"We are One Family," Says Vietnamese Father of Laotian Students

Colonel Nguyen Duc Hanh, Chairman of the Vietnam - Laos Friendship Association in Thai Binh province, is happy to show the photo of his adopted son Bounpheng Lathamsathith saved on his phone, who is working as a surgeon at Hanoi - Vientiane General Hospital.
June 24, 2022 | 06:58

Bounpheng Lathamsathith is the first adopted son who spent the most time with Colonel Nguyen Duc Hanh.

Bounpheng Lathamsathith had to suffer a lot in his life. When he was Head of the Lao Student Liaison Department at Thai Binh University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Bounpheng was devastated when his father died in an accident while his mother was old. At that time, it was Colonel Nguyen Duc Hanh and the Vietnam - Laos Friendship Association of Thai Binh province who was staying by his side, encouraging and supporting him to continue his studies.

Colonel Nguyen Duc Hanh (white shirt, second from left) took a photo with his adopted son Bounpheng's family on the day Bounpheng received his diploma

Taking his adoptive father’s advice, Bounpheng strived to study well and achieved many good results. On the day Bounpheng received his diploma, his family went to Thai Binh to attend the graduation ceremony and took him home. Colonel Hanh and the Vietnam - Laos Friendship Association in Thai Binh again provided his family with accommodation and received them as valued guests. The moment Hanh took photos with Bounpheng and his family during the graduation ceremony was an unforgettable moment for him.

Returning to Laos, Bounpheng currently works at Hanoi - Vientiane General Hospital. Every week, he calls to check on Hanh and his family. When Vientiane was severely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, Bounpheng was "on duty" regularly at the hospital. During that time, Colonel Hanh was very worried about him. He often texted to ask about his situation and encouraged Bounpheng to stay healthy.

Colonel Nguyen Duc Hanh also adopted 5 Laotian students. Other Laotian students at Thai Binh University of Medicine and Pharmacy also call Colonel Hanh "dad". Since the establishment of the Vietnam - Laos Friendship Association in Thai Binh and running the "homestay" program, its members have sponsored hundreds of overseas students, receiving them at their homes every weekend, during summer vacation or Tet holiday to help students familiarize themselves with Vietnamese customs and practices.

Initially, overseas students were not fluent in Vietnamese and were new to everything in Vietnam. Hanh often receives messages such as: "Dad, I went in the wrong lane", "Dad, my papers are overdue"... Each time, he tries his best to solve the problems for his adopted kids, even though there are things beyond his ability, he can only offer encouraging words and loving advice.

When the adopted children gather at his home, he gives money to the children to go to the market, cook rice, and make their own Laotian specialties in the family meal such as bamboo shoot soup, and papaya salad… Having fun with his children to preparing dishes, he does not forget to encourage them to study hard.

“Education has to be a top priority. As for affection, we are one family, when we see rice we eat, when we see work we do," Hanh told his adopted children.

Colonel Nguyen Duc Hanh at a meal prepared by his adopted children.

Hanh still remembers Sanout Sodarluck, a student at Thai Binh University of Medicine and Pharmacy who had a cerebrovascular accident and fortunately received timely emergency care. The Vietnam - Laos Friendship Association in Thai Binh mobilized tens of millions dong so that his family could go to Thai Binh. Sanout's grandparents and parents did not know Vietnamese; even when they were hungry, they did not know how to ask for instruction.

Then, the Vietnam - Laos Friendship Association coordinated with the school and the Lao Student Liaison Board to join hands with his family to take care of Sanout. Six months later, Colonel Hanh again helped bring Sanout to the airport to return to Laos. Feeling grateful and touched by his affection, Sanout often called Hanh and his family.

For Colonel Nguyen Duc Hanh, it is very natural to adopt, sponsor or cooperate with Thai Binh University of Medicine and Pharmacy to take care of Laotian students. That act comes from his affection for Laos, which he still considers his second homeland, and at the same time to repay the favor of the Lao people who had nurtured him over the years he did his duty in the enemy's area to establish a revolutionary base.

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