Last update 4/18/2011 10:50:00 AM (GMT+7)

Disabled woman makes her mark
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VietNamNet Bridge – Despite her disability and young age, 24-year-old Nguyen Thi Thu is already a skilled employee of a bakery in Ha Noi's Tay Ho District. Seeing Thu serve customers in the shop briskly with a gentle smile, nobody would realise that she was hearing-impaired.

HTML clipboardDisabled people learn how to embroider handmade silk pictures at Huu Nghi Village in Ha Noi's Tu Liem District. (Photo: VNS)
Two years ago, Thu, who is from the northern province of Ninh Binh, had no income and was hopeless about her future. Today, she earns about VND1.5 million (US$75) a month working at the bakery, supporting herself and even giving her mother some financial assistance.

"The greatest thing was that I changed my neighbours' and some other people's thinking that the disabled are useless," she said.

Thu, who was introduced to the job by a friend, also hearing-impaired, is one of 20 employees of the Donkey Bakery, owned by Vietnamese-American Luyen Shell. Sixteen of the employees are disabled, either hearing-impaired, blind or physically disabled.

Luyen opened the bakery in 2009. The idea of hiring the disabled began when, shortly after she had opened the shop, a deaf-mute girl stopped in to ask for work.

Now, says Luyen, "the only norm to hire employees is they have an inquiring mind and really want to change their lives."

Luyen, of course, met a number of difficulties in training them at first, and Thu admits that she didn't know sign language and at first had difficulty communicating with Luyen and with the bakery customers.

"But maybe the love in our hearts helped us reach an understanding," says Luyen. "All of my employees know that I love them and want to help them, so they follow my lead and understand my training."

The disabled were often aware of their shortcomings and thus continuously wanted to learn and work hard, she said.

"But employing the disabled, we should also understand that they do not need charity. They are workers with high potential ... who have the capacity to meet the demands of work."

Viet Nam has 6.1 million disabled, constituting 7.8 per cent of the total population. While 60 per cent of the disabled are of working age, only 25 per cent have incomes, with the remaining dependent on their families, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

"Many people with disabilities have demonstrated that, with the right opportunities along with adaptations and support if needed, they can make major contributions to all levels of the economy and society," said Rie Vejs-Kjeldgaard, director of the ILO Office in Viet Nam.

The exclusion of people with disability from the labour market had been at a great costs to society, she said.

"Experience in many countries shows that inclusion is much easier said than done and is a long and challenging process," said Rie. For inclusion to take place, it needed involvement of the entire society, from policymakers to implementers, the disabled and the non-disabled people, she said.

VietNamNet/Viet Nam News