The incense seller in Thuy Xuan village raises money for children with cancer


HueRain or shine, the disease makes the village empty, Mother Tuyet still sells goods to have money to help unfortunate lives.

In the days leading up to Tet, at 7 am, Ms. Ton Nu Anh Tuyet was busy packing, spreading colorful bundles of incense sticks on the shelves, hanging conical hats overhead. Whenever a guest passes by, she invites her with a Hue accent: “Son, take a photo”. Small figure, hunched back, quickly put up chairs and took conical hats for guests.

Ms. Tuyet is more than 70 years old this year, working as a incense in Thuy Xuan village, January 2022 Photo: Dau Anh Van.

Mrs. Tuyet does not remember how old she is this year, only knows that she has followed her grandfather to make incense since the age of 9 and has been with Thuy Xuan incense village for decades now. Located about 7 km southwest of Hue City, this is the largest traditional incense village in Hue, famous for hundreds of years.

In recent years, the incense village has become a familiar destination for tourists when coming to Hue. Incense makers like Mrs. Tuyet have more jobs selling souvenirs and welcoming visitors. For her, when many people are interested in spreading the traditional craft of the village, that is the most fun thing.

But not everyone comes to Thuy Xuan for the colorful bouquets. Many people come to find Mother Tuyet after hearing the story that for 7 years, most of her sales profits have been donated to children suffering from serious diseases at Hue Central Hospital.

The charm that brought her to volunteering was during a hospital visit to a close friend with cancer. She met a child about 5 years old with one eye gone, one eye swollen, and asked the family that she had corneal cancer. At that time, she put all of her money into 100,000 VND, but her best friend had a wish to spend that money for the poor child. “Mother knows that she has to love children with cancer, like a predestined mother to meet her,” said Mrs. Tuyet.

Since then, every month, the pediatric patients of the Oncology Department receive an envelope with 100,000 VND and some sweets from Mother Tuyet. She knows 100,000 dong is nothing to well-to-do families, but for a child with a serious illness, it is encouragement to them.

Shops selling incense and souvenirs of Mother Tuyet in Thuy Huong village, January 2022.  Photo: Dau Anh Van.

Shops selling incense and souvenirs of Mother Tuyet in Thuy Huong village, January 2022. Photo: Dau Anh Van.

She remembers the first time she went to the hospital, because she was not used to giving gifts but lacked the share of 7 children in room 508. Hearing them say, “Mom, I don’t have it yet”, Mrs. Tuyet cried and trembled. Hugging the children in her arms and promising to come back tomorrow, Tuyet’s mother was very worried because she didn’t have any money at home.

Luckily the next day, for the first time, she sold four paintings at once. The painter also said that he gave her both capital and interest of 800,000 VND to visit the hospital to visit children. Since doing volunteer work, many times she has had the grace to be accompanied and helped by many people. For Hue women, it is also the miracle of life.

During the two years of the complicated development of the Covid-19 epidemic, sometimes having to close the shop, she still regularly went to the hospital once a month or sent gifts if she could not enter. There are days when the whole village is empty of people, the shops around are closed, she still opens the door in the hope that there will be visitors and gifts for children.

Ms. Tuyet during a visit to children at Hue Central Hospital in 2020. Photo: Dau Anh Van

Ms. Tuyet during a visit to children at Hue Central Hospital in 2020. Photo: English Beans

Dau Anh Van, a second-year student at the School of Tourism – Hue University, is one of many other students who are accompanying her on a volunteer trip.

He shared that in the first year from Nghe An to Hue city to study, he was introduced by friends to visit the incense village, especially the shop of Mother Tuyet. His first impression of her is her small but agile figure, especially very welcoming and kind to tourists. After many visits, knowing that she often volunteered at the hospital, he asked to accompany her throughout the year.

Anh Van shared that although he was with him, all the costs of the gifts were prepared by Ms. Tuyet, the group of students only helped carry or sent them to the hospital during the complicated developments of the Covid-19 epidemic.

“There were days when I went down to visit and saw that my mother only ate dry bread and milk to finish the meal. She kept explaining that she was old, so she only ate simple,” Van recalled. Students at the schools know the story, often help her by introducing tourists, friends to visit, chat and buy goods for her.

Kim Phung (30 years old) is also the companion of Mrs. Tuyet after the fateful encounter in the village of incense. She said that there are few months when she sells few goods, Ms. Tuyet spends 5-6 million, and if there are more customers, 10-12 million VND to give to children suffering from serious diseases. “Although the amount is not divided evenly, it is a positive encouragement for the children, which can be seen from every time they come to them, they are very attached,” said Phung.

Currently, Phung works in Quang Tri, so she can’t go home and go with her often, but whenever anyone asks if she comes to Hue to play, she will introduce her to Tuyet Ma’s shop to help her fulfill her wish.

Lan Huong – Duc Hieu

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