Nguyet is a teenager living with a disability in a small town in Vietnam. Her early years were subdued and solitary.
Around seven per cent of people in Vietnam are living with a disability. They often have poorer health, fewer educational and employment opportunities and higher poverty rates than people without disabilities.
Nguyet’s life has been transformed thanks to a Caritas-supported program which is helping people like 16-year-old Nguyet to discover a world of new opportunities.
Two years after she featured in Project Compassion 2017, she has built a successful online business – and is riding a motorbike she bought from her profits.
Nguyet lived the first 14 years of her life isolated at home, her parents caring for her many health needs. Her disability restricted her movements, ability to interact with others and any chance of an education.
The future appeared bleak – until a Caritas Australia program, implemented by partner Catholic Relief Services (CRS) changed her life forever.
Called the Capacity Building for Parent Associations Supporting Children with Disabilities (CBPA), the program focused on inclusive education, health and building strong community networks to help to break down stigma and discrimination for those with disabilities. Discrimination remains one of the biggest barriers for people like Nguyet to participate in their communities and try to live a normal life.
Through the program, Nguyet was offered a home-based education, health services, new social interactions with other children and a creative outlet she is good at.
When Nguyet first participated in the program, she started designing and sewing doll’s clothes and making delicate paper flowers to sell.
Two years on, Nguyet is now 16, and has used her entrepreneurial ambitions and newfound confidence through the program to take her business in another direction.
Today Nguyet is making a profit selling T-shirts, accessories and home-cooked snacks made by her sister. She also helps her parents in their business selling building materials locally.
“Now I can buy things I need at home and I can also purchase things to sell online,” Nguyet says.
“Because I can only use my left hand, I put products on the floor and I use the timer mode on the camera to take photographs. And I used my savings, with support from my parents, to buy a motorbike to help me get around. I am very happy,” she says.
“I can go out independently now,” Nguyet says.
“I visit my grandmother who lives four kilometres away and my friends’ houses and I ship merchandise to my clients who live near here.”
Her former teacher, Quynh, still visits Nguyet and is pleased with her progress.
“I remember when I first met Nguyet,” Quynh says. “Her face was very sad and lonesome because she did not speak to other people. Now, her face is so bright, she is very confident communicating with other people.”
The program also enabled her mother, Tim, to develop physiotherapy skills so she could better assist her daughter. Her mother says Nguyet’s health is better, although it fluctuates and she still relies heavily on her parents for her physical needs.
Parents’ associations first set up by the program have created a strong community. They support each other and learn from one another about how to best raise their child with a disability.
“Nguyet is happy, she earns her own money. Thanks to the project, Nguyet can read, write and do calculation. She is also more energetic and confident,” Tim says.
“I’m still involved in the Parents’ Association. We know how to take better care of our children. We are happier because our community now has a very good attitude to us,” she says.
Around 4,000 people have now benefitted from this inspiring Caritas program.
“We’ve increased our early detection screening of disabilities which has led to more successful rehabilitation and integration into educational services,” says Ms. Dinh Thi Nguyet, Program Manager, CRS.
“Educating parents about the best ways for their child to learn also gives these young people the best chance at living a dignified life.”
Nguyet has great hope and a real commitment to succeed in her future. She hopes her story will inspire others to see what is possible for a person once isolated and unheard.
“I would like to have my own shop in the village one day. And I hope that other people with disabilities in Vietnam will receive help like I did,” Nguyet says.
“I would like to say thank you to Caritas Australia and all those who have helped me.”