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Hanoi Independent Living Center's 5th Anniversary

On May 30th 2014, Hanoi Independent Living Center (Hanoi ILC) solemnly celebrated its 5th Anniversary titled “Independent Living, 5 years and a journey”. The celebration aims to highlight Hanoi ILC’s achievements gained after the five-year period and the success of ILC model in Vietnam; to share experiences of people with severe disabilities (PWSD) in dealing with their difficulties in daily chores and about how their personal assistants (PAs) helped them in studying, working and integrating into the community when they have to face many obstacles; to raise public awareness of ILC model and promote the support of the government as well as local authorities to this model of people with disabilities (PWD). Present at the celebration, there were representatives of International Cooperation Department, Ministry of Labour – Invalids and Social Affairs; Hanoi Department of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs; Human Care Association; U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); Viet-Nam Assistance for the Handicapped (VNAH); international non-governmental organizations in Vietnam; organizations of PWD in Hanoi; Independent Living Program implementation group of Hai Phong province; Dong Trieu PWD club (Quang Ninh province), current and former members of Hanoi ILC, partners and media agencies.

Delivering the opening speech, Ms. Nguyen Hong Ha, Program Director of Hanoi ILC, provided a brief introduction about Hanoi ILC and achievements gained from 2009 to present. According to Ms Hong Ha, after 5 years of operation, Hanoi ILC has assisted 65 PWSD to live independently. Courses in building capacity for PWD and PA service provided by Hanoi ILC have positively changed the lives of PWD, many PWSD in Hanoi have been facilitated to go out, go to school, go to work, integrate into the community, demonstrate their capacities and contribute to the development of the society. At the same time, Hanoi ILC also supported Independent Living groups in Hai Phong, Da Nang, Can Tho in order to establish ILCs in those provinces. She emphasized  that the five-year journey is a great evidence for the success of a new feasible model for PWSD. She also called for supports of the government and agencies so as to make Independent Living model more sustainable, just like many developed countries around the world. On this occasion, she also expressed her sincere gratitude to the involved agencies, partners, organizations of PWD who have helped and cooperated with the Center during the last five years.

Delivering a speech at the ceremony, Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy, representative of Hanoi Department of Labour, War invalids and Social Affairs, suggested that Independent Living Project of Hanoi ILC was a extremely practical project for PWD which is in accordance with Vietnam laws and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities that Vietnam government prepared to sign. The project has helped PWSD to live independently and integrate into the community. She hoped that the Center will soon have its legal status in order to better support the disabled. Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy also stated that Hanoi Department of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs has been and will continue to try to implement the government policies on PWD, especially policies on PWSD.

 

Ms. Nguyen Thi Thuy, Representative of Hanoi Department of

Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs delivering her speech

After that, Ms. Duong Thi Van, chairman of Hanoi Disabled People Association also delivered her speech. She highly evaluated achievements that Hanoi ILC gained during the last 5 years. Activities implemented by the Center including peer consultant, discussions about independent living experience, sharing experience in living independently, providing the disabled with PA service have contributed to change PWSD’s lives, helping them to integrate into the community, changing public awareness and awareness of PWD’s family, bringing new lives to PWD. She has witnessed changes of many PWD at Hanoi ILC, from introverted and self-deprecating persons to cheerful and sociable persons who actively participate in the Center’s activities and community activities including activities of PWD associations in Hanoi. With the presence of representatives of agencies, she recommended relevant agencies to support the Center to early have its legal status. She expressed her deep gratitude toward the Hanoi People's Committee, relevant agencies, the Nippon Foundation, Disabled Peoples' International Asia Pacific (DPI/AP), Human Care Association who have supported the Center to gain great results and she hoped the Independent Living model will continue to grow and be replicated in many localities across the country. To finish her speech, she gave a message to PWD: "no one can change the lives of PWD except PWD". Independent Living Model is supporting the disabled to do so.

Mr. Furihata Hiroaki, representative of the donor, had a speech at the ceremony. Noting the achievements that the Center has achieved during the last 5 years, he asserted that Hanoi ILC is taking firmly steps for development. Furthermore, Hanoi not only benefited a lot of PWSD in the city when helping them to live independently and integrate into the community but also supported independent living groups in three province including Hai Phong , Da Nang, Can Tho, creating initial forms of centers for independent living in those provinces. He hopes that the Center will be supported by Vietnam Government and Independent Living Model will be replicated across the country.

