by Chi An
People in Ta Po Commune in Nam Giang District of the central province of Quang Nam often speak of Coor Denh and his wife with love.
The couple has done a lot and also spent VND200 million (more than US$9,500) from their own savings to build a bridge that saves the people from danger.
Earlier, every time the local people wanted to leave their Vinh Hamlet, they had to walk across a bamboo bridge that spanned a 20-metre wide stream. It was dangerous during floods and many tragic accidents have taken place.
The people wanted a solid bridge and their long-awaited wish finally came true towards the end of 2012. The villagers were very excited to walk across the concrete bridge built by Coor Denh, an ethnic Co Tu man, and his wife.
Denh told us: “Ten years ago, after working in the afternoon, I witnessed a boy from my village being swept away by strong currents when he tried to cross the stream. Since that tragic accident, the image of that drowned student has haunted me. I wished that someday I could build a bridge to help the villagers to prevent any chance of someone drowning while wading through the stream.”
Denh, 28, kept the idea in mind and hoped that his dream come true one day.
But he said he understood that he could not just dream. He worked tirelessly and, finally, he saved VND200 million after many years of hard work in his field in the mountains.
One night in August 2012, Denh could not sleep. He went out and looked anxiously towards the bamboo bridge that the villagers used every day despite their worries.
After that, he talked to his wife about his idea of using the money they had earned to build a bridge. Initially, upon hearing her husband’s “crazy idea”, his wife said she thought he was mad. However, after hearing his explanation, she finally agreed and was determined to help her husband fulfill his aspiration as well as of hundreds of villagers.
About the Co Tu
Proper name: The Co Tu say that in their language “Co Tu” means “people living upstream” or “people of the highlands”. Traditionally, they lived near the sources of mountain streams.
Local groups: Co Tu pung (Co Tu in lowland areas), Co Tu cha lau (in midland regions) and Co Tu driu (Co Tu in highlands).
History: The Co Tu are permanent inhabitants of mountainous areas of the north-western part of Quang Nam Province and south-western part of Thua Thien-Hue Province. They also live in Laos.
They are among the oldest inhabitants of the Truong Son mountain range.
Area of habitation: The Co Tu live in the central provinces of Quang Nam and Thua Thien-Hue, often in small villages of 15, 30 or 40 stilt houses.
Livelihood: The Co Tu practise slash-and-burn cultivation. Besides rice (their staple food), they grow maize, beans, sweet potatoes, cassava, melons, vegetables and bananas.
Livestock breeding includes buffaloes, pigs, dogs and chicken.
In some areas along the Viet Nam-Laos border, the Co Tu make handicrafts including textiles and pottery. Basketry is particularly developed. There is a limited monetised economy and bartering still prevails in some areas.
Social organisation: Community relations in villages are strong. The territory of the village is defined by an autonomous customary administration, led by the most respected village elder. Differences in social classes have not developed.
Population: Nearly 90,000 Co Tu live in Quang Nam and Thua Thien-Hue. Some live in Laos.
Quang Nam Province is home to about 48,440 people, including 13,280 in Nam Giang District.
Language: Their language belongs to the Mon-Khmer group (of the Austroasiatic language family). They have their own written language based on the Roman alphabet since 1952 but it is not widely used today.
“That night, on hearing what he said, at first I thought he was crazy. But later, I realized that this is a significant way of helping the people, so I had no objection,” said Denh’s wife, Po Loong Miu.
“We both worked together so that our hamlet could soon have a solid bridge that would help people travel, and particularly assure children that they could go to school safely.”
Denh and his wife went to the nearby town to buy each bag of cement, sand and stone to bring back to their hamlet. They cast each pillar for the bridge manually, and then asked villagers to help make concrete to build the bridge.
After three months, the bridge of their dreams was completed and it was put into use in January 2013.
One of the first men to walk on the concrete bridge, village chief Coor Che, cheerfully said: “This bridge was built with labour and money from Coor Denh and his wife to help villagers, so from now on we no longer have to worry when passing over the stream. We are deeply grateful to them.”
Indeed, the hearts of people like Denh and his wife have to be respected and there should be more like them in the society, said the chairman of the People’s Committee of Nam Giang District, Cho Rum Nhien.
“While the State’s budget still has not dealt with all the activities in the mountainous districts across the country, the efforts and public awareness of young people like Denh are important,” he said. — VNS