Recently I was privileged to be invited to attend VNAH’s concert in Danang for people with disabilities. It’s aims were to commemorate the UN International Day of Disabled Persons and to raise the public’s awareness of people with disabilities in Vietnam. Certainly, for me, the concert achieved its aims.
As I looked around at the audience before and during the concert, I saw people with nose deformities, a blind boy being led by his mother and then leaning his head on her shoulder during the performance, a young man with half his face black and scarred as though he had been in a terrible fire, children with Down Syndrome, a middle-aged dwarf, several people with missing limbs, and a man with no legs being piggy-backed by a friend or relative because he had no money to buy a wheelchair.
It was terrible – and heart-wrenching. I could only imagine how their lives must be in a country where disabled people are marginalised, there are no social security payments and few rehabilitation or work training centres or programmmes for sick or disabled people or the elderly. These are things we take for granted in countries such as Australia. Disabled people are given government support to buy wheelchairs, have their homes and vehicles modified to suit their disability, and provided with special toilets and other facilities to make their lives sufferable. They are also integrated into society and given special training and paid work in sheltered workshops. In Vietnam, however, disabled people must rely on their family, on selling lottery tickets, on begging, or on the donations and untiring work of others such as VNAH and its workers.
Can you imagine what it might be like to live like this and to even endure the taunts and jeers of others throughout your life? And how about the future? If you are poor and have no brothers and sisters or other friends or relatives to look after you, what do you do? It must be worrying and so incredibly stressful and I urge anyone who reads this letter to think about these issues and try to contribute something to these people, whether it be financial aid or donations of special equipment.