The Lifestart Foundation, a member of AusCham, is based in Hoi An. Below, they provide us with an insight into how they are making a difference through their outreach projects, which includes a shelter for disabled adults.

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At the beginning of 2013, Lifestart Foundation expanded their services to a government run shelter for disabled adults. Home to approximately 150 residents over the age of 16, the shelter provides a place to live for those whose disabilities have left them with nothing. The shelter sits within a walled complex, where residents share numerous cramped, bare walled rooms, sleep on low hard beds (normal for Vietnam) and wash in several large communal bathrooms.

Most are unable to leave the grounds of the only place they will know until they die. It is easy for a place like this to be viewed negatively and understandably so if you focus on the bare rooms and lack of personal belongings alongside the sight of young adults bed-bound by their disabilities, lying in rooms with a stench of urine hanging in the air, it will be simply too much for some to bare.

However, if you scratch below the surface whilst opening your heart and mind, you’re likely to be surprised by what you find. Despite the many difficulties faced here, the community spirit within the shelter is both inspirational and heart warming.

Step through the gates and you’ll soon be greeted by numerous kind and beautiful faces, often with hands outstretched simply wanting to be touched; craving the human contact so many of us take for granted, but is rarely received when visitors are scarce and family and friends non-existent. Younger residents able to get around by themselves socialise in dark, bleak bedrooms to pass the hours of the day, while those who are a little older prepare and cook the food, sitting around large steel cooking pots atop a raging fire.

There’s a very strong sense of hierarchy within Vietnamese families, with mothers and grandmothers doing most of the cooking and household chores. It is no different here, as the residents come together to form their own makeshift but equally important huge family. Bonds are undeniably strong as they help each other through difficult days, weeks, months and years, their caring nature not limited to cooking. Those who can, help those who can’t to wash, dress, toilet and get around with unwavering kindness, patience and care, helping the few local nurses and carers who work there. It’s truly amazing and eye opening to watch these people who are suffering so much themselves, not hesitate to do anything they can to help those less fortunate. There’s no putting yourself first here.

Before Lifestart Foundation’s involvement began, the residents’ days passed by with nothing much to do and little interaction with the ‘outside world’. Activities classes now take place five times a week, one general and one music based when residents come together, play games, have fun and socialise whilst learning new skills. Therapy is provided by Lifestart Foundation staff and volunteers in a room with basic but functioning equipment where residents can come for treatment six days a week including physiotherapy, occupational therapy, massage and cupping (a technique used to release muscle tension).

Treatments help relieve pain and improve function whilst simply showing them someone cares, often the most important factor. Elderly residents lie in rows on padded mats on the floor, giggling amongst themselves as they eagerly await their pain relieving massages or cupping, whilst others press hot water bottles to their arthritic joints.

Thuyet helping one of the more elderly residents with her elbow pain.

Younger residents come by in their wheelchairs, ready for more custom made active therapy routines on gym balls, parallel bars, dumbbells and more, whilst others receive occupational therapy in their rooms.

For further information

  • To read more about the beginning of the LSF Outreach Projects click here.
  • If you happen to be in Hoi An, Viet Nam, visit the Lifestart Foundation Workshop 14 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, Hoi An Vietnam

 

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