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Published: December 9th 2010
NHUNG IN FRONT OF HER OLD HOUSE
This house collapsed in a storm leaving the family homeless.
Nhung lives down a little winding dirt track in a rural area near the beach about seven kilometers from Hoi An.
Her family have owned the land they live on for generations. Nhung's family were not well off but were managing ok financially. That usually means that they had enough to eat and not much more. When Nhung was three years old her families world changed when she lost the use of her legs following a high fever and an injection. Prior to this illness Nhung had spent most of her first three years in and out of hospital with lung infections. Her parents and sister would alternate staying with her during her long hospital stays. When she lost the use of her legs her family sold everything they had and spent the money they had on medical expenses trying to fix the problem with her legs but nothing was able to be done for Nhung as she had contracted Polio.
Nhung said that from the age of three to seven years she was an unhappy child who was very restricted by the inability to use her legs and was unable to stand up. She learnt to move around
by using her hands to move her feet.
Nhung would wear pants made of thick material so as when she tried to move she didn't graze and cut her legs.
At about seven years of age Nhung was able to help a little around the house and felt that she was able to contribute to help her family in a small way.
At 12 years of age, unable to read or write Nhung started school. Her parents were uneducated so they were unable to teach her anything at home. Her excitement and enthusiasm to finally have the opportunity to attend school even if she was six years older than the other children in her class was quickly quelled when she was laughed at and ridiculed because of how she looked.
Nhung told me that she would cry almost every day alone in her room as she didn't want to further worry her family. She felt useless and a burden and contemplated ending her life on many occasions.
At school Nhung had one close friend who along with her teachers encouraged her to persevere with school and life. They gave her the strength to continue. She said that
NHUNG WITH TWO OF HER MONKEYS
This is the second product that Nhung has learnt to make and now sells these at the Lifestart Foundation Workshop in Hoi An.
she smiled on the outside but was always sad on the inside.
Nhung really enjoyed studying and dreamt of one day being a tour guide. She managed to get through to year 10 at school but at that stage her parents could not afford for her to continue her education and the distance to school for year 11 and 12 was too far from home.
At the completion of year 10 a relative from Phan Thiet offered for Nhung to come and stay with their family and work for them selling coffee. This job lasted a short time and keen to improve her life, Nhung traveled to Saigon to commence training in sewing and embroidery with a disabled group. At the end of 2 years of training as is usually the case, there was no work for a disabled person such as Nhung. She was only able to manage to get work dusting computers and equipment for a very meager salary. Nhung returned to Hoi An as her father who was a hard working farmer sadly passed away. This put even more pressure on the family financially.
Back in Hoi An with her mother and sister, Nhung was
NHUNG HAVING HER FIRST DRIVING LESSON
Nhung said that we can't imagine the difference having a three wheel motorbike has made to her life.
introduced to Lifestart Foundation by one of our current makers, Miss Lieu. Nhung lives a long way out of town and her only form of transport was by a push me pull me - an absolutely exhausting trip that would take her over an hour each way. Thank you to wonderful Lifestart Foundation supporters we were able to purchase Nhung a new Honda Three Wheel Motorbike. You can read more about Lieu's story on her blog.
or about other three wheeled motorbike recipients including Xuyen
Nhung said this has made an enormous difference to her life, she can now go anywhere anytime and feels a great sense of independence. She is extremely grateful for this mobility.
Nhung had a look at our Workshop and the products that we were producing and could not imagine that she would be able to make anything as lovely as we had on display.
After her assessment and acceptance into Lifestart Foundation Workshop we invited Nhung to take part in a training program with Miss e from Philadelphia.
(More to come about the fabulous "Miss e " in a future blog )
We were very fortunate to have
a volunteer artist from the USA, Miss e, come over to Hoi An to provide training in a product she had designed for us. Nhung now makes these sets of Good Fortune Journals to a perfect standard and they look fantastic in the shop. Nhung has been working in the Lifestart Foundation Workshop for a few months now and is really keen to have a sustainable income so she can help her aging mother. After successfully training and learning how to make her Good Fortune Journals, Nhung has completed additional training with one of our workshop makers Miss Nguyen to make Sock Monkeys. You can find more about Nguyen's story on her blog
These little monkeys are a huge hit in the shop and Nhung can barely keep up with the demand. Finally a good problem! Nhung has now completed training in two products which are for sale in the Lifestart Foundation Workshop, Hoi An and can be posted anywhere in the world.
Many Vietnamese people believe they can attract Good Fortune by surrounding themselves with “lucky” symbols and objects. Five types of Good Fortune sought after by the Vietnamese include Longevity or “ Long Life”, Peace, Happiness,
A WHOLE NEW WORLD
A tentative student at first she is now very confident.
Love and Reverence which are hand-painted onto the journals. They are handmade from paper and sewn together using embroidery thread.
Nhung has also taken English lessons every week and is very grateful to her English teacher, Ruth (another one of our wonderful volunteers ), for her help.
A few months ago Nhung's old wooden house came crashing down in a storm leaving Nhung, her mother and sister homeless. Her mother is keen to explain how lucky she feels that nobody was in the house as she is sure they wouldn't have been able to escape. This potentially devastating safety problem meant that she wanted a more solid home to protect them in the future and has borrowed money to build a concrete house. There was no spare money for furniture so the new house is looking rather bare, but the important thing is they hope it will be solid enough to keep the storms out this rainy season. Her mother is a farm worker who grows rice, and keeps pigs, chickens and ducks and her sister helps with this. Their income is low and varies from month to month.
When asked if she has any questions for
me Nhung giggles and says she would like some help finding the perfect man - someone who is loyal, calm, handsome and can look after her. It's amazing how similar people everywhere in the world are despite cultural differences, wealth differences or disabilities!
I hope that my blogs continue to give you an insight into the work that Lifestart Foundation is doing in Vietnam and the people that we are helping. All of these continuing success stories would not be possible without the generous help and donations from all of our wonderful supporters.
I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank you all for your support of Lifestart Foundation's work in 2010 and wish you all the very best in health and happiness for the coming Holiday Season.
Lots of Love from Karen
Read more about the Lifestart Foundation Workshop
WOULD YOU LIKE TO PURCHASE A SET OF GOOD FORTUNE JOURNALS OR A SOCK MONKEY OR TWO??
Please order by email email@example.com
SET OF 4 GOOD FORTUNE JOURNALS $15 aud plus postage
SOCK MONKEY $20 aud plus postage
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Ly and Nhung had painting lessons with Sinh everyday.
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LIFESTART FOUNDATION WORKSHOP
77 Phan Chu Trinh Street,
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