“He was so (disabled), how could he do anything? I did everything for him to help save time. I just hope that after I die, his brothers and neighbors will give him some rice or porridge to eat day after day.” This is what Nguyen Thi Nho, 87 years old, whose son is Chuc, a person with severe disability in Dai Loc District, Quang Nam Province, said.
Nho has always been worried about how her disabled son will live and who will take care of him one day after she dies. Her son, Phan Van Chuc, 50 years old, has a physical disability, with paraplegia and atrophy of the right hand. He has to use a wheelchair to move around, and all of his daily activities depend on his left arm. Due to this inconvenience, his mother always does everything for him, partly because she cherishes him, and partly because she thinks that he could not do anything with his disability.
Through USAID’s “Raising Voices, Creating Opportunities” project, the project team provides instruction and support to help persons with disabilities become more independent. When the consulting team asked Nho to let Chuc try to do some things by himself, such as cooking, washing vegetables, washing dishes, etc., she brushed us off with a sad look: “Look, he can’t even eat. How can he do anything?” Understanding her worries and doubts, the consulting team convinced her with real-life evidence. Members with disabilities like Chuc in the team directly did activities that he could try such as washing dishes, cooking, etc. Then, he started to do the same while his mother was watching. To her astonishment, he completed those activities although they were a bit awkward and time-consuming for the first time. The team also suggested to the family how to arrange and renovate their furnishings to facilitate the movement and activities of wheelchair users like him. In particular, the rehabilitation technicians also guided him through simple rehabilitation exercises so that he could practice daily at home. Chuc shared: “I am jubilant with this support. If anyone gave me money, all would just be spent on food. Today, with your guidance, I feel very grateful. I will practice and follow your instructions so that later on, I can help my mum with simple tasks that she did by herself before.”
One month later, when the project staff returned to Chuc’s house to evaluate the progress made since their intervention and provide necessary support, they realized a lot of positive changes. The first one was the rearrangement of tables, chairs and other furnishings. His mother happily shared that this change made the house tidier and made it easier for him to use his wheelchair to move around and work. Beforehand, most of the time, he only lay in bed. However, now he can use his wheelchair more often, do his personal activities and help his mother with household chores.
Additionally, every morning he practices his rehabilitation exercises, which has helped him improve his health.
He now performs many daily activities well, such as personal hygiene, washing clothes, tidying his house, going to the market, cooking, washing dishes, etc. He said that at first, it had been difficult and time-consuming, but it was much easier now. Nho added: “I got sick for a few days. Fortunately, he went to the market, cooked by himself and took care of me. Beforehand, we hadn’t known what to do.”
ACDC worked with another person with a disability, Manh, a 39-year-old man who was left paraplegic after a serious traffic accident. Since then, he has just used a wheelchair to move around, and has been entirely dependent on his parents. His parents always thought that their son was disadvantaged, so they did every household chore, from washing clothes, cooking, to tidying the house, etc. For nearly eight years, he has done almost nothing but personal hygiene and going to cafés every day to kill time. He has had no specific plans for his future.
The consulting team advised Manh and his family on daily therapeutic exercises to increase his arm strength, on using assistive devices such as parallel bars to practice walking, how to renovate and extend the bedroom’s doors, and installing shower seats and grab bars in the toilet for his convenience and safety. At the same time, the team encouraged his family to give him opportunities to do daily tasks by himself, which would enhance his independence, his health and daily functioning. The team also suggested that they should discuss with each other later to find a suitable job for him.
When the project staff returned to Manh’s house three months later, he excitedly shared that instead of just sitting at cafés smoking and playing chess like before, he had started a new job collecting and selling scrap. Moreover, during this time, he persistently practiced all the rehabilitation exercises he learned from the rehabilitation technicians to improve his health and his ability to take care of himself and daily functioning. He thanked the project for having motivated him to change and be more optimistic.
Chuc and Manh are just two of the many persons with disabilities in Quang Nam Province who have benefited from activities aimed at enhancing independent living skills for persons with disabilities under the “Raising Voices, Creating Opportunities” project, implemented by ACDC and supported by USAID. By raising awareness of persons with disabilities and their families regarding the importance of independent living and independent living skills (through peer counseling between persons with disabilities), making suggestions on arranging and renovating furnishings for more accessibility to persons with disabilities, guiding through rehabilitation exercises at home, etc., the autonomy and participation of persons with disabilities in their daily lives and social activities have been significantly enhanced.