Published: January 3rd 2010December 10th 2009
Miss Nguyen and her sock creatures have almost celebrity status among their fans, both here in Hoi An and abroad.
Nguyen has been creating and selling her sock creatures for the past seven months at the Lifestart Foundation Workshop in Hoi An, Vietnam.
She lives with an inoperable condition commonly known as ‘a hole in the heart’, which renders her immobile 12 hours each day while she is connected to two large oxygen tanks. Her condition often leaves her unable to leave her bed for days at a time. Consequently, holding down a typical full time job in Vietnam (well in excess of the standard 40 hours per week we expect in Australia) has been very difficult for her in the past.
She needed a job that could be flexible in hours but also create enough income to cover her living and medical expenses so as she could be independent. Fortunately, Nguyen was introduced to Lifestart Foundation and in turn the Lifestart Foundation Workshop which provides training and creates income earning potential for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
To begin with Nguyen made embroidered cards but her creative talents were soon discovered when a volunteer brought in a
prototype for the sock creatures. ( Thanks Bec! anymore great ideas??? ) At first Nguyen - and all the ladies at the workshop - were very skeptical of the potential popularity of these weird looking dolls made from socks. Sock creatures had not existed in Hoi An previously and Nguyen's initial thoughts were that they were crazy and silly and that they would not sell in the shop!
These reservations were quickly blown out of the water. Within six months the sock creatures have become the most popular item in the shop, selling as quickly as they are placed on the shelves (literally - I’ve seen her put one on the shelf and it gets adopted immediately!) Nguyen has now broadened the range of her sock creatures she makes and everyone seems to develop an immediate favourite. Each sock creature is named and tagged and Nguyen somehow manages to breathe life into every individual creation.
Since starting work with Lifestart, Nguyen has saved diligently and has been able to purchase a new motorcycle, greatly increasing her mobility and independence. Her income has doubled, allowing her to fulfill her immediate goal of covering food and medical expenses while also
Nguyen (second right) at work with her colleagues and friends at the Lifestart Foundation Workshop.
providing some simple comforts for her family home. Whilst Nguyen was training her living and medical costs were covered by a wonderful group of Lifestart Foundation supporters. A thousand thank you's to this group of supporters ( you know who you are!) When Karen did the initial blog about Nguyen you didn't hesitate to help out financially, this support has enabled Nguyen to gain her independence. Nguyen can now work flexible hours depending on her health without fear of losing her job. She takes home 100% of the money she makes from the sock people and is now no longer reliant on financial help from Lifestart Foundation. She is as proud as punch to be able to provide for herself.
Nguyen would like to thank all of the volunteers and donors who have helped to improve her quality of life. A big thank you to Sue in East Keilor, Melbourne, Australia who donates the socks for Nguyen to work with. Thank you to those who collect buttons for the quirky eyes on the sock people. Thank you to Bec for the initial prototype. She is especially thankful to Karen for taking her under her wing.
Nguyen now has
NGUYEN AT HOME.
Nguyen and her mother outside of their home.
a wonderful support network among the other women at the workshop and her English is constantly improving due to English classes and her regular interaction with tourists. She greatly enjoys and appreciates the opportunity to work with and meet so many people from all over the world. Her work now gives her strength, both inside and out, when she is at times ill or unhappy.
Nguyen’s sock creatures spread bundles of happiness all around the world - they each carry a small piece of Nguyen’s resilient spirit inside of them. People from all walks of life break into spontaneous, glowing smiles when they see these creatures. Nguyen generously shares her hope for happiness in her own life with the lives of everyone who supports her work.
Blog written by Jade Leonard
Photos by Fiona Jones
Click on these links for previous blogs about Nguyen, The Lifetstart Foundation Workshop and The Online Store... Nguyen’s Early Story Lifestart Foundation Workshop Lifestart Foundation Online Store
If you have adopted one of Nguyen's sock creatures we would love to hear from you via this blog. It will be lovely for Nguyen
Jade with a bundle of bunnies destined for homes in Australia.
and the other workshop members to hear how Nguyen's "family " have settled into their new homes around the world! As each sock creature is purchased in Vietnam, they have their photo taken with the person who is buying/adopting him or her. This photo is then loaded onto our digital photo frame in the Lifestart Foundation Workshop and we can track where all of our "Sock Creature/People Family " travel to. For all of our workshop members this is their way of travelling, ( via our supporters...) as travelling abraod for them in this lifetime will only ever be a dream.
Nguyen's biggest problem these days is that she cannot keep up with the demand for her sock creatures. I keep telling her that this is a "good problem!"
As a result of the enormous success of this small business initiative for Nguyen, she is now training two other people to make the sock creatures. My dream is to continue to build on the success of this initial concept and to ultimately have a large team of people under Nguyen's watchful eye making a lot more adorable sock people who travel the world and ultimately create sustainable incomes for
You can order sock creatures via this blog, they will be made by Nguyen, Sang or Trang. Please allow a little time for making and posting from Vietnam. Sock creatures can be made with a name of your choice.
COST $20 AU plus $10 AU postage to any international location. The $10 postage will cover multiple orders up to 4 Sock Creatures.
Please include a requested delivery address with your order.
Lots of Love from
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Visit us at: LIFESTART FOUNDATION WORKSHOP
127 Phan Chu Trinh Street,
Hoi An, Vietnam
Lifetstart Foundation now has an online store, during this year it will be developed further, offering a wider range of products.
Please help to support this new initiative. VOLUNTEER WISHLIST ART TEACHERS
We are looking for someone with experience in contemporary product design who could design marketable products and train those with disabilities in Hoi An to produce them to a professional standard. Please have a look at the previous link about the
workshop to see what we are already making. SALES & CUSTOMER SERVICE STAFF
The Lifestart Foundation Workshop in Hoi An would welcome sales and customer service volunteers.
Expressions of interest can be sent via this blog or email Karen direct firstname.lastname@example.org
There are more photos below