SEALNet Project Vietnam 2013

Road to Inclusion: Integrating Community Youth and People with Disabilities

Day 12: Performance Day

So, showtime!

Here are the stakes: (a) we planned to have a 2-hour performance that would attract 500 audience, preceded by an exhibition. (b) Our performance day was suddenly changed from Friday to Thursday at short notice, therefore we had about 2 full days for our practice and rehearsals. (c) We also had to carry out a public workshop on Thursday morning.

And here is the result: the day was amazing. 

0930. The public workshop on “International opportunities” was one of a kind, the first one ever to discuss in-depth the application procedure for scholarships as well as exchange programs. Our speakers, 2 teachers from Yola and chị Minh, were all refreshing and insightful in their answers to the audience. Margaret and David were very professional as MCs. I did a presentation, and despite having experienced several public-speaking occasions, I was still nervous looking at the audience of about 100. But this was an obvious wall that I had to and managed to climb over.

1130. We finished the workshop quickly and headed to the auditorium. It suddenly dawned on me that day was the last day we worked with our friends from DRD, the last chance I felt this usual busy and chatty atmosphere in USSH. So I took a deep breath, leaving all the drawbacks of the project, of our preparation, of timing and coincidences behind. It’s performance time.  

1600. We finished our last dress rehearsal and boy, it was still not exactly the same as the real performance! One hour and a half left, we decided to have a quick light dinner and got the stage ready. Matthew suggested we should come downstairs and helped out anh Giang and Vân with the exhibition (while what we did in reality was to take photos.. teenagers!). After we gathered on USSH’s first floor, we decided to dance the Vietnamese flash mob, “Nối vòng tay lớn” in front of the exhibition site to attract guests. And everyone got 2 minutes of fame!

1730. The first guests came, and on stage was a photo slideshow of the past 2 weeks. We were told to assemble backstage by Phương Trang, our performance manager. Chị Minh was quicker and more panicked running around to grab things. Chị Jasmine and Hồng Ngọc were either on the phone inquiring about the late-coming singers, or doing dozens of logistic tasks. We were able to meet Uyen Linh, and listened to her popular song “Cám ơn tình yêu” as the opening of the show. Wishes of best luck were given to our main actress, Phương Chi. 

1800. The show had been going fine so far and whoever did not have a role in the next act was supposed to stay in the backstage room. I had a chance to talk with chị Thảo, listening to her experience with SEALNet and giving my wishes for her endeavors as an English teacher. This might sound cliche, but her speech made the English teacher a highly attractive job. After all, it’s the people who define the job, although many believe in the other way round. 

1830. There were not too many people at the backstage room, as some sneaked into the audience to watch the show until their role. Nhi and I sat really close to the speakers when Thanh Bui performed and my ears kept protesting, but we didn’t really care. Like restless babies, we kept running around to check the exhibition outside the auditorium or look for out teammates. But none missed anh Thiện’s beautiful guitar + harmonica song, mixed with chị Hoa’s gentle voice in her monologue. None missed chị Hương’s fairytale moment when her boyfriend came to the stage and picked her up. None missed Laura and Joyce’s exquisite contemporary dance performance. 

1900. We were halfway through the performance but the atmosphere never seemed to die down. Lots of directing and talking on stage and backstage. Lots of sound, melodies, images and colors condensed in mili-second flashes of moments. Margaret and David kept the sound effects run so smoothly despite many occurrences during the show: we added extra performances, such as Seong’s beatboxing, and changed the order of some. It was amazing how we still kept our cool, and stuck to our own unique personality: Quang’s controversial acting, Diana’s funny lines, Phương Anh’s theatrical tone during the class scene, anh Toàn and Capri’s solemnity in their parent roles, Linh’s dedication to dancing and conducting, Jackie’s excellent sense of rhythm, and so on..

1930. The second group performance, the sound orchestra. They say the more people, the harder to work together, and of course this was no exception. But two songs and one flashmob with everyone included were also the most memorable, because we always practiced together. And they were also ones with most effort put in: Nancy practiced the songs and dance whenever she could, and Chauchau memorized the whole song within a day or two. We tried our greatest effort for Amos who could not be present for the show. The “tone-deaf” group aka pitching for the two songs, including Ngọc Đoàn, Margaret, David, Phương Trang, Nhi, Uyên, V. Trang and me, usually practiced with a tuner to get an exact A.

2000. The last flash mob after Noo performed, and the energy level just shot up. In front of the audience, under the a-bit-too-strong stage lights, the whole team was dancing with youth, enthusiasm and joy. How to describe it.. it was w.i.c.k.e.d. 

And then, words of appreciation and farewell. After the show’s finale, I quickly left the stage to catch up with my parents who were leaving and asked them for their opinion. They said it was very exciting and meaningful. I hoped they were proud of me and of what I did for this summer.. they surely were. 

And I ran back to the stage again to take photos with the team and our friends. The second time during the day that I felt time had never been as relentless.

