HAPPY TO BE WORKING
Vinh is pictured making one of her beautiful silk scarves
Vinh grew up in Tam Ky City living with her parents and three siblings. Her mother and father earn an income through fishing. They make just about enough to buy rice and vegetables for their family. When Vinh was ten years old she tragically lost both of her legs in a terrible accident. She was riding her bicycle home from school one day and was hit by a truck. Vinh spent the next few month's in hospital and now moves around using crutches and prosthetic limbs with plaster feet that have shoes painted on them. When she is in the privacy of her own room she removes her uncomfortable prosthetics and uses two small red plastic stools to move around.
Vinh spent 8 years without legs or prosthetics because her family couldn't afford them. She relied on others to push her in a wheelchair during this time.
After 8 years at age 18 Vinh got her first prosthetic legs and plaster feet, these first ones were only supposed to last for 6 months and then be changed over. She is now 22 years of age and unfortunately still has the original prosthetics. They are now a very bad fit and
VINH'S NEW ROOM
Vinh has a simple wooden bed with a grass mat.
uncomfortable, causing her daily pain. However I am yet to see a grimace, Vinh seems to smile through the pain and discomfort.
Lifestart Foundation will look into getting new prosthetic legs for Vinh as soon as possible and something other than plaster feet. At the moment she is restricted to indoors when it rains because of her plaster feet. I am told that carved wooden feet would be better, especially in Vietnam where it rains a lot.
Vinh dropped out of school in grade 9 because it was too far for her to get there on her own. When she finished school she trained in embroidery and sewing and also did a course of computer lessons but unfortunately wasn’t able to find any paid work. A scenario that I hear over and over again. It is so difficult to get employment if you are disabled. I honestly don't know how these people are meant to survive because there are no government pensions as there are in many developed countries.
Vinh was desperate to find paid work as her family didn’t have enough money to support her and she was also keen to find her own independence.
Looking as "normal" as the next person until you take a closer look at her plaster feet with painted on shoes.
Vinh had heard about the Lifestart Foundation Workshop via Tung, (Read more about the worskshop: LIFESTART FOUNDATION WORKSHOP
: More about Tung: TUNG - BEHIND THE SMILE
) an existing member of the workshop. Some of you will remember Tung's story and will have contributed buttons to help him with his new business.... making gorgeous Button Rings. I might add that these are a huge hit and are selling well. Thank you to all who have donated buttons to this project, and yes we still need more buttons!
Tung is currently in hospital quite ill with serious infections and kidney stones. A prayer or two or good wishes wouldn't go astray for him at the moment.
After hearing about the Lifestart Foundation Workshop Vinh decided to travel alone from Tam Ky City by bus, 47 kilometers from Hoi An to see if we could help her. Unfortunately at that time I was in Australia and she was told when I would return and to come back again. Knowing her now I can only imagine how disappointed and sad she must have felt after getting up the courage to make this trip to have to get back on the bus to Tam Ky City and just wait
Vinh is pictured in her borrowed Push me Pull me.
This temporary transportation enables Vinh to get to get out and about and to the Lifestart Foundation Workshop everyday.
I arrived back in Hoi An some weeks later and sure enough the first person that hobbled through the door on crutches was Vinh. The staff had told me about her previous visit so I had a little bit of her background when we finally met.
Vinh has a soft, quiet sweet personality and underneath that lies a huge amount of courage.
We proceeded to have a long conversation about her life, past and present and her hope for the future.
Vinh informed me that she had taken a big gamble in hope that we would accept her into the workshop, she had borrowed money to rent a room in Hoi An and she had already moved in. So she was here and really desperate for assistance. I asked her how much money she had in her pocket after she had paid her room rent. It was 6,000 dong which is roughly 40cents! not enough for one meal.
I admired her courage.
Vinh did not have any transportation to get from her rented room to the workshop each day, so we organized a temporary loan of a push me pull me. After hearing Vinh's story
VINH'S FIRST JOB
Vinh pictured at her sewing maching at the Lifestart Foundation Workshop
one of our very kind supporters in Melbourne has since offered to pay for a three wheel motor bike for Vinh (Read more: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A THREE WHEEL MOTORBIKE MAKES!
