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Friday, 15 August 2014 00:00

"I Want To Be a Boy!"

She was talking to me

She is 17 years old, the most beautiful period in a female life. At her age, she would have so many dreams, expectations and aspirations if she were a normal teenager. Unfortunately, she is mentally ill.

I visited her and her family on a summer afternoon after 6 hours riding on a bus and a motorcycle taxi. Her house is so tiny and in very bad shape. It doesn't even have a bathroom. More than 10 people live in this small house where everything is broken. Her parents are over 50 years old and have been struggling with their living. Her dad is a motorcycle taxi driver and her mom a housemaid. They make barely enough for the daily needs of the whole family.

This is her house. Only the façade is built, the other parts are made of woven coconut fronds

According to her mother, she was a well-behaved and obedient girl. She studied so hard, hoping that with good grades, she will be able to find a job to help her parents. Nobody could imagine that her dream was all of a sudden shattered. She was raped on her way home from school through a deserted plain on an evening. She was 14 years old on that fatal day. She did not remember how many people they were and how she could get home. What people know is she was extremely frightened that she became mentally ill afterwards. Her family took her to all kinds of philter specialists and this lack of knowledge only worsened her mental condition. It was already too late when they brought her to a hospital. She became seriously mentally ill. Her parents ran out of money after more than 2 years of treatment. Now they can't even afford prescriptions to cut down her crises. They must chain her any time she has a crisis and let her screaming every night. She has a crisis every other day and when it comes, she takes all her clothes off, runs far away or rushes towards the plain and eats the muddy soil.

 The girl and her mom at a corner of the kitchen, where her mom chains her to the bed footboard when she has a crisis.

She was of sound mind when I came to see her. I teased her for her boy cut hairstyle: "Why do you like this boy cut? Tell me, do you want to be a girl or a boy?" She responded: "I want to be a boy! Nobody could grab me then." I managed to choke back my tears when hearing her answer. I didn't know whether she was still "grabbed" when rushing out naked toward the deserted plain.

I felt so sad after saying good bye to her family. I sat down next to a trench in front of her house for almost an hour thinking of how I can assist them. I discussed the possibility of providing her with the medication and the monthly financial support with the Management of the OBV Vietnam. With Father Thong's approval, I met with Father Tuan who has spent all his life caring for the mental ill patients to talk about the mental disorders of this poor girl. Fr. Tuan gave me the prescriptions but it was not that easy to find these medicines in Vietnam.

I begged Fr. Tuan to resell me the medicines then I divided them up into daily portions. I bought 10-day medication at first then 20-day later. I come to check on her condition when she's about to run out of her medicines. She has been improving a lot. Her mother says she has gradually been out of her crises, eats and sleeps more. She can now help her mom with the house chores. She doesn't wander and wear torn clothes any more ... Keep it up, girl! Once you are cured, OBV will sign you up for vocational classes for your dream of helping your family come true. Previously sounded impossible, that simple dream is now feasible. Try your best and don't give up, little girl! There are a lot of big hearts and helping hands out there for you. I hope that one day I will see you with long hair style and cheerful smiles instead of manic smiles which only existed in the past.

By Thien Dang

5-2014

Translated by Le-Anh.  Original version in Vietnamese entitled "Em Chỉ Muốn Làm Con Trai Thôi .."

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