Ngo Quy Hai, 27, from Ngoc Hoi district, Kon Tum province, Vietnam, was born healthy. However, at the age of nearly 1, he was severely burned, making his face deformed. During his childhood, there were no children in the village who would play with Hai. His only friend at that time was a deaf mute boy near his house. “We both share the same sadness that no one wants to be friends with us,” Hai said.
At the age of 6, Hai was brought to school by his parents. After four months, the boy insited on refusing to go to school because he was often teased and discriminated against by his friends. Hai’s childhood was just around in his mother’s small grocery store.
Visiting the city for the first time at the age of 10, Hai and his best friend stood in front of a luxurious bakery with a variety of cakes for the first time. Two children wished they could taste it. Back home, Hai tried to save money for many months. When he had enough money to buy a piece of cake, he and his best friend happily took each other to the street to buy cake.
“However, after we had entered the store, the staff did not listen to our explanation but called the security to kick us out. At that time, I felt very disappointed and sad. That day was also my friend’s birthday”, Quy Hai recalled.
Despite always having a dream in his heart, Hai knew it’s extremely difficult to make it come true. The older he got, the lonelier Hai felt because he was unable to overcome the guilt with her scarred face.
At the age of 15, Hai began to think about the future. He strongly got out of the house, looking for a place for vocational training, but he wasn’t admitted for the reasons such as illiteracy, ugly appearance or not healthy enough. “I used to just stay at home for more than two years. I let myself free and accept the fate”, Hai said. By the age of 22, Hai’s world was only in his small house.
In 2016, Hai was sponsored by a charity organization to fly to Germany for a cosmetic surgery to improve his skin. The trip not only changed Hai’s appearance positively, but also changed his mind”
After 21 days in a coma, Hai woke up. Seeing that he was sad because he was homesick, German doctors and nurses opened hometown-related songs. They also learned greetings in Vietnamese to visit and encourage Hai. Knowing that Hai was hospitalized, the people in the Vietnamese community traveled a long distance to visit him. For the first time, the young man welcomed the new age with strangers with a warm birthday party.
“I don’t think there are so many good people, not everyone discriminates and dismisses me. In the hospital, I see many people come to surgery with more severe burns than they are still optimistic. Being outside, I see myself still very lucky,” Hai said.
Returning to his hometown after the trip, Hai enrolled in a kitchen apprenticeship in a center in Hanoi with the determination to fulfill his dream at the age of 10.
Nguyen Thi Huong, 24 years old, a friend in Hai’s kitchen class recalls: “Hai is not only the one with the most different appearance compared to his classmates, but also the one with the lowest starting point because he is illiterate. While learning a job, Hai has to take advantage of the rest of the day and at night to practice writing. Hai is ten times as hard as others.”
The first lesson at the vocational school, while his classmates could copy 2 pages of notebooks, Hai could only write 2 lines with single letters. After nearly two months, with up to 2 hours of writing practice nights, Hai was able to write fluently.
“At the vocational school, for the first time in my life, I was exposed to many people and made many friends. They put their arms around me while taking souvenir photos, making me not feel lonely. Everyone here has a difficult situation of their own. We consider each other as brothers and we no longer see the difference,” Hai said.
Nguyen Thanh Thuy, a life skills teacher at the Koto center at that time recalled, Hai always had a pen and paper in hand to take notes. At that time, the young man was very weak, but worked hard in the kitchen to practice. He was always worried about whether his appearance affects his application to a job. “The day he graduated, I cried because Hai’s efforts were successful,” Thuy said.
Despite often telling teachers and classmates his dream of opening a bakery after graduating, Hai did not immediately return to his hometown. Instead, he chose to find a job in restaurants to gain experience. “My world is still very small, I think I should go out to experience more,” Hai said.
Earlier this year, the 27-year-old returned to his hometown Ngoc Hoi and opened coffee shop with cakes, milk tea as a gift for the children of his hometown. Hai hopes that children like him in the past will not have to go to the street to see and buy delicious cakes.
The guy stands at the bakery all day, happily communicates with customers without any shy. Seeing children wandering to sell lottery tickets, Hai often called them in the bakery and invited them to eat a cake.
However, there are also many times when a few customers quickly left after entering Hai’s shop and seeing him, making him feel disappointed.
“I was only sad for a few seconds at that moment. The bakery is my whole childhood, my trying youth. When I fulfill my promise to myself, I feel relieved,” Hai shared.