It is the Center’s honor to welcome Mr. Bob Horvath, representative of VNAH, to be present at the ceremony. In his speech, he introduced history and development of the Independent Living Movement in America, his homeland, through which he confirmed that the Independent Living model is a extremely significant model for PWD. Like many other independent living centers in the world, Hanoi ILC not only provide PWD with practical services but also provides some other services to the community. He expressed his desire that the Center will continue to develop sustainably and there will have many other independent living centers established in many parts of the world and Vietnam in order to help the disabled to have better lives.

Mr. Nguyen Trung Hai, Dean of Social Work, University of Labour and Social Affairs, expressed his admiration for what the Center had achieved during the last 5 years in his speech. He said that the Independent Living model is an advanced, modern model which is suitable for many countries in the world including Vietnam. It's deeply humane, promote the potential of PWD in accordance with the opinion of the government, stated in Law on disabilities. On the side of social work profession, he said that the Independent Living model being conducted by Hanoi ILC is quite an effective social work model. He expressed his desire that the Center will cooperate with the majors of social work in universities in training students on issues related to disabilities in the near future. He hopes the center will have the attention of the government departments, international organizations, NGOs to provide more practical services for PWD and the PAs of the Center can be better trained.

Also at the ceremony, representing all members of the Center, Mr. Le Thanh Hai shared about changes in his life after joining the Centre and being assisted by the PAs. He emphasized that thanks to the Center, PWSD like him become more independent, the burden on family and society was reduced. He hopes the Center will continue to receive attention and support from the departments and the Independent Living model will be replicated in many other localities across the country.

The most important contribution in helping PWD to live independently belongs to the PAs of the Center. At the ceremony, Mr. Hoang Cong, one of the PAs of Hanoi ILC who has worked for the Center since it was newly established, told about his emotions of the early days of working with PWD and memories he had when helping the disabled to overcome difficulties in their lives, he also emphasized the deeply humane significance of the PA profession. After the speech, a short video describing how a PA supports the disabled in their daily chores was shown to the delegates and audiences. After that, the leadership of the Center awarded 6 excellence PAs who successfully completed duties required, creating good relationships with PWD and positively affecting the independent lives of the disabled, including Mr. Hoang Cong.

 

Mr. Furihata Hiroaki and 6 excellence PAs awarded

The ceremony continued with a skit on independent living support for PWD performed by volunteers, PAs and the Center’s staffs. The skit told a love story between a boy without abilities and a girl with disabilities. Initially, their love was protested by the guy’s family because they thought that the girl would become a burden for the boy and his family if they got married. However, she has gradually made ​​the boy's parents learned that she could live and work like other people without disabilities, she could also cook for the whole family and take care of other family members as a normal woman thanks to the help of PAs from Hanoi ILC. She also made ​​everyone in the guy’s family change their viewpoint on PWD. The play ended with ineffable joy of the girl when the love between her and the boy was agreed by the boy’s family.

On the afternoon of the same day, some activities was implemented including celebrating the 5th birthday of internal newsletter of Hanoi ILC and honouring excellence collaborators who have made ​​significant contributions to the newsletter, perfect independent living pairs contest, fun games requiring creativity and solidarity, etc which brought joy and laughter to everyone who attended. During the operation, no one can distinguish who are the disabled, who are PAs because everyone gathered together in the games.

 

Performance of The Perfect IL Couple

Interspersed in the contents of the celebration are some unique entertainment performances conducted by the blind band called "Light aspiration", the volunteers from Social Work department of the University of Labour and Social Affairs, the Center’s PAs, PAs of the Independent Living Program implementation group from Hai Phong and some other people.

In conclusion, with many significant activities, the celebration not only contributed to advertise the Independent Living model, showing people the success of a new model in supporting PWD in Vietnam but also contributed to change the way people look at the disabled through which the celebration contribute to raise public awareness of the Independent Living model and promote the support from the community, central and local governments to the model of Hanoi ILC. Right after the celebration, a journalist commented: "I have never seen such a playful, attractive, dignified event held by an organization of PWD before".

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Date15-12-2017
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