Article was prepared by Anja Merret, an organizer for Hold the Future organization.

Hold the Future is a Hanoi, Vietnam based charitable organisation that offers vocational training and handicraft production to young people with disabilities. The Centre accepts young disabled people between the ages of 18 and 30 irrespective of their disability. Hold the Future aims to provide its members with the necessary life skills and support in order for them to achieve independent livelihoods.

Young people often arrive at the Centre desperate in their search for a meaningful life. They lack confidence and skills to make their way in society. Hold the Future provides them with an initial safe haven to repair their self-esteem. At the same time the young person is entered into the vocational training programme to prepare them for handicraft work. Besides the vocational training Hold the Future also offers several soft skills courses to build confidence. The current vocational training students are already working on producing handicraft items and they are soon able to earn a small living while still learning their new craft. During 2011 courses on basic business skills will also be introduced to assist this process.

Nguyen Thi Thu Thuong is one of Hold the Future’s success stories. Thuong was born with OI or Brittle Bone Disease of Type III. This means her bones fracture easily, she suffers from bone deformity, short stature, spinal curvature and barrel-shaped rib cage. These are just some of the symptoms of this disease.

(Thuong is laying in the middle)

At birth her parents did not understand her disability and it took a while before the doctors and they realised the extend of her disability. But she grew up nevertheless in a loving environment but with no skills and very little education. While watching TV she came across a documentary on Hold the Future. With great determination she tracked down Mrs Hien the Centre Director’s contact number and contacted her. This was in 2003.

During her phone call she cried and told Mrs Hien how sad she was that she could do nothing with her life. She was desperate to bring some meaning to her days and wanted to be a useful and self-sufficient person. Thuong was invited to visit the Centre and talk about her future. After viewing several handicraft items, Thuong saw the lamp shades made with buttons and she fell in love with them. From then onwards Thuong became a star pupil learning everything she could about this craft work. This was only the beginning.

Now Thuong has her own craft making business. She makes many items herself and has expanded her product range to  include hand knitted scarves and other knitted fashion items. She also acts as an agent for Hold the Future and is Hold the Future’s biggest customer for custom designed decorative pillow cases targeted at the youth market. Thuong has a business website http://www.thuongthuong.net/. She also talks to her customers via a video camera positioned on her monitor, runs stands at exhibitions and promotes her product line herself.

Besides her colourful website, Thuong has worked hard at marketing herself. This picture of her beautiful poster that she uses at exhibitions shows her professionalism that she brings to her business.

And one needs to remember that this tiny person has to depend on a modified pram for her mode of transport and rest. And yet there is always a smile on her face and a happiness to meet new people and tell them her story of success and especially what Hold the Future has done for her..

It’s not only in the area of work and making a living that Mrs Hien and Hold the Future have helped Thuong. Mrs Hien also encouraged Thuong to take up singing. Singing and music is a passion for Vietnamese people. With the help of this encouragement Thuong has found the courage and at the same time has discovered her voice to sing at major events. She’s as happy behind a microphone as she is behind her video camera talking to customers. It is wonderful success stories such as Thuong’s that make Mrs Hien and her team continue their work at Hold the Future regardless of all the difficulties they may experiences and the hard work facing them daily.

For people interested in contributing their time or resources please contact Quyen on phamutquyen@gmail.com

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