Aspiration fulfilled (Part 2)

(VOVWORLD) - Backward attitudes, lack of education, and poor infrastructure make life even more difficult for people with disabilities in Vietnam. But progress is being made, thanks to their own efforts and help from relatives and social organizations. The decisive factor is the determination and perseverance of a disabled person to fight through their physical impairment and society’s prejudices to become successful.

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Bui Cong Thach is presenting support items for persons with disabilities affected by floods in Quang Tri as part of a USAID program. (Photo credit: Bui Cong Thach)

Perseverance, determination bring brighter future for people with disabilities

Bui Cong Thach, who is now working for the Action to the Community Development Center (ACDC), a Vietnamese NGO, admitted, “It took me two years after my accident to ‘stand up’. It was only when I participated in activities organized by ACDC that I began to think more positively, became more confident, and seized more opportunities.”

ACDC was established in 2011 for persons with disabilities to support other persons with disabilities. 

Meanwhile after being advised by a cousin, Nguyen Van Tay has turned his pencil drawing habit at leisure time into a way of making ends meet. With all his heart and soul put in the drawing, Tay’s portraits are lively and soulful.

Good words spread, Tay’s talent has been widely known and an increasing number of customers have ordered him to draw their portraits. It often takes him 6 to 7 days to complete a portrait that his mother helps him send back to the customer through the post.  

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Nguyen Van Tay (first from left) and his friends at a ceremony in Hanoi to honor 64 prominent young people with disabilities, December 28, 2020. (Photo credit: Nguyen Van Tay)

Tay has now joined the Club of People with Disabilities in Ninh Son ward, Tay Ninh city as a secretary, in charge of activities to increase access towards social inclusion for the disabled to affirm their value in the community. Tay says he is gathering those of the same interests to open a gallery.

Crystal-bone girl Nguyen Thi Ngoc Tam believes how long a person lives is less important than how meaningfully and joyfully they live.

“Each day I live, I want to live a joyful life and make every day meaningful so everyone sees that my 24 hours were not wasted. I can make full use of them and that’s why I’ve held the charity class for 17 years,” Tam says.

Tam now uses computers and smart devices proficiently to access public services, communicate with others, and support others in the same situation.

Last year Tam was named one of the top 10 individuals of National Volunteer Awards 2020 for outstanding contributions to the community and one of 64 prominent young people with disabilities under a  program to honor the fortitude of disabled people.

All of her achievements are due to her ‘stubbornness’ to learn and the huge support of her family.

Luckier than many other disabled people, Tam was encouraged to attend school by her maternal grandfather who, for 9 years, took her to school and back home again.

“At first he wasn’t sure I could do it, but he told me all I needed was to read newspapers and write to have more fun in my life,” Tam recalled.

Then her father, Tam’s first teacher, taught her the alphabet in two days. She began primary school at the age of 8 instead of 6 like other children. 

Her mother, now 60 years old, is present for everything Tam does, whether it’s at home or whenever and wherever she participates in any social program.

“My life’s itinerary is imprinted in your quiet steps, mom,” Tam is moved to say. Mrs. Nguyen Thanh Su looks a little bit austere with her undemonstrative face.  Perhaps life’s difficulties and the sadness of living with her daughter’s disability have forced her to accept reality with a sense of fatalism. “I have learned to live with frequent floods,” Mrs. Su said, but adding, “Tam’s positive thinking has inspired me and the rest of the family to do everything we can to help her participate in social activities and competitions,” Mrs. Su says.

The future

A crucial issue of disability is accessibility. An important thing to realize is that access doesn’t just mean wheelchair ramps and handicap-friendly lifts.

“The goal is to remove all social, physical, and economic barriers that prevent the integration of persons with disabilities into society,” says Ann Marie Yastishock, Mission Director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Vietnam.

The future is looking brighter for Vietnam’s disabled, thanks to several recent government initiatives.

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USAID staffers provide rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities. (Photo credit: USAID)

In 8 years, the National Action Plan to Support People with Disabilities for 2012-2020, working with USAID and the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) has helped millions of people with disabilities by mobilizing 21 million USD in addition to 14 million USD in Vietnamese Government funds, and 5 million USD from international donors.

Last November USAID, the National Council for Disabilities (NCD), and MOLISA launched a 10-year Disability Action Plan until 2030, which has been reinforced by a new resolution on disability support that will provide disability funding through other national target programs.

In Vietnam, a potent mix of causes, notably aging, pollution, climate change, and traffic accidents, produces a large number of people with disabilities - currently, 6.4 million, or more than 7% of the population from over 2 years old, according to MOLISA.

Societal attitudes will be a major factor in determining how well they can integrate into the rest of the population. Foreign and domestic social organizations are a huge help, but it will ultimately come down to the attitude of the average person on the street.

“Individuals and their families must have the support of the community, and not feel stigmatized or embarrassed USAID’s ‘Independent Living’ model reduces self-stigmatization and calls for changing attitudes in society toward persons with disabilities and accepting them as contributing members of society,” Ann Marie Yastishock says.

Underneath is a video featuring Nguyen Thi Ngoc Tam, Nguyen Van Tay, and Phan Ho Thu Thao working to earn a daily living.