The joy of sharing my skills with my peers

BUI HUU DUNG, a trainer of the massage therapy vocational training classes at Thai Binh Blind Association, shares with us the joy he’s had helping to change the lives of people with visual impairment.  It’s not just about teaching them a skill, but seeing the remarkable changes in their behaviour and confidence.  Mr Dung is visually impaired himself.

In August 2012, I was honored to asked to work an assistant trainer for a vocational training course on massage therapy for people with visual impairment.  The project is  funded by ADRA in Vietnam and held at Thai Binh Blind’s Association’s Vocational and Training centre. I really enjoy helping to teach the class as it is a great opportunity for me to share my skills and experience with other people with visual impairment. After two months with the participants, I am truly impressed with the positive changes I’ve seen in each of them.

In the class there are 20 visually-impaired individuals, each with 20 different lives and fates, all gathered under the same roof with the desire to become skilled masseurs so they can find a stable job and make a living. The class is not only an opportunity for them to learn a vocation but also a good environment for them to improve their own life skills such as communication, orientation and mobility.

During the first few days, some walked clumsily, some expressed themselves timidly and many felt that they were inferior to everyone else in the community. However, just after two months, what significant changes we have noticed! They have learnt to read and write Braille, are walking around more confidently thanks to the orientation lessons and the white canes provided.   Most of all, they are more assured about themselves and their demeanor and confidence have improved remarkably.

Among the 20 participants is Pham Tien Dat, an 18-year-old boy from Bo Xuyen Ward, Thai Binh City.  When he first started coming to the class, he was so shy and only talked when was asked a question.  He would otherwise remain silent.  Initially, it was thought that he was suffering from autism. We then found out that he came from a family with very difficult circumstances. His mother did not have a stable job, his father was an alcoholic, and Dat was not cared for nor properly treated by his family. His education suffered due to his visual impairment. He had no friends at school and always felt isolated. He consequently fell into a deep depression for a long time.

Since coming to the vocational class on massage therapy for people with visual impairment, he has had the opportunity to share, talk, express himself and discover his personal values with others in a similar situation. He is motivated and encouraged in this new learning environment.  Talking about his impressions and feelings about participating in the massage training class, he said, “I see that I’ve been more talkative, happy and light-hearted. I do not feel inferior to everyone else anymore…”

The positive changes we’ve seen in Dat, and the other participants as well are a joyful and encouraging sign.  Normally, it would be easy for them to be left behind in such a fast developing society, such as in Vietnam.  Having a disability means we would traditionally be expected to keep to ourselves and be passive.

However, with the opportunity to not only learn a vocation, but also improve their life skills in an encouraging learning environment means that people with visual impairment are empowered to proactively improve themselves and integrate into the community. It’s not about waiting for charity.

We would like to thank ADRA in Vietnam for coming and giving a hand to the people with visual impairment in Thai Binh Province!