VNAH has distributed over 3,000 wheelchairs to the most severely disabled across the country.  High priority categories for the receipt of wheelchairs have been double amputees, students crippled by polio and other severely disabled persons who are able to navigate a wheelchair.  We are particularly pleased with the important strides we have made in quality of wheelchairs manufactured in Viet Nam. With a special grant from The Freeman Foundation, VNAH has provided technical assistance to both government-owned and private wheelchair manufacturers in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta in their design and production of wheelchairs.  Under this special grant, VNAH will be able to deliver over 6,000 quality wheelchairs to amputees in Central region of Vietnam.  These manufacturers are now able to produce a high quality wheelchair at a relatively low price.

This is a wheelchair that benefited with some features from the design by Whirlwind Wheelchair International (WWI) and Viet Nam Veterans of America Foundation (VVAF) for conditions in Southeast Asia; similar to those found in Viet Nam.  The wheelchair has a rigid frame and solid rubber tires.  It is being tested by the US Veteran Administration Research and Development Center in Pittsburgh, PA.  It also has been field tested and proven to operate well under local conditions and to be popular with the user.  To be included in VNAH’s program, the manufacturers must accept and observe the VNAH specifications.

To date, VNAH provided wheelchairs have been delivered to poor beneficiaries in the Central and Southern regions of Viet Nam. With some expansion of this program and more actual experience it seems perfectly feasible for us to help facilitate the manufacture of economical, high quality wheelchairs for private sector sales in Viet Nam and elsewhere in South East Asia.

The Freeman Foundation Helps VNAH Care for War and Landmine Survivors

Since January 2002, over 2500 wheelchairs and tricycles chairs were donated to severely disabled war victims.

Since January 2002, over 2500 wheelchairs and tricycles chairs were donated to severely disabled war victims.

The Freeman Foundation has continued to support VNAH’s wheelchairs and prosthetic and orthotic program in the southern region of Viet-Nam.  This region has a large population of war and landmine survivors who are still isolated.  VNAH’s outreach projects deliver much needed wheelchairs and prosthetic/orthotic rehabilitation service to distant districts of Tay Ninh, Binh Phuoc, Ben Tre, Binh Thuan, Ninh Thuan and Ba Ria provinces.  Since the spring of this year, VNAH has delivered over 2,500 wheelchairs to landmine victims and people who are severely disabled.

Vietnamese Ministerial Study Tour | NGO Law

As part of the NGO Law Reform Project, a collaborative effort between VNAH and the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL), representatives of the Vietnamese Ministry of Home Affairs and local governments visited Washington in March 2003, on a study tour on best practices and principles of NGO law.  The ministerial group visited NGOs, law firms, tax specialists, and US government officials, and participated in seminars on NGO legislation in the US and other countries. 

The purpose of the study tour was to provide a variety of perspectives for their work in drafting a unified NGO law for Vietnam and to provide a sound legal framework for the growth and provision of desired public services by Vietnamese civil society organizations.  Such a framework will enable organizations to operate smoothly, become self-sustaining and accountable, and work in partnership with Vietnamese citizens, the government, and donors in achieving a better life for the people of Vietnam.
ICNL is a Washington-based international organization whose mission is to facilitate and support the development of civil society on a global basis. ICNL, in cooperation with other international, national, and local organizations, has worked in over 70 countries providing technical assistance for the creation and improvement of laws and regulatory systems that permit, encourage, and regulate the NGO sector.

Before the study tour, ICNL led seminars in Vietnam on good practices in NGO regulation.  The study tour represented a hands-on follow up to those seminars, providing direct contact with experts on taxation, economic activities of NGOs, transparency and oversight, and models from other countries.
The Vietnamese participants requested additional follow-on work with VNAH and ICNL in Vietnam, and funding for this work has been requested by the collaborating organizations. Both VNAH and ICNL hope to continue their work to help assure that progress toward establishment of a modern regulatory regime for Vietnamese civil society organizations.

Stephan Klingelhofer
President ICNL

Testimony: Keep Walking by Ms. Huong Duong

by Ms. Huong Duong

In 1996, a traffic accident deprived me of my two legs.  I woke up in a hospital bed, so sad, and thinking that from now on I would be immobile, capable of doing nothing.

