|Slow but sure: Vocational students take sewing classes in the hope of getting a job as a tailor, which could earn them $100-150 a month. — VNS Photos Do Truong
|Concentration: Student Nguyen Danh makes incense sticks. The centre mainly relies on its own financial resources and outside support. It also depends on selling its hand-made products.
A vocational training centre in Da Nang provides a home away from home for physically and mentally challenged young people. It also gives them hope for an independent future. Do Truong
reports.Located on a green-filled campus in Hoa Hai Commune, Ngu Hanh Son District in Da Nang City, the Vocational Centre for Youth with Disabilities is home to 52 disabled children from the seaside city and the neighbouring province of Quang Nam. The centre, run by the Da Nang Red Cross Association, has been helping these children improve their lives since 1997 by offering free vocational training.
Students here range in age from 13 to 29, and are afflicted by varied congenital defects such as deafness, muteness and epilepsy. They learn how to make products such as cards, incense sticks and embroidery and fill out bills of sale.
"When children are brought here, we advise their families which trade is most suitable for them, based on their level of disability," said Le Tan Hong, the centre's director.
However, everything doesn't always go smoothly at first. Hong said it often takes about a week for the children to integrate with the others. "Many new students run away, trying to get back home. But with the encouragement of teachers and their relatives, they gradually adapt," he said.
He added that the centre's initial quota was 45, although actual enrolments were always higher because the children came from such troubled homes the centre staff felt bad turning them away.
"Teaching handicrafts to youth with disabilities is hard because of their limited ability to acquire skills," Hong said. "Many students learn practical skills in detail, but soon forget everything they just learned. Therefore, the teachers must be patient and enthusiastic people."
The centre has 11 staff members, mostly volunteers. Le Thi Tuyet, 38, from Hoa Minh Commune in Ngu Hanh Son District, has been volunteering as a sewing teacher at the centre since 2007.
"Although it is a hard job and I receive a very small monthly allowance, seeing the kids smile when they complete products gives me great happiness," he said.
Nguyen Danh, 24, a student from Quang Nam province's Thang Binh District, expressed a sense of accomplishment. "I have been learning to make incense sticks for one year," he said. "Now I know all the steps in the production process. I hope to open a small workshop in the countryside in the next year."
The centre mainly relies on its own financial resources, as well as support from individuals and organisations. Therefore, they depend on selling these hand-made products.
The Da Nang Department of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs recently signed a long-term contract with the centre to supply incense sticks for the city's war cemeteries on the first and 15th day of the lunar calendar each month.
The city's Museum of Cham Sculptures also helped the centre open a souvenir shop selling embroidered paintings, bracelets, satchels and purses. The centre has also set up a website (http://sites.google.com/site/tthn283) to introduce its products to a wider audience.
Le Tan Hong said that a portion of the profits would be spent to pay the centre's children a salary. Many students here go on to work in local factories or return home to develop trades. They owe it all to the centre – their home away from home. — VNS