I was lucky enough to be accepted to work with Social Work students from Hawaii Pacific University (HPU) in a volunteer project at Thai Nguyen Disadvantaged Child Education Centre.
It was an unforgettable Sunday, 13 January 2013 when we first came to the school to meet the school boards to do preparatory work. We stopped in the yard of the school and instantly caught the curious eyes of the children here looking at us, the strangers. Some of them waved their hands and smiled at us. They are quite friendly and lovely.
After the meeting with the boards and teachers, we have known some basic information and background of the school. There are about 200 children aged 6 to 18 studying here. Of these children, 120 kids stay at the centre and 80 kids come for the day. The disabilities include being blind, mute or deaf, physical and also those with intellectual disabilities. Afterwards, Ms. Lien, Headmaster of the School, guided us into the classroom where her students were serving an apprenticeship as a tailor and hand embroidery designer. We were surprised and we highly appreciated students’ products, which are so beautiful and incredible. One of HPU students insisted on buying a hand- embroidery picture made by a disabled student
The students welcomed us with open arms and easily got acquainted with us
We were also taken to visit student dormitory and kitchen. The children here do not receive many visitors from other sources. Every month, the centre receives a small amount of funding from the government, but this is not enough to look after the children properly. Everywhere we went in the school campus, the children always surround us. They were extremely friendly and could not have been more welcoming. Though we never met them before, they welcomed us warmly and they were easily acquainted with us.
We started our volunteer work there from Monday to Wednesday. We worked as teachers’ assistant and did activities for groups with different levels and types of disabilities. For instance, for students with deaf and mute, and physical disabilities, we organized “Recycle T-shirt” and “Journal collage art”; on the other hand, for students with blind and intellectual disabilities we taught them singing and Halu & flash mob dance; etc.
The students show their dreams through “Journal collage art” activity
We taught the children to make hand bags out of T-shirt
The students made many products from doing origami
The disabled students with Ms. Phuong draw so lovely picture
Ms. Huong and Hong were playing game with intellectual disability students
HPU volunteers were teaching singing and Halu dance for disabled students
The children are bright and eager to learn. To communicate with them, we also had the chance to learn some basic sign language or use paper or cell phone to chat with them. I had never worked or communicated with disable people before. Honestly, working with them was fun but a bit challenging. It was a struggle at times. However, I have learnt a lot of things from HPU students, the way they communicate and play with disabled children, the way they use their initiative to create fun learning methods, and the most important above all, is the way they inspired those children. You need to motivate them; let them know that they are the best and can do it, and finally made them realize the importance of who they are in this world. It is amazing to see the joyful reaction given by the kids while they were working with us. The love and respect they have for my friends and me make me believe we can make a difference.
hey are the ones who taught me what being really happy is all about
Everything was happening quickly and results were seen in the faces of the children, teachers and our volunteers. We had a farewell party with students and staffs in Disadvantage Child Education Centre on the last day.
Mr. Viet - representative of TNU gave gift for the School
We delivered gifts for the students on the last day
HPU students and Ms Lien-headmaster of the School
Seven of TNU students got this chance will never forget it
Words cannot describe my experience of working with HPU students for children with disabilities, as every day is a new learning and a new memory. The changes that were observed in them were very encouraging, proving that the proper environment, love and care, health and education, and above all the love and support of the volunteers make a huge difference.
Nguyen Thanh Tan, student of K42-AEP