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January 19th 2012
Published: January 19th 2012
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Thinh is six years old and is in Grade 1 at Primary School in Hoi An.

Thinh loves attending school where her favourite subject is English. Whilst Thinh's mother Hoa can afford to send her to school she does not have the funds for Thinh to attend "extra classes."

Attending extra classes in Vietnam is vital. Government school is only for a half day, and if you can afford it, the rest of the day is spent at extra classes. Children who do not attend extra classes usually drop out of school prematurely as the work covered in the extra classes is necessary to pass each year level.

Unlike most other children, Thinh was conceived and born with a purpose in life, to be her mother's carer.

Each day, Thinh has chores that she completes to help her mum and her elderly grandmother. These include making tea, sweeping the floor, hanging out and bringing in the washing, shopping for the family, serving customers at her mums home shop and cleaning the toilet. These are all chores that her mum Hoa cannot do.

One day I remember seeing Thinh with her mother Hoa on the back of Hoa's three wheel motorbike. I noticed that Hanh another one of our Lifestart Foundation members was also on her three wheel motor bike and the convoy of two had stopped in the street. I was going in the opposite direction but slowed to see if they were alright or had motorbike problems. The next thing I saw was little Thinh, she hopped off the motorbike and disappeared into the shop they had stopped in front of. A few minutes later out she popped with two plastic bags full of shopping for her mum and Hanh who is a paraplegic and in the next breath the drove away! Of course there is no home delivery for your groceries in Vietnam.

I have watched Thinh grow up over the past years and she is an absolutely delightful child.

I would love to be able to raise enough money to pay for Thinh to attend extra classes, have school books and a uniform throughout her primary school years. The total cost for this would be $350 per year. As many around the world are preparing to send their children back to school in 2012 I am hoping to find six people willing to sponsor one year of Thinh's primary school education.

If you would like to help with providing either the total cost for for Thinh's primary school education or contribute one year's costs, please let us know via this blog or via email.

Thinh's mother Hoa has complex disabilities and cannot walk. This is Hoa's story....

Hoa was three years old when she contracted Polio.

Hoa's 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

Heading home from a day at the workshop. Hoa uses her hands to move her feet so Thinh carries her bags for her.
her feel sad and uncomfortable.

As with all of the members in the Lifestart Foundation disabled group, their main concern is being unemployed, 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 day.

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 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.

Six years ago Hoa decided to have a

The store comprises of this glass cabinet in the doorway of Hoa and Thinh's small house. It is stocked with supplies that local families purchase.
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.

With 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

Thinh helps to serve customers and to sort out stock.
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's life has changed dramatically since she has been involved with Lifestart Foundation. She is one of the original members of the Lifestart Foundation Workshop and now 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.

Previously Hoa had stayed at home all of her life, she had 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 and stock control.

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.

Lifestart Foundation supporters also provided funds for a three wheel motor bike for Hoa. Having mobility at long last is life changing for Hoa.

Hoa has several products that she makes at the Lifestart Foundation Workshop. She makes beautiful Ao Dai Bookmarks, Minature Hoi An Lanterns, Exclusive Chopstick Vases, and has recently trained to make earrings from recycled paper. Hoa has also become a trainer at the workshop and has trained other women to make Ao Dai Bookmarks and Chopstick Vases following the ethos of Lifestart Foundation in passing on your skill. If you like the Ao Dai Bookmarks or earrings you can buy them on our Etsy online store as well as many of our other hand made products.

Hoa looks to the future with a whole lot more optimism now. With her home business in full swing, her participation at the Lifestart Foundation Workshop, Lifestart Foundation ESL classes, friends and a beautiful little daughter........... life is full.

For those of you who are little techno challenged like myself if you click on any of the words in blue it will automatically link you into that subject.

Lots of Love from Karen


Please see below for blogs of some of our other workshop members.

Nhung's Story

Mai - An Aspiring Artist

Vinh - A New Member at the Workshop

Hai & Truong - Lantern Makers

Miss Nguyen's Heart Warming Update

Enjoying the blogs?? Forward them on or subscribe those who you think would be interested in Lifestart Foundations work.......it's free!

If you happen to be in Hoi An, Viet Nam, visit us at:

77 Phan Chu Trinh Street,
Hoi An

Don't forget to leave us a review on TripAdvisor!

If you have visited our workshop and liked what you saw and what we are doing please help us by leaving a review on tripadvisor. A positive review introduces more people to our work in Vietnam and in turn helps people like Hoa and Thinh who are the direct recipients of the success of the workshop.

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


19th January 2012

Miss Thinh
Hi Karen, We'd like to make $350.00 available as our contribution towards her extra education costs.

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