|Mai Huỳnh Quốc Thống (fourth from left) is the group's founder. Green Intergration volunteers trawl the city's beaches picking up trash. — Photo courtesy of the Green Intergration group|
ĐÀ NẴNG — At 6am every Sunday morning for the past three years, a group of people with disabilities have been volunteering in Đà Nẵng to collect trash along the beaches.
Despite their hardships, they collect the rubbish with cheerfulness and joy.
They are members of the Green Integration group, a group of people with disabilities who share a love for the environment and want to help the community.
Green Integration group was founded by Mai Huỳnh Quốc Thống, 34, in 2019.
He said: "As a disabled person, I understand the thoughts and feelings of people in the same situation. I always want people with disabilities to integrate and contribute something to the community."
"I see that people with disabilities can contribute to society by protecting the environment. Therefore, I decided to form a group."
However, his humanistic ideas faced many challenges. At first, only a few people agreed with his idea. No one wanted to join the group when he campaigned. He was even ridiculed by his peers, saying he was wasting time.
Ignoring the criticism, he walked alone along the beach to pick up trash. Seeing his example, more like-minded people joined him. Finally, he decided to establish a Green Integration group with people in the same circumstances in the hope of eradicating self-doubt and helping people with disabilities integrate into the community.
Seeing the group's meaningful work, many people joined. The group expanded the garbage picking area.
The members of the Green Integration group are people with disabilities like hand-leg or hearing-visual disabilities.
Every time he organises a garbage collection activity at the beach, Thống calls on volunteers, students and workers to assist group members with heavy work beyond their ability.
Many agencies and social organisations currently agree and support the group's activities.
This helped to improve efficiency and spread the slogan of environmental protection.
In addition, it also carried another meaning he has been aiming for since the first day of the group's set-up: to help other people with disabilities integrate into the community.
"When working with volunteers, people with disabilities will communicate more confidently.
"There will be no more barriers, but only a common story is to clean up the environment together."
Đặng Thị Mỹ Trinh, 40, residing in Mân Thái Ward, Sơn Trà District, Đà Nẵng City, said that she was born with a disability; however, after hearing stories of the polluted environment which directly affected people's life, she volunteered to join the group to pick up trash from the beach.
"Every Sunday morning, I start collecting trash at 6am and end at 8am. I try to do this work alone. However, I have to ask the volunteers for support to transport bulky garbage bags to the gathering area," Trinh said.
"Working like that, I don't find it extreme, but fun. I not only met people in the same situation but also interacted with volunteers who are students and staff of social organisations."
"The happiest thing is that I see myself as disabled but still useful and able to contribute to society."
Nguyễn Thị Minh Dung, chairwoman of the Women's Union of An Hải Tây Ward, Sơn Trà District, was also an active volunteer of Green Integration group.
"I arrange housework and call on the office staff to join the group to pick up trash.
"Disabled people work to support themselves while trying to contribute to the community without asking for anything. They are beautiful flowers for life," said Dung. VNS