). She doesn't know it as yet but I will be able to tell her about this wonderful surprise when I return to Vietnam in a few weeks time. What a huge difference this will make to her life. Currently if she wants to return home to visit her family in Tam Ky City she has to get up at 4 am to catch the local bus.
At 22 working in the Lifestart Foundation Workshop is Vinh's first ever paid work. Vinh always arrives at work with lovely smile and a readiness for the day ahead. Her sewing skills and ability to learn English have impressed us all. She is making a beautiful range of Silk Hair Accessories and Silk Scarves at the moment and will expand her product range over the coming months.
Each day dressed in her Lifestart Foundation Workshop uniform teamed with a trendy pair of jeans Vinh is no different to any other young 22 year old girl. She takes great pride in her appearance and seems not to be
Vinh is a keen English student, she is pictured here with Ruth our volunteer English teacher from the UK.
self conscious about her very badly scarred arm which I am guessing is the end result of many skin grafts. She has such an absolutely refreshing personality and is a very welcome new member to our ever growing group.
Vinh has been having free English lessons as part of her ongoing training with Lifestart Foundation. Her teacher Ruth is really impressed as she has learnt an amazing amount in a very short time. Ruth is from the UK and is volunteering for Lifestart while her husband Ian is building a dam in Vietnam over the next four years. ( more about Ruth in a future blog...)
Although Vinh is a little bit sad living away from her family she is feeling much more confident and independent in herself. She says it has also helped that everyone at the workshop has been so friendly and helped her to settle in.
The original room that Vinh rented when she came to Hoi An was a share room with two others, unfortunately this arrangement didn't work out. Lifestart Foundation has been able to help Vinh rent another room, thanks again to another one of our generous supporters from Mornington in
Vinh and Luu have just moved in together.
Both are members of the Lifestart Foundation Workshop.
Victoria. She will share the room with another of our workshop members Luu. The two girls seem to get along really well and will be a good support for each other. Luu is also from out of town and without family near by. Thanks again to our generous supporters we will also be able to help both girls with a few comforts in their little room.
Vinh is not yet fully supporting herself but we hope that she will in the near future via the sale of her products.
If you would like to help Vinh in this endeavor you can order her products by emailing me directly at email@example.com or via this blog. VINH'S PRODUCT PRICES Silk Hair Accessories $10 aud + postage. Colors Available:Red, Purple, Green and Turquoise
Silk Scarf $10 aud + postage. Colors available: Purple, Silver, White and Pink
I will be in Vietnam until early November and will be happy to bring back Christmas orders of any of the Lifestart Foundation Workshop Products for those of you in Australia. Would you like to help Vinh and our other workshop makers?
Our aim is to help as many disadvantaged
UNCOMFORTABLE PROSTHETICS OFF
In the privacy of her room Vinh can remove her prosthetics and move around using little red plastic stools.
people as possible to earn a sustainable income stream via the sale of their products. All profit from the sale of the products goes directly to the makers. I believe there is a growing awareness and interest from businesses around the world who want to support fair trade/ ethical enterprises, we just need to let them know what we are doing and what we can offer.
Whilst we continue to develop the retail aspect of the Lifestart Foundation Workshop in Hoi An we also recognize the need to develop other areas to sell and market the makers products. If we can increase sales and orders we can ultimately take on more and more people to train and help to become independent. Currently in development is the on line business, however we would also like help to develop the wholesale order side of the business and would love to try selling the makers products on ebay.
One of our volunteers Trisha from New Zealand has started work on the wholesale business development but this is the sort of thing that a team could work on to maximize the outcome.
We are ready to go with a wholesale order catalogue
It is easier and more comfortable for Vinh to use these stools to move around in her room
and we have photo's and text ready for products to be sold via ebay.
If you think you could directly help with either the wholesale or ebay development of the Lifestart Foundation Workshop we would love to hear from you. We are not short of ideas but we are short on hands on people to implement the ideas!
We are extremely fortunate to have had Neil Kearney and his family visit us in Vietnam. Neil is a well respected journalist in Australia and he very kindly made this terrific short video for us. I know that you will enjoy it.
If you would like to watch the video please click on this link video link
Lots of Love from Karen
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LIFESTART FOUNDATION WORKSHOP
77 Phan Chu Trinh Street,
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