Then one morning, Mr. Toan of VNAH visited me at my house. He took a careful look at my two stumps, and was decisive that I would be able to walk again.  “You will be able to walk again”, he told me.  “We will make good limbs for you”.  After that, I was sent to Can Tho Prosthetics and Rehabilitation Center, where I was examined and treated by Dr. Nguyen Van Hung, the Director and John Eardman, a prosthetist of VNAH. After two months, I was able to toddle on the two new limps, just like a baby learning how to walk.  
Having the artificial limbs, to me, was like a rebirth.  I was feeling like walking out of the dark and desperation, into life again.  From then, I was obsessed by the idea to reach out to other people who are more unfortunate and need help.  “I was given a lot.  Now it is time I have to give”, I thought.  I come to blind children, meeting them, reading books for them, with a hope to make them more happy.  I discovered that their need for knowledge is so vast, and the shortest, most effective way to help them access information is through talking books.  I decided to set up a talking book library for the blind.  This was risky since this model had never existed in Vietnam before, and the concept of “talking book” was very new.  Once again I received great support for this new idea from VNAH.

In 1998, the first and only talking book library in Vietnam was established under the management of the Women’s Charity Association – WOCA/Ho Chi Minh City. Up to now, the library has produced and published more than 400 titles including literature, sciences, medical, text books from grade 1 to 12 and even college text books.  It has provided 25,000 tapes to the blind, Blind Associations and schools in 40 provinces across the country.  Up to now we have 10,000 tapes at the library.  Thanks to the library’s products, thousands of blind children can access education.  It is a great contribution to the success of the four first ever blind students of Vietnam to pass entrance exams to attend the University.

Good news travels fast.  At the end of 2002, The Japanese Consulate provided $17,434 USD to help us build and purchase equipment for the recording recording studio.  In May 2003, the library received another 10,000 USD funding from the World Bank Vietnam through its initiative of “Innovation Day” program.
Having an accident, losing two legs, receiving two artificial ones, and then starting reaching out to more unfortunate souls, I have proved the history-old maxim that no matter what and how life changes, keep walking, and change some others’ lives.

And I believe that is also what VNAH and its supporters are doing for the needy in Vietnam. I understand a small deed of help can make a big difference.  A life will be changed, and thousands of other lives will be after that.  I hope your programs continue to help millions of lives of the still unassisted people with disabilities for a better future. 

And so we keep walking.

MOLISA-Led Delegation Studies Employment Services for People with Disabilities in the US and Thailand

On June 22nd, a senior level Vietnamese Government delegation began a two-week study tour to the United States and Thailand to learn how Americans and Thais provide employment related services for people with disabilities (PWD).  The tour, coordinated by VNAH, was part of the US Department of Labor (DOL) funded project “Improving Employment Opportunities and Services for People with Disabilities in Viet Nam”. 

The project’s goals are to enhance the capacity of employment services for people with disabilities in Viet Nam by promoting employment through law and policy reform, creating access to key employment service centers (ESC), ESC staff development, new equipment, job training and job placement, and public awareness and education. The Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA) is the counterpart government institution for this project. MOLISA has assigned the project to the Department of Labor and Employment Policies (DOLEP) to help implement the project.

The purpose of the study tour was to explain and show to senior officials in charge of Viet Nam’s system of Employment Service Centers how the US and Thailand operate similar services in their countries.  The delegates were interested in learning how the US’ One-Stop Career Centers provide services for PWD.  Viet Nam’s system of ESCs is remarkably similar to the US’ One-Stop Career Centers.  These are multi-purpose centers providing the job-seeking public with job counseling, vocational training and job placement services.  However, few ESCs in Viet Nam currently provide services to PWD.  The study tour was one of the staff development activities planned by VNAH in furtherance of gaining access for PWD to the ESC system.

The delegation was lead by Mr. Nguyen Dai Dong, Director of the Department of Labor, Employment and Policy (DOLEP) of MOLISA. Other members of the delegation included: Mr. Bui Viet Bao, DOLEP staff; Mr. Nguyen Nhu Tuan, staff of the International Relations Department (MOLISA); Mr. Tran Dinh Phuong, Director of the Hai Duong ESC; Mr. Nguyen Phao, Director of the Da Nang ESC; Ms. Le Thi Ngan Suong, Director of the Ho Chi Minh City ESC; Ms. Trinh Thi Mai, Director the of Hai Duong VGCL ESC; and Mr. Bui Quang Minh, Disability Employment Project Manager for VNAH. 

