Finding happiness in face of adversity
Despite suffering from a life-threating illness as a small child, a Vietnamese woman has overcome the difficulties that life has thrown at her, and persevered with a career in tailoring with the help of a foreign designer.
At 35, like every other woman with a little child at home, I too get up early every morning to take care of my son before leaving for work.
However, unlike a lot of other mothers, my work is not as easy as theirs. When I was 13 months old, I had an accident that left me paralysed. For 18 years my paralysed legs kept me indoors until I realised I didn't want to be worthless or a burden anymore.
I then decided to enrol myself in the first course at a vocational training centre for the disabled in Hueá in central Vieät Nam. That decision changed my life. Someone told me I am skilled and have a strong determination, and I think that is correct.
After I spent a year learning tailoring, I was adopted by the centre as a trainer for new trainees. Today, I believe that the decision I took at 18 to stop being a burden to my mother and be helpful to the society, was the right one. The decision gave me a lot: a stable job, a happy family and a brighter future for our son.
In 2003, Marichia Simcik Arese, one of the founders of the US charity Spiral Foundation, came to work with the centre and help the disabled make handicraft products, which could take back to the US. I then got to know Arese well, and she has been very kind and generous to me.
I was sent to California two years later for three weeks, to explain to Hollywood celebrities who are acquainted with Arese that they were using products made by the disabled in Vieät Nam.
It was a great trip and I had an incredible time. I had never imagined that I would get a chance to go to the US and meet Hollywood celebrities even once in my lifetime.
To 'bookmark' the memory I bought an electronic keyboard and this led to a love affair and later, my marriage. Since I had to learn how to play the instrument, a man who had graduated from a music , came to teach me. We fell in love when I finally managed to play some music on the keyboard. That's fate!
My husband now works as a bodyguard in the night shift. In the daytime, he cooks and takes care of our son when I am at work. At lunchtime, I return home to be with my family. A stable job at the Healing the Wounded Hearts Humanity project gives me a convenient daily schedule to assist my husband and enjoy my meals with my family.
In 2009, Arese launched the project, together with the Office of Genetic Counselling and Disabled Children at Hueá University of Medicine and Pharmacy. The project recruited young people with disabilities and trained them to make handicrafts, such as handbags, tablecloths, fruit baskets and earrings at the project workshop in Hueá City.
Today, the project is home to 19 staff members and artisans, including 15 who are hearing or speech-impaired. Every day, half of the group goes to the workshop in Baø Trieäu Street while the others take care of a shop in nearby Voõ Thò Saùu Street where tea is served to likely buyers. I work as a manager at the workshop.
I am in charge of technical work as well. Arese's ideas are communicated to the staff through my designs. We communicate through sign language and I undertake budget meetings and maintain the work diary as well.
Someone said I have a lot of hard work on my plate, but working here is my joy and passion. I need to inspire others to overcome their disabilities. And, I have "double happiness" as part of the revenue from the project goes towards funding heart surgery for poor children.
Phöông works with Arese on a new design through a translator.