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Carpenter battles through disability

Update: April, 12/2013 - 09:52
Quach Duc Manh (centre) gives guidance to his employees at his workshop in Ha Noi's Thanh Oai District. Started in 2009 with only three employees, the workshop has steadily grown bigger and bigger. — VNS Photo Thu Trang
by Thu Trang

HA NOI — The atrophied legs of Quach Duc Manh cannot prevent him from dragging himself to every corner of his 15sq.m workshop to supervise and give guidance to his 12 employees, who are all able people.

Complications that arose from a high temperature when Manh was three months old left him partially paralysed, but despite his disability, now at the age of 30, Manh has become the proud owner of a carpentry shop in Cao Duong Commune, in Ha Noi's Thanh Oai District, which is about 20km from the city centre.

By making altars and wooden worshipping objects, he has a stable income of VND10 million (US$470) per month and pays each of his employees VND120,000-150,000 ($5-7) per day depending on their professional skill level.

His products are not only sold to local residents but also big pagodas in the area.

"But the most important thing is that I do not become a burden on my family," he said. His road to success however has not been an easy one.

"My family is too poor to buy a wheelchair for me, so during the first two years of studying carpentry I had to crawl with small crutches in my hands," said Manh.

Many people who saw him crawl advised him to forget the idea of becoming a carpenter. "The thought of staying at home with no income and being hopeless about my future urged me to continue down my path," he said.

With his father having only a small saving, Manh grew determined to complete his vocational course in Cao Duong Commune, and started to make leaf-hats to earn money for the course.

Now the biggest obstacle that he faces is the shortage of capital to expand the business.

"Approaching the bank to request that I borrow money from them has not been easy. After finishing a lot of complicated procedures, such as making collateral and seeking guarantees from my family, my request for a loan has had to wait a long time to be approved," he said.

Three years after finishing the vocational course, Manh borrowed money with preferential interest from the bank and opened the workshop in 2009 with just three employees. With the joint effort and help from his family, as well as his colleagues, the shop has steadily grown bigger and bigger.

"I really want to enlarge my workshop to create jobs for more youth in my village. Many of them, including the disabled and non-disabled, cannot find a job after their vocational training courses," said Manh.

Manh is among 300 handicapped people in the district. For many other disabled people, finding a job is even more difficult than Manh.

Ha Van Thang, 41, a disabled employee of a small tailor shop in the district's Kim Bai Town, said he studied tailoring in 1987 and truly believed in his skill, but he could only try in vain to apply for jobs in garment companies.

"They rejected me, saying that I am not skillful or strong enough to complete the work. But I know that they hesitated to take me in as they did not want to invest in specialised machines for the disabled," he said.

Now he makes clothes to sell in the local market. Although his products were trusted by local residents, he was not able to find any opportunities to be employed by other big garment companies.

Chairman of the Thanh Oai Disabled People's Association Vu Duy Thuc said each district was allocated VND300 million ($14,200) from State revenue to help create jobs for disabled people.

The association consulted the districts to assist them in completing the procedure to ask for loans, but whether their documents were approved or not will depend on the bank's decision.

"I believe that disabled people meet more obstacles than non-disabled ones because of the banks' concerns about the ability of the disabled to pay back the capital," said Thuc.

"A lot of capital borrowed by disabled people does become bad debt so organisations are forced to carefully consider giving them loans," he said.

Chairwoman of the Ha Noi Disabled People's Association Duong Thi Van said to have more opportunity to find jobs, disabled people should receive consultancy on choosing careers which are better suited to their abilities. Another effective measure to help them is to publicise and share their precarious situation and their products' quality, in order to increase the overall consumption of their product.

"Trade fairs should be held regularly to introduce products made by the disabled. These fairs will in turn help them quicker find a foothold in the market," she said.

The country has more than 6 million disabled people. Nearly 70 per cent of them are at an age where they can work, but only 30 per cent have a stable job or income, according to the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs.

The unemployment rate of disabled people inflicts a loss of 3 per cent in the gross domestic production per year, said the International Labour Organisation. — VNS

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