The delegation’s meetings included a mixture of high-level meetings with Government officials and more practical “this-is-how-we-do-it” meetings with One-Stop Career Centers, vocational training programs and accommodation experts.  Besides meetings with the Vietnamese Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien; DOL Assistant Secretary for Disability Policy, Dr. Roy Grizzard; and DOL Foreign Relations Office representatives, James Perlmutter and Bui Bruno; the Washington, DC area visit include a thorough examination of how One-Stop Career Centers serve PWD. The delegation worked with the One-Stop Career Centers in Montgomery County, Maryland; Fairfax County, Virginia; Employer Assistance Referral Network; the Job Accommodation Network; and the National Collaborative on the Workforce and Disability.

In Thailand, the delegation called on the Chairman of the Committee for the Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons, Minister Anurak Chureemas of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security, the Bangkok One-Stop Services Centre for People with Disabilities, the ILO Ability Asia Office, and the Emerging Social Issue Division of UNESCAP.  Additionally, site visits were made to vocational training centers and employers working with PWD, including: Thaiwheel Factory, Sampran Vocational Center for Blind Women, Jintana Apparel Company, Industrial Rehabilitation Center, Rachanukul Institute, and the Redemptorist Vocational Center. 

Mr. Dai Dong, the delegation’s leader, was enthusiastic about what the group had learned and will soon hold a small workshop to share their knowledge with other ESCs involved in the project.  He acknowledged VNAH for the fine arrangements; and noted the high-level of quality and technical expertise observed through their meetings and site visits.  In the opinion of all, the study tour was a success!

Giving Voice & Choice | The Small Grants

VNAH views strengthening groups of and for the disabled among its most valuable long term contributions to development in Vietnam. To assist in this effort, VNAH has established a small grants program that provides limited funding to local non-governmental organizations led by and directly serving people with disabilities.  This program helps to meet the needs of such groups, including training, improved income generation and other capacity building measures. By strengthening these groups, the program directly contributes to the ability of people with disabilities themselves to meet the needs of their community and to represent that community when laws, policies and programs for people with disabilities are under discussion.  We believe that this assistance will help promote a vigorous community of non-governmental organizations representing and meeting numerous community needs and advance civil society in Vietnam.  

The VNAH Small Grants program started about a year ago with five grants awarded to non-governmental organizations designed to strengthen the management skills of blind women leaders, improve income generation activities and promote skills training and e-library development for the sight impaired. Awards were based on grant applications submitted by interested NGOs. 

In August 2002, VNAH called for a second round of the grants.  Many applications received were from groups representing vision, mobility and hearing impairments, as well as people living with HIV/AIDS.  
Recent awards went to the Ha Noi, Thai Nguyen, Hai Phong Deaf Clubs; the Can tho and Hoi An Groups of People with Disabilities; a joint venture between the School of Social Sciences and Humanities of the National Vietnam University and the Sao Mai Technology Center for Blind Students; a joint venture of the Disabled Youth Association and the Dong Hanh Group in Ho Chi Minh City.  With these grants, the NGOs held training courses in hair cutting, carpentry, sewing, weaving and computer skills.

Combating AIDS | Hanoi HIV/AIDS Awareness Project

The HIV/AIDS Awareness Project is a joint Vietnam Youth Union - Health and Education Volunteers effort, funded by USAID, to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in Hanoi. The project is built on a peer to peer approach in which five Youth Against AIDS Teams deliver information to other youth on HIV/AIDS transmission and prevention. The goal is to increase knowledge and behavior changes.  The Teams are working in five Wards of Hanoi that have large number of youths.

Over the past months the Teams have been actively engaged in various types of information, education and communication efforts. They have operated outreach efforts at local cafés and designed and distributed educational materials as well as organized group discussions and peer counseling.  These activities were specifically designed by each team to meet the individual needs of the Team’s target group and community.  Team members are starting to overcome their shyness and now feel more comfortable talking about HIV/AIDS-related issues. 

In addition to their work in the Wards, the Teams participated in events related to World Aids Day in late November. The events took place at the Vietnam Youth Institute and the Youth Cultural Center in Hanoi and attracted thousands of youths who participated in concerts, plays, games, a fashion show and Q&A sessions, focusing on HIV/AIDS and related issues. The overall theme of the events was overcoming the stigma attached to and discrimination towards people living with HIV/AIDS.

