life with others. She became a leader in social work. With love and support from teachers, friends, and her love for study, Phan Thi Rát completed a four-year program at the university, started to work and pursue higher education goals. In 2013, Rát was praised as one of the 12 most outstanding people with disabilities in Vietnam and she met with Mr. Truong Tan Sang, President of Vietnam.

Open the door to the world 

Though her work at the Center for Disability Research and Capacity Development (DRD), Rát was inspired by her colleagues who are Australian Awards alumni. With enthusiastic support from them, Rát’s application was successful. Because of her difficulty in English competency, the scholarship program given Rát a three-month English course at RMIT University to improve her English skills and obtain the required scores for admission at Flinders University, Australia. The scholarship for people with severe disability like Rát includes an additional person to take care of and support her in her daily activities. 

Recalling the special moment, Rát said she was bursting with happiness when she was informed by the Australia Awards Scholarship. This recognition makes her feel more motivated and more valuable. She strongly feels that if they are given opportunities, people with disabilities can also contribute to the community and society. Her luggage to Australia was filled with encouragements and expectations from family and friends. Phan Thi Rai aims to return after two years of study, and in addition to helping and sharing knowledge about people in need, she will promote job support and counseling services for people with disabilities; advising businesses to create conditions for people with disabilities to work on an equal basis as all other workers.

“My life has changed significantly. I do not care about my disability, I do not have the fear of being looked at or commented on any more. I become confident at school, free to have fun and glow with great happiness when I can do what I want” - said Phan Thi Rát.

Source: Translation of an article in Education and Times Newspaper