Obsessed about the damage he and the US military caused for the people of Vietnam, Paul George Harding, 68, was a paratrooper back in 1969 in the Air Force Brigade 173, which participated in the Binh Dinh – Lam Dong battlefield, has returned to Vietnam to teach English, free of charge.
English class free of charge of the US veteran (Photo: vnexpress.net)
At 2pm of weekdays, the veteran starts his free English class in Trung Hoa ward, Cau Giay district, Hanoi.
Sharing the reason why he comes to Vietnam, he said in his deep voice that he decided to leave his home and family to come to Vietnam and teach English without charge, in order to offset a portion of his guilt for the past actions of the US military during the war.
"I'm very disappointed about my decision when participating in the war in Vietnam. At that time I was too young, 19 years old and I believed in the US government. Arriving in Vietnam, I realized that my decision was wrong. The memories about the war have haunted me all my life, destroying the peace in the depth of my heart. I am sorry for what I did in Vietnam and want to come back as an atonement," the US veteran lowered his head and kept saying "sorry".
Paul told of the most haunting image of his life come from when a soldier in the northern region was brutally tortured and the reactions of a little girl when she witnessed her father shot by the US soldiers so savagely that the body could not be recognized.
"As a father, I am tormented with the image of the little girl sitting beside the man, who was shot dead. In the position of the parents, I and everyone else is sure that they don’t want their children to witness this horrific spectacle," Paul said.
The intention of return to Vietnam to do something to atone has motivated Paul for a long time. His wife and four children have supported his decision because they understand the reasons behind his obsession. As soon as he retired from managing his own business in December 2014, Mr. Paul immediately flew back to the S-shaped land.
Through study, he recognized that the Vietnamese demand for learning English was intense, but the cost of a course taught by a foreign teacher very high. The US veteran saw his opportunity to give something back and teach English free of charge.
Anyone at any age and at any level can participate in his class. He primarily practices skills of listening, speaking and pronunciation. Paul doesn’t hesitate to repeat a lesson for the whole week until everyone in the class can pronounce accurately before moving to a new lesson.
He can’t speak Vietnamese so Mr. Paul is supported with teaching aids by assistant Nguyen Thi Huyen, an alumnus of the National Economic University, and a number of other Vietnamese voluntary students.
Paul’s lectures are about many fields of life, but mostly relating to the history of Vietnam. He has shared his love for this theme and has done many years of research of Vietnamese history, especially the period of war against French colonialism. Paul also collects books about Vietnamese national heroes such as President Ho Chi Minh, Nguyen Van Troi, Dang Thuy Tram. He uses the materials he has read in combination with information collected at the National Library of Vietnam to make lesson plans.
He expects that teaching English in history will help people understand the importance of these historic and contemporary factors, preserving the memory about revolutionary heroes bravely sacrificed for independence and freedom of the country.
Mr. Paul’s class has been well received by local people who report that their English capacity has been improved dramatically.
In the beginning, the class had only four students, but it now attracts over 400 people of all ages and from all walks of life including children, students, staff and retired people. Paul said he is very happy to be welcomed by the Vietnamese community.
"I have no intention of returning to the US. I am living here very comfortably and as long as I can help people, I seem to lessen the burden of the past," Paul shared and showed off that he can say "hello", "thank you" and "too expensive" in Vietnamese with everyone around. He hopes to develop models of free English classes to help more Vietnamese people./.
( Compiled by VNF )