At a glance: Viet Nam

In Viet Nam, a welcoming centre for children with disabilities helps provide new opportunities

May 2013: UNICEF correspondent Sabine Dolan reports on a centre in Vietnam where children with disabilities are learning to read and write.  Watch in RealPlayer

 

By Sabine Dolan

Like all children, those with disabilities have many abilities, but are often excluded from society by discrimination and lack of support, leaving them among the most invisible and vulnerable children in the world.

UNICEF launches its flagship report The State of the World’s Children 2013: Children with Disabilities on 30 May 2013. The report brings global attention to the urgent needs of a largely invisible population.

In Da Nang, Viet Nam, a UNICEF-supported centre for children with disabilities helps provide new opportunities through education, training and therapy.

DA NANG, Viet Nam, 31 May 2013 – In central Viet Nam, on the edge of the city of Da Nang, a small group of children await their morning bus pickup. It’s a scene that could be encountered anywhere in the world, but what might appear commonplace is not. 

The children attend a UNICEF-supported centre for children with disabilities. At the centre, located in the Hoa Vang commune, they learn skills that help them integrate with their community.

“I like school, because I can learn how to write,” says 9-year-old Pham Van Trung, who has difficulty hearing and speaking. Trung has also been learning sign language. His classmate of the same age, Tuyet Nhi, has intellectual disabilities, but he has made a lot of progress in a short time.

An equal chance

Nhi used to be very shy, but now she enjoys participating in activities and doesn’t hesitate to speak up during class. “I like to draw and play with my friends,” she says.

UNICEF Image
© UNICEF Viet Nam/2012/Dolan
Pham Van Trung (left) and Tuyet Nhi, both age 9, show their drawings during class at a centre for children with disabilities in Da Nang, Viet Nam. There are about 1.3 million children with disabilities in Viet Nam, according to official estimates.

Children here all have an equal chance to learn. The centre, which opened three years ago, provides a friendly and protective learning environment for children who would otherwise be left out. But it is not limited to teaching new skills – it also allows the children a rare opportunity to socialize with others living with disabilities and to express themselves in a supportive setting. The children also have access to other services such as physical therapy.

For parents, the centre acts as a respite day care. They can continue to work and earn a living during the day, knowing their children are in a safe and nurturing environment.

Across the world, children with disabilities are at increased risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. Many are vulnerable and invisible, and are exposed to stigma and discrimination. In Viet Nam, there are about 1.3 million children with disabilities, according to the most recent official estimates.

A positive contribution

“Before coming here, I only stayed home. I helped my parents with house work and took care of my siblings,” explains Ho Thi Lang, who is just over one metre tall and has a hunchback. “Now that I go to the centre, I communicate with people. I have friends and I feel more confident.”

“I used to go to school, but I stopped going in seventh grade,” Lang says. “There were many children in my class, but they didn’t play with me – they always teased me.  They made fun of me because of my back. They would tell me that I’m like a monster.”

Yet given the opportunity to participate, children with disabilities can make a positive contribution to their communities.

Perhaps it’s Lang who tells it best: “We have disabilities. It doesn’t mean that we are useless. We may even be able to do what other people cannot do.”


 

 

UNICEF Photography: Children & disability

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