During my time in Vietnam I had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Nguyen Thi Thanh Nga. One of the most genuine people I’ve ever met, she started the Nguyen Nga Centre after her sister was injured in an accident. Having severely injured her leg Ms Le spend three years of her rehabilitation in hospital where Ms Nga was exposed to a large number of people with disabilities and the view that “in Vietnam a disability often leads to a wretched life, usually with little hope of rising above their difficulties. People with disabilities usually have no income and often have to rely on non-disabled friends and family for basic necessities. It has perpetuated negative images of people with disabilities as evil, ridiculous, ugly and a burden on resources…”
Ms Nga spoke at the beginning of my visit to the Nguyen Nga Centre. Her passion and beautiful spirit shone through and is something I truly cannot give words to. It has to be seen to be believed. At the centre she has organised education, training, job assistance and life skills for children and adults with special needs. Through the Nguyen Nga Centre they are rehabilitated into the community and some have gone on to study at university, start their own families, or open their own businesses. More work from home to provide handicrafts for the shop and for sale throughout Vietnam and some have gone on to provide services (mobile phone repair, hair dressing, massage etc) throughout the community.
While I visited many handicraft centres throughout Vietnam including in Ho Chi Mihn (Saigon) and near Hanoi, Ms. Nga’s attitude had a profound effect on my experience of the Nguyen Nga Centre. While the other places were set up as stores, selling product at exorbitant prices with sales people that followed me around like personal shoppers, Ms. Nga’s was a relaxed, happy place. I was introduced to many of the people she has helped and who now work for or study with her. I felt like I actually got to have a really good look behind the scenes and I liked what I saw. Girls chatted amongst themselves, joking around while sewing or drawing and the real cheekiness of the Vietnamese spirit showed through. Deaf and blind musicians played traditional instruments as well as guitars and keyboards. When everyone else had given up on these kids, Ms.Nga had persevered.
When I got back down to the shop I didn’t feel pressured to buy, although I did walk out with a gorgeous bag and some pillowcases which were priced at an absolute steal.
While I understand not everyone would be interested in visiting a place like this, it gave me a truer understanding of Vietnamese people and their attitudes and society. War has brought a higher level of people with disabilities to this country and it’s important for me to know that there are people like Ms. Nga out there, doing their best for their fellow man.
The Nguyen Nga Centre is in Quy Nhon City, Binh Dinh Province, Vietnam. http://www.nguyenngacentre.org
 Introduction to Nguyen Nga Centre.