Self-Help Projects | Meeting the Needs of the Rural Poor

On April 4, 2003, VNAH and HealthEd signed agreements with the provinces of Ha Tinh, Ninh Binh, and Phu Yen to provide small grants for self-help projects in poor communities. The signing ceremony took place at the office of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organization (VUFO) with Mr. Vu Xuan Hong, Chairman of the VUFO and the United States Ambassador to Vietnam, Mr. Raymond Burghardt, attending.  

VNAH will provide fund for the construction of elementary schools and kindergartens, which will be equipped with potable water, toilet facilities and basic school furniture.  Local communities work with authorities to form project management team to coordinate and oversee these projects to ensure quality and efficient results.  People from local communities contribute labor and raw materials to eachproject.


Putting Plans into Action | Accessibility Building Code and Standards

With the issuance of the Accessibility Building Code and Standards in January 2002, attention shifted from enactment of the code to their actual implementation and enforcement. VNAH arranged for Richard P. Kuchnicki, the Federal Program Manager of the International Code Council (ICC) and Brent Snyder, a Certified Building Official and former ICC official, to come to Vietnam to assist in these tasks. The American experts provided advice on courses and curriculum for all current and future architects in Vietnam to help them understand and implement the new Accessibility Building Code and Standards.  They also worked with Vietnamese counterparts to identify ways to set up an effective enforcement system for the full implementation of the Code and Standards.

In addition to meetings with officials from the Ministry of Construction and the academic community, the two experts visited the Hanoi Central Railway Station and Hanoi Cultural Center – both of which are being actively considered for renovations to better accommodate people with disabilities. At present, these two buildings attract large numbers of users but are inaccessible to people with disabilities.

In a final meeting, Nguyen Van Lien, Vice Minister of the Ministry of Construction, praised the work of the two experts and of the long-term efforts of VNAH to assist people with disabilities in Vietnam. He said Vietnam looked forward to future cooperation with VNAH in this most important area. 

Rewarding Employment at the Grassroots Level

One of the greatest challenges facing people with disabilities in Vietnam is finding and maintaining rewarding jobs. All too often people with disabilities are the last hire, and the first fired.

To help address this problem, VNAH, in partnership with the Government of Vietnam, the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) and the Japanese Nippon Foundation, is implementing mutually reinforcing projects that directly aimed at increasing employment for people with disabilities.  

At the national level the project funded by the USDOL will examine laws and policies related to employment to assure they are most effective and efficient.  In addition, the project strives to improve the knowledge and attitudes of potential employers on the advantages of hiring people with disabilities and to train Government of Vietnam officials at the local level so they can assist people with disabilities find rewarding employment. The project is also testing model job training and employment scheme.

At the grassroots level, the Nippon Foundation-funded project provides hands on vocational and skill training for people with disabilities in Danang City and surrounding areas.  The assistance is not limited to technical training, but opportunities for employment are offered to graduated trainees by either the private sector business or a government-sponsored program. The opportunities for employment are a key elements in the projects partnership between the Danang City’s department of labor and social affairs and private sectors, where they work together to find gainful employment for people with disabilities. In just over one year of operation, the project has assisted over 100 people with disabilities in Danang City to learn a skill and, with that new skill, move into a rewarding job. 

Implementing the Ordinance on Disabled Persons | The National Assembly Organizes a Regional Conference

In January, 2003, the Vietnamese National Assembly’s Committee on Social Affairs, with assistance from VNAH, organized a regional conference for about 100 officials and interested parties from the five provinces of Phu Yen, Quang Ngai, Binh Dinh, Khanh Hoa, and Ninh Thuan to review the implementation of laws pertaining to people with disabilities.    Local officials were also asked to report what they have accomplished to meet the needs of people with disabilities and to provide lawmakers with recommendations on means to improve future laws, policies and programs.  

Most of the presentations at the Conference emphasized the significance of the Ordinance on Disabled Persons.  They noted that, after almost five years of implementation, the Ordinance has helped raise awareness of the general public on disability issues and helped people with disabilities become more confident and receive more respect and support from their communities.  However, participants stressed that concerned ministries, agencies, and authorities needed to do a better job of coordinating their efforts to implement the Ordinance.