This is a story of the First Group of Young Adults with Intellectual Disability in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam
Joining the Disability Resource and Development project
Being a Vietnamese mother who has a daughter born with Down syndrome, I have joined the network of the Disability Resource and Development (DRD) project in Ho Chi Minh city, and participated in the group of parents who have children with intellectual disabilities in Ho Chi Minh city. A great opportunity came to me when I was invited to participate the workshop organized in Bangkok, Thailand by the Asia-Pacific Development Center on Disability (APCD) in December 2008. This workshop was organized for special school teachers, heads of organisations and parent group leaders who are working for people with intellectual disabilities in Asia-Pacific region.
Participating in the workshop in Thailand
I met the specialists and parents who have children with intellectual disabilities from different countries. I listened to different ideas and learnt about different practices in supporting people with intellectual disabilities to live and be included in the community. With a happy smile, a young female teacher from Bangladesh showed us crafts made by her students. A father from Myanmar and a mother from Laos proudly talked about the Gold Medals achieved by their children in a Special Olympics Competition. Other mothers who have children with autism told us about the progress of their children through the activities organized by themselves.
The thing which impressed me most was that many parents who have children with intellectual disabilities organized a small group for their child and other children. Although their group finances were limited, they worked effectively.
Back home in Ho Chi Minh
After completion of the one-week workshop, I returned home in Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam. I spent a lot of time thinking about what to do for my daughter. In the city where I live, people with intellectual disabilities must leave their special schools at the age of 16-18. After leaving, they do not have many opportunities to join social activities. As a result, their emotional life became poorer. Gradually, the skills learnt from the special schools will be lost.
After leaving school, my daughter spent most of her time watching with a blank face as what she could understand was very limited. Without a supportive environment, no friends, my daughter became more and more silent. Sometimes, she mumbled to herself.
Contacting other parents and setting up a group
I was worried about her status and decided to do something for my daughter. By different ways, I found and contacted to more than 10 families who have children with intellectual disabilities at same age as my daughter. I met them, talked and persuaded them to send their child to join our group. Finally, 4 families agreed to send their child to my house to join the group activities together with my daughter. I named our group My Future. This name is about not only our anxiety of our childrens’ future, but also a big question for parents’ future.
‘My Future’ – the early years
After My Future was established in January 2009, I was very happy and spent all my time working for the group. I have designed learning activities, set timetable for every group member, and have done some on-the-job training for teachers. I received effective support from Professors of Social Work department from universities. They sent to us student volunteers who came to talk and work with our group members. Every day, my house was overflown with joyful smiles. All parents have been closed to each others like family members. Actually, I felt younger in my heart!
‘My Future’ – now
At present, after 4 years of establishment, My Future has 11 members. They are close friends. All parents also are close and share similar interests of life. Beside learning and playing, My Future members are also working and have a monthly salary. Although their salary is still very little, the earning helps them to understand an important thing that only working can bring money, and if they have money, they can buy what they want. With their monthly salary, many members have been able to buy gifts for their family members. I was so happy when hearing from my daughter that she wants to buy a tie for her younger brother.
Now, thinking about this journey I have been on, I felt very lucky when I was invited to participate in the workshop organised by APCD 5 years ago. The workshop made me think and find a solution to help my daughter and her friends, to help myself and other parents. I am very happy and feel useful. At the moment, our My Future group is the first and only group for adults with intellectual disabilities in Ho Chi Minh city. We are working hard to develop and share our practices with other parents, aiming to help other people with intellectual disabilities to have a supportive environment to learn, play, work, and develop after leaving their special schools.
If you would like to contact me, my email address is: firstname.lastname@example.org