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Science, Technology
& Innovation

People with Disability and Second Chances

think-05-03-People with Disabilities and Second Chances-Image

I was born in a very poor countryside in Vietnam, where many People with Disabilities (PWDs) live. My brother and I have severe disability. We have witnessed and experienced clearly the hardships of PWDs and their families. In the countryside, there are myths that disability is a disease, which brings ill luck if seen or touched; or that PWDs have committed wrongdoings in their previous life and are paying the price in this present life. They believed that PWDs are incapable of contributing to society and supporting their families. Such myths have created a social stigma against PWDs.

 

With the social stigma, PWDs are faced with barriers such as lack of confidence, and little access to facilities and public transportation. They are unable to receive education or attend vocational training, to learn and be equipped with new skills. They therefore are seen negatively in the eyes of society, for being poor, jobless and dependent on others. These have strengthened those unfounded myths. My childhood and life journey have been about learning how to overcome those barriers.

 

My brother and I strongly believe in second chances, and that you have to try your best to grab the opportunities available. We learnt about information technology by ourselves, and managed to dive into the sector, socialise and earn a stable income. In 2003, we decided to share our skills and train others with disabilities. The training started with three PWDs in the neighbourhood, and it grew bigger across the nation with more PWDs enrolling into our training centre.

 

In 2008, we moved to Hanoi and named the centre Will to Live, as we believed there are more job opportunities for PWDs in the capital of Vietnam. There were more volunteers helping us at the centre. That said, we still needed financial support. Hence, we worked two jobs each to earn money, and found time to teach and guide PWDs. For the first few years, we worked extremely hard to earn as much as we could to support others. Some PWDs are too poor to afford travelling costs to Hanoi and expenses during their training period. However, they have great ambitions.

With the social stigma, PWDs are faced with barriers such as lack of confidence, and little access to facilities and public transportation. They are unable to receive education or attend vocational training, to learn and be equipped with new skills. They therefore are seen negatively in the eyes of society, for being poor, jobless and dependent on others. These have strengthened those unfounded myths.

Getting more PWDs enrolled meant more work for us. Nonetheless, we frequently encouraged one another, “Come on, we can work more.” In 2010, we finally secured our first sponsor, the Centre for Social Initiatives Promotion (CSIP), and life at the centre became easier. We enrolled more than 900 PWDs for training, who went on to graduate, get jobs, fall in love, chase their dreams and be happy — it is the most wonderful achievement to us.

 

It is like watering and nurturing a small seed everyday and watching it germinate. You know it will live and you will see the first budding leaf you have hoped for. You continue to nurture it till it grows stronger and you wait. Finally, the bud blossoms into a bright beautiful flower. You know for sure that all the efforts that you have put in are meaningful.

 

However, hardships and risks never end. The key point is financial sustainability. There is a question that I always ask myself, if there comes a day where there are no donors, what will happen to Will to Live centre? We have created change so effectively and brought impact to the lives of PWDs. What would happen to the PWDs if this ends, and the enrolment waitlist becomes longer every year?

 

In February 2016, I decided to take the risk and used all my savings, about US$5,000, for my social start-up, Imagtor. My best friends and I decided to focus on training our students. We provide 2D and 3D Photoshop services and video services to estate companies and international e-businesses. Half of our customers come from America, 40 per cent from Europe, nine per cent from Australia, and one per cent from Japan and Korea.

 

Since 15 January 2019, we have hired 68 staff, of which more than half are PWDs. From the start, we have committed to maintain a staff quota of at least 40 per cent for PWDs. Shareholders of Imagtor have also continuously given support towards sustainable inclusion by each contributing 40 per cent of their profits to fund PWDs at Will to Live, or other centres.

 

Imagtor aims to create job opportunities for the marginalised community, especially PWDs. It provides professional, quality service to customers and change social perception about the capabilities of PWDs. It aims to provide a stable financial support for PWDs activities in the nation, to advance their position in society and contribute to eradicating poverty.

With the social stigma, PWDs are faced with barriers such as lack of confidence, and little access to facilities and public transportation. They are unable to receive education or attend vocational training, to learn and be equipped with new skills. They therefore are seen negatively in the eyes of society, for being poor, jobless and dependent on others. These have strengthened those unfounded myths.

THAO VAN

Thao Van is the Co-founder and Chairwoman of Imagtor, a social enterprise that helps people with disabilities to regain confidence and to have a successful career by equipping them with employable skills and providing them with work opportunities. For more information, or to find out how you can support Imagtor, visit www.imagtor.com.

JULY 2019 | ISSUE 5

Profit for Good

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Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

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About

Leaders and changemakers of today face unique and complex challenges. The HEAD Foundation Digest features insights and opinions from those in the know addressing a wide range of pertinent issues that factor in a society’s development. 

Informed opinions can inspire healthy discussions and open up our imagination to new possibilities. Interested in contributing? Write to us at info@headfoundation

Stay updated on our latest announcements on events and publications

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