Dung Nguyen
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“Làm hết sức, chơi hết mình”

Đây có lẽ là câu nói quen thuộc của nhiều thành viên PV13 năm nay, không chỉ đơn thuần là một câu hô hào cửa miệng mà có lẽ chính là phong cách sống của 29 thành viên trong 2 tuần Dự Án Việt Nam.

Đến với SEALNet, mình được làm quen với rất nhiều người bạn mới, cả quốc tế và Việt Nam. Và dù có khác biệt về văn hóa, ngôn ngữ, ngay từ những ngày đầu chúng mình đã thân nhau rất nhanh, cùng đi mua cà phê trà sữa, cùng nói về những chuyện linh tinh khác nhau. Mình đã nghĩ phải chăng có một sợi dây vô hình gắn kết mọi người nhưng đó chính là bầu không khí do SEALNet mang lại, thân thiện và đầy lạc quan đã kết nối chúng mình.

Những người bạn quốc tế, ai cũng có những nét cá tính rất hay. Dù các bạn ấy có dành phần lớn thời gian để học, ai cũng nuôi dưỡng cho mình một sở thích riêng. Có bạn thích chơi kèn, có bạn đọc sách, những sở thích nhỏ như vẽ tranh hay viết nhật ký luôn là những thứ các bạn ấy làm để tận dụng quỹ thời gian rảnh. Cô bạn người Mỹ học pre-med ở Stanford hóa ra lại rất giỏi trong chỉ huy giàn hợp ca, anh bạn người Hong Kong học tài chính hóa ra là một đầu bếp từng xuất bản sách nấu ăn! Thật thú vị khi khám phá những sở trường không hề liên quan đến chuyên ngành các bạn ấy theo đuổi, điều đó, mình nghĩ, rất cần thiết để cân bằng cuộc sống cá nhân

Dự án năm nay làm về người khuyết tật. Cũng vì thế mà mình có cơ hội làm việc với 9 anh chị khuyết tật của trung tâm DRD. Từ mỗi một cuộc gặp mặt, mình học được từ các anh chị những bài học cuộc sống rất hay mà có lẽ nếu không tham gia PV năm nay, chưa biết khi nào mới học được. Những bậc thang hữu hình trong cuộc sống các anh chị trở nên vô hình trong cuộc sống của những người không khuyết tật như chúng ta, nhưng điểm chung là chúng ngăn cản mọi người mơ ước và dám theo đuổi ước mơ. Mình nhớ lần nói chuyện với chị Ái Thanh, người bạn mình vô cùng ngưỡng mộ, chị kể lúc đi thi ĐH, cha mẹ chị đã hết lời can ngăn, nhà nghèo, anh chị em đông, bản thân chị cũng khó có thể chăm lo cuộc sống một mình. Vậy mà chị vẫn đi thi, vẫn đậu tới 2 trường, khăn gói lên thành phố học ĐH ngành Công nghệ thông tin 4 năm, ra trường và tìm được việc làm.Còn nhiều những tấm gương đáng ngưỡng mộ khác như cô Yến, anh Tùng, những người đang cố gắng thay đổi cái nhìn của xã hội về cộng đồng người khuyết tật và cả cái nhìn của người khuyết tật về bản thân. Những con người giàu nhiệt huyết và hoài bão ấy đã truyền lửa cho cả SEALNet – PV13 năm nay, cho chúng mình thêm động lực thực hiện các dự án  hậu PV13.

Có một câu nói rất hay mà mình tâm đắc: “Những người tôi gặp là những người tôi phải gặp”. Những con người mình gặp trong hè này đều là những con người thú vị và đầy bất ngờ. Không những được cùng mọi người lên kế hoạch cho đêm diễn cuối cùng, chúng mình còn giúp nhau vượt qua những khó khăn khi kế hoạch không như ý. Qua khoảng thời gian quý báu ấy, mình đã học được nhiều điều, biết linh hoạt trong từng tình huống và đúng giờ hơn J. Các bạn giới thiệu cho mình những khía cạnh khác nhau của cuộc sống, không ngại ngần thể hiện những quan điểm khác với lẽ thường. Nhờ những người bạn mình “phải gặp” ấy, mình cảm thấy bản thân trưởng thành hơn và chín chắn hơn trước kia rất nhiều. Tuy dự án đã kết thúc, các bạn sinh viên quốc tế hầu hết đã trở về nước, các bạn sinh viên VN đang chuẩn bị bước vào năm học mới, các anh chị DRD lại tiếp tục những kế hoạch còn đang dang dở nhưng tình bạn chúng mình xây dựng trong chỉ vỏn vẹn 2 tuần, mình tin sẽ kéo dài lâu hơn nữa. Tầm ảnh hưởng lên cộng đồng chưa thể thấy rõ nhưng dự án chắc chắn đã để lại nhiều thay đổi trong từng thành viên. SEALNet đã hoàn thành nhiệm vụ gieo mầm và mình tin sẽ gặt hái được những thành quả trong tương lai.

Nguyễn Lê Phương Anh

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Day 7: Your leadership style

Một ngày thứ bảy mưa âm ỉ và dai dẳng.

