Oanh, a 31-year-old young lady comes from a poor family from a mountainous area. She is the only one in the family born with disabilities. She is hunch-backed and blind in one eye. Her childhood was full of tears and fear from being badly treated by her mother and brother who did not have any disability. Oanh was not sent to school because everyone thought she would bring bad luck to others. She wanted to go to school, to have friends, to play like all the other kids but nobody listened to her. Sadly, Oanh grew up without knowledge or connection to the world. The only thing she had was pain, until the year she turned 10, when a volunteer came to this area.
The volunteer had heard about Oanh and decided to come to her. She taught Oanh basic Vietnamese writing and reading. She played with her, and most importantly, she listened to her. She was the only bridge that helped Oanh communicate with the world. Oanh finally felt sunshine in her dark room and the little girl quickly developed deep attachment with her very first friend and teacher. They still kept in touch after the volunteer left. Thanks to her, Oanh found her strength and hope. However, life gave Oanh another hit when this volunteer passed away. Again Oanh fell down into the deepest hole and refused to climb up. The girl then suffered from depression for 2 years. Thanks to one of her relatives’ support, she got treatment during that period of time; however, it did not work effectively. “Those were the longest days of my life”, Oanh shared.
Upon hearing about Hagar, the local Women Union decided to introduce Oanh to us. Unexpectedly, Oanh faced a lot of objection from her family. With an extraordinary effort, she ran away, walked a great distance to a bus station and made her way to the Hagar office. Here she started another long journey of her life!
Being haunted by her poor experience in the past, Oanh was scared and suspicious of everyone, including her case manager. Nightmares kept coming back every night, causing her stress and fear. She refused to eat, to communicate and to get out of her room. Her health condition got worse as a result. Hagar staff had to spend a long time with Oanh at many hospitals to ensure her recovery. One of the biggest achievements is a surgery that saved her blind eye. Seeing our great efforts to be with her, Oanh gradually opened her heart and let us go into her world. She also agreed to receive counseling services, to participate in therapeutic activities and to make friends with residential fellows. “Except for my volunteer, you are the only people, who want to be close to me…” said Oanh.
Based on her expectation, Hagar sent Oanh to Hold the Future Center where she studied handicraft. The changing environment was, once again, a big challenge for Oanh that her case manager and her counselor had to visit the center frequently to help her deal with many different issues. During that time, we also cooperated with the local authority at her hometown to get her health insurance, birth certification and other important paperwork reissued. She now has equal rights as people without a disability.
One year later, in May 2014, Oanh was referred to Hold for Future Center after she graduated, for further training and employment. Hagar still provides follow-up services including counseling and living support for the first period of 6 months. Going through myriads of difficulties, Oanh is now performing quite well at this center. Her efforts are very much appreciated by her director, and she got promoted to become a teaching assistant. This is such a big encouragement and recognition to Oanh after many years of being “invisible”. “Thanks to all of you, I am no longer a worthless person” Oanh happily said, but for Hagar, each woman is innately beautiful. Our job is just to help them realize and develop their values.
Oanh recently shared that she wishes to become a good teacher who can bring hope to other disabled children around the country. This dream would also give her a chance to discover the world and live independently. “I really enjoy sunshine. I used to wait for someone else to bring sunshine to me but now I want to do it myself. By myself!”