27-year-old Ngo Quy Hai is a burn survivor who conquered many challenges to get where he is today- a prize bakery owner in Kon Tum city, his birthplace. Although his coffee and cake shop presents many of the best things about Vietnam, there lies a story riddled with struggle and bravery behind the warm hospitality that his eatery named Sunhouse Coffee offers.
“I am more than how I look,” he told The Epoch Times. “Do not call me harsh words. I am a survivor.” Hai was only a toddler when an accident forever change his life. While pushing a baby walking in the kitchen, he accidentally fell into the woodstove thus resulting in burns to a huge portion of his body.
“Baby walkers were common back then and there wasn’t knowledge about how dangerous they can be,” he explained. Following the accident, Hai was taken to Children’s Hospital 1 in Saigon. He remained their two years undergoing various treatments and intensive care to save his life. What followed was countless reconstruction surgeries, but even then he was left with significant scarring.
‘I Am More Than How I Look’: Burn Survivor Goes From Hiding at Home to Opening Bakery pic.twitter.com/VXehyGcS5f
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More than his physical appearance and pain, it was the emotional trauma that he had a hard time overcoming. He was ruthlessly bullied but Hai did not give up but bravely created a path for himself. “I felt alone growing up and didn’t have many friends. I felt ostracized from society. When I tried to find work, I was mocked and ridiculed. I didn’t leave my house at one point for almost two years.”
His absence from school resulted in him falling behind in his studies, but he managed to find one good friend during this time, who himself had disabilities. “Sometimes I think it is fate that brought us together,” he said of his pal. “We’ve played together since we were very young and have experienced many joys and sorrows as we both shared the same sadness that no one wanted to play with us.”
It was his family’s support and a course in a hospitality training school in Hano through KOTO, that finally helped him learn how to write and explore his passion for music. Opening up a bakery had been a childhood dream for Hai who recalls how he and his friend had been kicked out of a bakery they had wanted to visit for long. “We were very poor so our clothes weren’t as fancy as some people’s and they didn’t listen to our explanation either. They chased us away,” he shared.
“It was humiliating,” recalled Hai, “But it’s an experience that has made me who I am today. It made me know in my heart what I wanted to do. I was going to open up my own bakery so I could bake delicious and beautiful cakes and serve good food to everyone, whether they be rich or poor. I would not discriminate; everyone would be welcome.” All he wishes to do now is spread kindness in this world of hardships.
“It was lovely to see so many smiling faces. I see a lot of children on the streets selling lottery tickets and I always invite them in for a piece of cake. We don’t know the hardships others have faced. Be kind,” he said. “It’s my dream now to help others through similar hardships that I have been through. It is by giving back that one can make a difference in society.”
Cover image source: YouTube Screenshot | Vietnam News