|Adding some colour: A volunteer guides a kid with disabilities at the Vietnam National Hospital of Traditional Medicine to draw under the Marvellous Children project. — Photo courtesy of the project
The Marvellous Children Project in HCM City is offering education for children with disabilities and needed resources for their parents. Khanh Van reports.
"I love mom," seven-year-old Tran Quang Hieu (not his real name) wrote slowly on a small piece of paper for nearly five minutes, his fingers trembling.
This is a normal, easy activity for most school-age children, but not for Hieu.
Hieu, from the central province of Nghe An, suffers from cerebral palsy. It is a problem that affects body movement and posture and brain development. The disease often causes reflex movements that a person cannot control and muscle tightness that may affect some parts or all of the body. As a result, learning how to write is a big challenge for him.
Hieu's parents used to think that their son could not walk, read or write like a normal child. But now they are seeing progress. Hieu started to write from simple words to a long sentence, which he had never done before.
"I never thought that he could one day write such words," Nguyen Thi Huong, Hieu's mother, said.
His progress was partly thanks to a small but special class held for disabled children who are undergoing treatment at the Viet Nam National Hospital of Traditional Medicine.
The class is part of the Marvellous Children project, which has been initiated by a small group of young students early this year under the sponsorship of the Viet Nam Centre for Sustainable Development Studies.
The class, organised twice a week at the hospital on Tuesday and Friday, has brought in opportunities to study and play for children with disabilities.
Most of them are suffering from cerebral palsy, autism or are mentally deficient, due to which people and even their families often think it is difficult for them to receive even basic education.
Joining the class, Hieu, like many other children with disabilities, has a chance to learn how to read and write, to sing, to draw and play games.
"The class is a lot of fun and the children look very happy," his mother said.
"These activities could help the children forget the pain of the disease as well as the treatment process," she said.
Nguyen Minh Hang, head of the project, said: "We try to deliver non-formal basic education in various forms of art, music, and creative learning to the children with the support of volunteers."
"We strive to enrich personal development of these kids who have to stay in the hospital for most of their childhood with disabilities and chronic illnesses," Hang said.
However, teaching these children also poses a challenge to the project's volunteers.
Quynh Trang, a member of the project, said teaching these children was not as simple as she had thought.
"It requires great patience and love from us. It will take much longer for these children to learn than ones in average schools. They often stop studying and walk out of the class whenever they want," she said.
"Many children do not even listen to us or do not want to play. We have to be patient to persuade and teach them day after day to hold their attention and interest," Trang said.
"Sometimes we act like their teachers, but sometimes we try to be their friends as it makes approaching them easier," she said.
The project not only supports the children but also provides their parents with a source of crucial information to share their experiences via handouts, DVDs and website.
Not all parents, particularly those from rural areas, can get access to essential information to treat their children and to lead their children towards a better mental life, Hang said.
Growing up with developmental disabilities was very difficult, and raising a child with such emotions was also a special challenge and responsibility, Hang said, and added that it matters for parents.
"By knowing how to nurture and provide more opportunity for their children, these parents will have a positive belief in their child's development," she said. "They will not see their child as a burden anymore."
"We believe that the access these children have to basic education together with a full understanding of their parents could create marvellous changes in their development," she added.
Many such stories have shown that children suffering from autism, cerebral palsy or who are mentally deficient, could become artists, athletes or writers. They could overcome difficulties thanks to valuable support from their families.
Maysoon Zayid from the United States is a specific example which proved that good things can happen to children with disabilities. She was born in New Jersey with cerebral palsy but then became a famous actress thanks to immense support from her parents.
Hang decided to develop the project following her volunteer activities to take care of kids with disabilities for many years.
The project is scheduled to end by the end of this month but its members said they would try to continue to mobilise more assistance from different resources to keep the project with a hope of supporting as many disadvantaged children as possible.
After eight months of operation, the project has helped nearly 200 disadvantaged children at the Ha Noi National Hospital of Acupuncture and the Ha Noi National Hospital of Traditional Medicine to have equal opportunities to get access to basic, approachable, and fun education.
As Hieu's mother said, "Now I have a better understanding of my child condition and believe that he could do many other things that other normal children do."
"Every child deserves to lead a marvellous life. And having a chance to learn and play what normal children do is one among those things that have happened to my son," she said. — VNS