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Published: June 14th 2008
Hoa pictured outside the Lifestart Foundation Free School.
Hoa attends ESL classes and the disabled womens workshop which are held at the school.
Hoa was three years old when she contracted Polio.
Her parents took her to many doctors and hospitals, unfortunately no one was able to help.
Polio left Hoa unable to walk, she cannot stand upright . Her body appears to crumple from the waist down so she moves around by placing her hands under her feet and slowly moves each foot. Getting from A to B is extremely slow and painful for her.
Hoa's parents were very poor, they wanted her to attend school but unfortunately there was no one to carry her. A few family friends came to their house and taught Hoa how to read and write. Hoa told me that her neighbours were very kind to her, but she was too scared to venture far from home because people would stare at her and make her feel sad and uncomfortable.
As with all of the members in the Lifestart disabled group, their main concern is not having employment, which always translates to lack of independence and feeling like a burden on their family. They are usually reliant on aged parents if they are still alive to help them and to give them food each
THINH-CUTE AS A BUTTON
Three year old Thinh, the light of Hoa's life.
Until recently Hoa's life has been very difficult. Mobility has been a huge challenge as has just about everything that goes with being poor and disabled in Vietnam.
Hoa was thrilled last trip when I was able to provide her a wheel chair.........her first at age 36. She really needed one when she was three years old!
Lifestart Foundation was extremely lucky to have thirteen wheelchairs donated and we in turn were able to make thirteen people who had previously not had the pleasure of using a wheelchair mobile and super happy.
Hoa was used to sitting upright and unsupported. When she received the wheelchair it meant that she was able to relax in the seat as it had a reclining back. Mobility and comfort, a double bonus.
Three years ago Hoa decided to have a baby. This was not a whimsical, romantic idea but rather a well planned and well thought out decision.
Hoa looked long and hard at her life and with her aged parents not in the best of health and not getting any younger her biggest worry was who would look after her in the future.
CLASS OVER FOR THE DAY
Hoa getting a helping hand from Tu. (Karen's eldest son) Tu is quite a comedian and keeps the women in the workshop entertained. He also helps with lifting and carrying the women.
no support for the disabled in Vietnam, what would happen to her when her parents were no longer alive? I have not asked her how this happened with the absence of a husband however IVF is not out of the question. Hoa nearly lost her life giving birth to little Thinh who she describes as the light of her life and the one that gives her endless joy and happiness.
Hoa's baby Thinh was born with a mission and purpose in life. Initially I thought to myself ' what a burden to place on a young life ' and questioned Hoa's reason for having little Thinh, but I am in the fortunate position not to be a disabled person and not to be a disabled person living in Vietnam. I reminded myself not to judge her decision, it's a little like the saying walk a mile in my shoes......or in Hoa's case walk a mile using my hands to move my legs........What would I do if I was in Hoa's position?
Hoa copes with her little toddler particularity well and little Thinh no doubt senses her mother's needs as she is an exceptionally well behaved three year old.
Hoa and her girlfriend Nghe both attend the womens workshop. They both have the same disability and walk on their hands. Hoa is getting a lift home.
Hoa's life has changed dramatically since she has been involved with Lifestart Foundation, she is part of the womens workshop group that I keep promising to give you more information on......the blog on the womens workshop is on its way. Hoa also attends Lifestart English classes which she really enjoys.
She has a great supportive group of friends. They regularly go out for a coffee and a catch up which is so important so as not to be alone and isolated.
Hoa has stayed at home all of her life, she has never been lucky enough to have a job as no one would employ her.
Lifestart supporters from Melbourne very generously offered to help Hoa and Thinh. What Hoa needed was not a short term fix but rather an opportunity that would provide her with a sustainable income for her and Thinh's future.
After many talks with Hoa it was decided that she would open a small business that would operate from the front of her house. We discussed in detail what products she would sell and with hours of help from volunteer Greg Holman who taught her the basics of trading, stock control,
Happy times are had at the womens workshop.
profit and loss etc. Hoa's business became a reality.
A special cabinet was ordered and made so it is just the right height for Hoa to access from her new wheelchair.
Her business stocks many household items, people in her local area are happy to purchase from Hoa for a slightly higher price than they would get at the market. The people in her neighbourhood are happy to be able to help support her business initiative and it is convenient for them, saving them a trip to the market.
In her first week of trading Hoa was making a much higher profit than we had imagined, she is over the moon.
Hoa looks to the future with a whole lot more optimism now. With her home business in full swing, her participation in the women's workshop, Lifestart ESL classes, friends and a beautiful little daughter........... life is full.
Lots of Love from Karen,
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We are still looking for Table Captains who would be willing to help get a table together for the
HOA, SHERRY & NGHE
Workshop teacher and volunteer Sherry, watches over Hoa and Nghe who are engrossed with their workshop project.
Lifestart Foundation Dinner Dance on July 26th.
Full details can be found on the website events page.
VALE: I have just arrived in Vietnam and sadly Hoa's father has just passed away.
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