27-year-old Ngo Quy Hai, is a burn survivor who now operates a prestigious bakery in his birthplace of Kon Tum, Vietnam. But things weren’t always that good in his life. Not at all, in fact.
When a horrible catastrophe that would forever alter Hai’s life happened, he was still a toddler.
He reportedly slipped into an open wood stove while carrying a baby walker in the kitchen, severely burning a significant area of his body.
“Baby walkers were common back then and there wasn’t knowledge about how dangerous they can be,” Hai explained.
Hai was sent right away to Children’s Hospital 1 in Saigon following the accident. He had therapies and intensive care for a total of two years there in order to preserve his life.
Even after multiple reconstructive procedures, this poor little child was left with scarring that would serve as a constant reminder of the most traumatic day of his life.
Hai had additionally experienced serious emotional damage as a result of the event. He was taunted for his appearance after leaving the hospital.
“I felt alone growing up and didn’t have many friends,” he explained. “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.”
We can scarcely imagine how tough Hai’s journey has been. Two whole years without even leaving the house – it’s just simply heartbreaking.
As a result of his two-year absence, Hai fell behind in his studies. However, he did manage to find a friend he was able to bond with, one who also had disabilities.
Sometimes I think it is fate that brought us together,” Hai said of his new friend. “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.”
Through all the pain and sorrow, Hai held onto one dream above all else: he wanted to open a bakery. This came as a direct result of he and his friend having once been kicked out of a bakery they had wanted to visit for a long, long time.
“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,” Hai said.
“It was humiliating. 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.”
With his family’s support, he was put through hospitality training school in Hanoi. Moreover, Hai achieved his dream of opening his bakery, mere years after resigning himself to staying indoors, too afraid to show his face.
“It was lovely to see so many smiling faces,” he said.
“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.
“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.”
Hai explains: “I am more than how I look. Do not call me harsh words. I am a survivor.”