Thanh Thao, a beneficiary of our Increasing Opportunities for Children with Disabilities, immediately captured our attention. On a hot summer afternoon filled with meetings in the Hoa Phong commune People’s Committee, it was this girl’s warm energy that was captivating. A moment of breaking stigmas and typical attitudes, Thao’s compassionate attitude from the start cultivated a welcoming partnership.
From a kind and loving family, but poor and small in accordance with local standards, her progress in school and further opportunities were naturally limited and confined. Thao’s day-to-day life is dramatically impacted by her difficulties in speaking and hearing. Affecting her involvement and ability to be engaged in her educational pursuits, family, jobs and community, Thao found her life very restricting in future possibilities. In addition, all of her family members were fully dependent on the father’s job and income from his manual labor. Her mother had lost the ability to work in labor due to personal reasons and her brother was away learning at a vocational training school in Da Nang. This familial environment put another extra layer of struggle and pressure on both Thao and her family.
Prior to her enrollment in Children of Vietnam’s program, her family preserved, sending Thao to various centers for learning and vocational training in hope of continuing her education. In addition to her hearing and speaking disabilities, Thao’s personal lifestyle values and choices in her diet were constantly put in jeopardy and created added stress. Due to being vegetarian, for Thao to fully feel comfortable and confident in her studies the vocational training school needed to address this preference. Unfortunately, the schools could not adapt to her nutritional needs and she was repeatedly sent back home, where she would stay home for a long time until trying another school – and the pattern continued.
Her official enrollment into our program at the end of 2018, however, finally created a new narrative. One where her family’s overall livelihood has been addressed through financial support for the purchases to help the foundation and overall quality of life. This included the purchase of child-friendly equipment needed, speaking and hearing progressive support, a motorbike for the father as a means of extra income ( “xe ôm” – a motorcycle taxi), and tuition for schooling.
Furthermore, we were able to find and send her to a private garment unit for vocational training every day. Granting an opportunity for Thao to pursue an interest she was passionate about all while keeping her lifestyle and values aligned as the school was able to adapt to her vegetarian diet. With her knowledge of the clothing trade market and detailed use of how to make clothes Thao is self-sufficient in a skill that provides an income and fulfills a passion. After just one year and a half in school, she is excelling in sewing.
Even more so, that same warming energy from when we first met Thao carries over as she creates clothes for herself and her family, giving back to them in support.
In our staff’s follow-up, that same first initial warm energy that sparked our hope for this family beamed. Although she cannot speak up, her eyes were shining with happiness. Sitting next Thao and using sign more effortlessly, we knew that it was her work we were seeing her mother show off in style – made by her daughter and cherished by the whole family. It is a new sense of pride established in the family.
Thao went above and beyond in her studies and even courageously expanded her opportunities in extra-circulars. She also took part in a program named “Exchange among social clubs organized by Hoa Phong Women Union” as a traditional long dress (Ao Dai) model. No one could imagine that the girl that once stayed at home all day without interacting with others, was now the same girl about to stand up in front of a public audience and perform with strong, outstanding confidence.
Thao’s story is a reminder: of how we are all connected – how we can each pull a thread here and there and help one another. And how it is always the energy we bring to our life that truly matters and weaves the fabric in the making.