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The man who restores life to discarded items

(09:34:02 AM 03/07/2014)
(Tin Môi Trường) - After 35 years at work, a Ho Chi Minh City sanitation worker has used his skilled hands to create more than 1,000 products from discarded items.

A job to take pride in


Thom’s house is full of the things he made of discarded stuffs.


Born into a poor family, Tong Van Thom, 63, dropped out of school after third grade and went to work to earn a living. Leaving his home village in Ben Tre Province, he wandered the southern cities and provinces, taking different jobs before finally ending up at a factory in a shipbuilding yard.


However, poor health prevented him from remaining very long at the factory job. He left it to help his wife, a sanitation worker, in her work.


After a long period of working as hired labor, Thom and his wife decided to become their own bosses, setting up a business in HCM City’s District 5 that specialized in collecting garbage.


“I tell my children to take pride in their parents’ careers,” he said, “though I know people look at us scornfully. They try and keep away from us because they think we are dirty”.


Thom’s children felt ashamed when they were asked about their parents’ work. But Thom insisted to them that there was no need to feel shame, because their parents earned their living honestly.


Thom said that he has never thought of giving up his job, so he has to work hard to earn modest money.


Therefore, the people’s scornful gesture towards his family members has never troubled him. What makes him more tired is the changeable weather.


“It is extremely hard to work on rainy days. I get soaked from head to foot. I always catch a cold when it rains heavily,” he said.


“There are no days off for garbage men,” he said. “We have to work on weekends, holidays and Tet, just to earn VND5 million a month to feed the family”


Discarded items also have souls


A new day for Thom begins at 6 am and finishes at 3 pm, during which he spends time to collect garbage. He spends his free time on other works, relating to garbage and waste things.


Thom’s house, located in a small alley, is full of discarded stuff, giving it the appearance of a scrap dealer’s storehouse.


“When I worked for the shipyard, I often collected discarded items, repaired them and used them. Therefore, I did not have to spend much money to buy brand new things,” he said.


And reviving refuse has gradually become his new job. “All discarded things can turn into useful things,” he said.


Thom can make speaking-trumpets with USB attached from beer cansand make lovely ornamental items (such as coconut trees, owls, and spiders) from coconut bark. Bicycles, cyclos and robots are made of a lot of the things which people think are useless. The electric fan in the living room of his house is decorated with the mica sheets he collected.


Most of the items in his assets are electronic products, DVD players, TVs, and cassette recorders. “Every one of these items has a soul to me. If you can revive it, you’ll be able to bring it back to life and protect the environment,” he said.