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Brightening the future for children with disability in Vietnam

Seven-year-old Thu (pictured below) lives in a small rural village in Bac Kan province in northern Vietnam. She lives with her parents and her younger sister.

Thu was born with cerebral palsy and is paralysed on the right side of her body. Completely dependent on the help of her parents, she spent most of her early childhood lying on a bed in a dark corner of the house. She cannot talk but understands people and can respond to simple questions with a few words, which her parents understand and interpret.

“We know that she often felt really sad and wanted to meet and play with other people, but she couldn`t because we were not there to help her out,” says Thu`s mother, Huong.

Thu wanted to attend school but was unable to go because she couldn`t write and had nobody to assist her. She also had no opportunities to play with other children.

After becoming aware of her situation, ChildFund Vietnam provided Thu with a wheelchair to help with her mobility. Now it`s easier for her parents to take her out and she can be more involved in her family and community.

“She seems to be happier now as I can take her out to play with children in the neighbourhood more often,” says Huong. “At meals, she can sit more comfortably and eat with the whole family.”

Thu particularly enjoys visiting a nearby playground. “I like the chair,” she says. “I can play with friends.”

Access to services for children with disability is considered in the planning and construction of all ChildFund Vietnam-supported schools, health clinics and water and sanitation facilities. At schools, ramps are incorporated into the design to encourage children with disability to attend. Inclusive education is also promoted through training for teachers and school managers to raise their awareness on disability.

“Children with disability are especially vulnerable to a range of risks,” says ChildFund Australia CEO Nigel Spence. “We want to ensure they can participate fully in the programs and projects we support, and in the broader community. We value the participation of children with disability as capable individuals who can make an active and meaningful contribution to their communities.”

Like Thu, nine-year-old Tuan also felt excluded when he would see his friends out playing. “Sometimes I really wanted to go out to play with my friends but I felt reluctant because they had to help me to walk,” he says. “So I told them I did not want to go out that day.”

Now his two wheelchairs, one at home and one at school, have not only given him more independence but more opportunity to play with his friends. Full of smiles, he says: “I now have my wheelchairs to play with my friends, go to school and go to the toilet on my own.”

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