Vietnamese-American handicapped athlete: Never surrender

The athlete made the Paralympics Emerging Swim team at the age of 12 and is hoping to participate at the 2020 or 2024 Games (source: Caters News Agency) 

(VNF) – An accident took away Haven Shepherd’s legs when she was just a few months old. Nonetheless, nothing can take away her iron wills. The girl keeps on pursuing her dream of becoming a swimming athlete, who can represent the US in Paralympics.

Angel Sinclair, founder of Models of Diversity has described Haven as a true example to others

Without legs, Haven still achieves success (source: Caters News Agency)

Never surrender

Haven Shepherd was born in Tien Phuoc district, the central province of Quang Nam, Vietnam with the name Do Thi Phuong in 2003. Her birth was the fruit of a tragic extra-marriage affair.

Her parents, who could not endure the pressure from their families, came up with an irrational decision: detonating an explosive to commit suicide, together with their little child.

Haven's parents had an affair and situation, her parents decided to commit a family suicide by strapping bombs to themselves and holding their baby girl.

Haven lost her leg when her parents strapped bombs to themselves and holding their baby girl (source: Caters News Agency)

Haven was lucky to survive the explosion, however the incident took away her leg (from knees downward) forever. Her grandparents, because of poverty, could not afford her medical treatment fees and take care of her, either. Being touched by the hardships facing the little girl, an American couple from Missouri had travelled 14,000 km to Vietnam to adopt Haven when she was 20 months old.

Under the care of her adopted parents, Haven got prosthetic limps. She was passionate in sports, begin learning swimming four years ago, and has shown the potential of a future star.

Haven was accepted by a school specializing in training special athletes, and is expected to become the next brilliant generation of disabled athletes who

Apart from swimming, Haven, who is now 14, is an active member of the project “Model of Diversity” – a TV show aiming at inspiring people with disabilities around the globe.

With her participation in the program, Haven hopes that she will set an example for the disabled like herself, boosting their belief and help them enjoy life to the fullest like the way she does.

The athlete made the Paralympics Emerging Swim team at the age of 12 and is hoping to participate at the 2020 or 2024 Games

Haven said, when people observed her performance in competition, they were extremely astounded at the iron will and the capability of a handicapped girl.

“I wish that when others see me, they will think that having prosthetic limps is nothing odd. Being different is an absolutely normal thing. I want them to accept the difference in others, and think positively even when they have something different.” Have excitedly talked about her journey of inspiring others.

Fabulous family

“My family is amazing. My parents always encourage me to move forward, not allowing me to give up just because I am wearing prosthetic limps,” Haven said.

“I still remember, one day, I was watching girls playing basket ball on TV, and what came to my mind was “I cannot play like they do because I’ve lost my legs. But one of my elder sister had told me to try it, instead of grieving over my problem. At that moment, I thought she was a bit harsh on me, but her advice was actually helpful.”

Her adoptive parents, Shelly and Rob, knew about Haven via the charity foundation “Touch A Life” in 2005, and immediately took a flight to Vietnam to adopt her.

“I had heard about Haven’s story, that her grandparents were too poor to bring up a handicapped child. I had talked to my husband on my decision. At first, he seemed to be hesitant. But when he saw Haven, he immediate fell in love with her,” said Shelly, Haven’s adoptive mother.

“Haven is very close to her dad. When she was little, she could not sleep well without daddy’s cuddle.”

“As time goes by, Haven has proved us that, it was her who chose us, not the other way round. She has proved us that there is nothing wrong with having prosthetic legs.” The mother of 7 kids said.

At 20-months-old, Haven was adopted by the Shelly and Rob Shepherd who flew 8,500 miles from Carthage in Missouri to bring the little girl home

Haven (center) and her adopted parents (source: Caters News Agency)

Shelly said she was thinking a lot of whether she should tell Haven the true story of her life. But at the end of the day, she decided to tell Haven everything, since she thought that her biological parents is part of her life. Haven, after knowing her story, accepted the truth, instead of hiding away from it.

According to Haven's mom, people usually stereotype the disabled and she herself once though that Haven should have a quieter life after what she had gone through. But Haven did not take that option. She didn’t want to play the piano like what her parents liked her to do, and chose sports instead.

In her free time, Haven loves visiting centers, hospitals for the handicapped, using her own story to encourage the patients. That's how she inspires other people, from the nine-year-old kids to the elderly, leading them to find their sense of happiness and positivity.

Haven Shepherd, 14, from Missouri lost her legs as a baby in Vietnam when her birth parents detonated a bomb, but she is now a model and Paralympic hopeful

Haven is also a model (source: Caters News Agency)

"In other kids' eyes, she is an amazing friend. Haven inspires every of us by her iron will, optimism, and her radiant smiles," said Shelly.

"She told us that she wanted to be a makeup artist and skincare specialist in the future," she added.

Angel Sinclair, founder of the Model of Diversity, said Haven is an excellent example of people who never give up, never surrender and never let anything, including their impairment hinder the way to dream./.

( Translated by Phi Yen )

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