SEANet lại tiếp tục với những buổi lên kế hoạch biểu diễn, các dự án con, kế hoạch con của SEALNet. Mở đầu cho ngày hôm nay là workshop “How to start a club” của Laura giúp SEALNet mentee có cơ hội trao đổi, thảo luận về việc thành lập SEALNet Club, SEALNet Chapter ở thành phố Hồ Chí Minh sau khi SEALNet PV13 kết thúc. Bản thân chúng tôi tự nhận thức được là việc thành lập “SEALNet Club” với đầy đủ tư cách pháp nhân hoạt động thì sẽ vô cùng khó khăn. Nhưng chúng tôi vẫn sẽ thử và sẽ cố để biến nó thành hiện thực.

Sài Gòn mùa mưa, đường phố ẩm ướt và thật buồn. Thế nhưng trong không gian sảnh lầu 2 của trường Nhân văn thì lại hoàn toàn khác. Ở đây có chút gì đó ấm áp của tình bạn, của sự sẻ chia, lắng nghe nhẹ nhàng lan tỏa, khiến khoảng cách và khác biệt văn hóa 28 thành viên SEALNet và 10 người bạn DRD trở nên nhạt nhòa. Chúng tôi cùng múa, cùng hát, cùng tập với nhau từng lời, từng chữ của bài hát. Ai bảo khác biệt ngôn ngữ là rảo cản? Ai bảo khuyết tật là hạn chế? Khi tất cả chúng tôi đều có thể ngân nga cùng nhau bài hát tiếng Việt lẫn tiếng Anh, cùng nhau múa may, truyền đạt ngôn ngữ cơ thể. Chỉ cần có mặt ở đó, trải nghiệm bầu không khí ấm áp và thân mật là đủ khiến tôi hạnh phúc và hiểu rõ tại sao tôi lại tha thiết với SEALNet như thế.

Tôi không phải là một người mơ mộng, hơn nữa lại thực tế và giỏi tính toán. Thế nhưng hoài bão của tôi lại có phần mộng tưởng và vĩ mô. Tôi mong được đóng góp cho cộng đồng của tôi, xã hội và đất nước của tôi; tôi mong thế hệ người Việt sau thế hệ chúng tôi sẽ được hưởng những giá trị tốt đẹp, đáng tự hào nhất. Bởi vì thế mà tôi tham gia SEALNet. Ít nhất thì tôi có thể giúp đỡ một phần nâng cao nhận thức xã hội dành cho cho 15% dân số Việt khuyết tật. Tôi mong mọi người sẽ nhìn họ bởi ánh mắt của “đồng cảm và sẻ chia” hơn là tội nghiệp và giúp đỡ. Tất cả những gì chúng tôi đang làm trong hai tuần hoạt động nhất định sẽ đem lại một sự thay đổi nào đó. Tôi tin là như vậy.

Minh Nguyen

 

 

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Day 6: Conflict Resolution

  • Struggle is part of every project. It feels like the struggle we have to overcome in this project is to find the best way to use our time wisely.

    After we have spent the first days of the project playing many icebreakers, getting-to-know-each-other games and leadership activities, the group expressed a wish to move forward and use time less to work on ourselves, but more to work on tangible outcomes of the project.

    In order to do so, we needed to have an open talk about what each of us expected to be an outcome of these two weeks. As it came out, many in the team wanted to devote much time to work on the show performance that will take place on August 16th, whereas others where more interested in acheiving sustainable structures that will guarantee the ongoing support for the disabled even after we leave, especially by working on those projects to support the DRD that we had brainstormed the first day.Having our goals in mind, we needed to restructure our daily timetable.
    It is brave to decide to change the way a project is going while it is already in prgress, but it is a necessary step to make us understand that this project is OURS and that we want it to be SOMETHING, not ANYTHING. From today on, we will spend everyday working on the performance and on long-term tangible projects in small groups and committees. Some of the groups for the performance include playing skits, flashmobs, sign language songs and contemporary dance with wheelchairs, while some of the further projects we are working on include a dinner in the dark event to raise awareness for blindness, a research tour to find out public opinion about disability, and finally the founding of the first SEALNet chapter in Vietnam.

    Let´s hope that the struggle over good use of time and goal-setting will help us to move forward from now on and create a stronger effort to work towards tangible outcomes of pv13!

    Laura Mai

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Day 5: Limitations

As usual, we gathered at 8am in the hotel lobby. Because of the suggestion from the debriefing and suggestions the night before, we walked to the school in replacement of the morning exercise. This way, we also saved money on the taxi and also got to see the city a little more but still arrived at the same time.

After a yummy breakfast, we moved up to the classroom and started the day. The leaders started out asking everyone what he or she wanted from the project so we spent the morning brainstorming until lunch. One thing we could have improved on was how to decide which acts we should have put in the performance.

In the end, we had some sort of an idea of what we were doing. We delegated we should lead and headed for lunch. And as always, lunch as delicious. Overall, the morning was very productive!

After lunch, we planned for what we would do with our friends. During the meeting with our friends, we tested out ‘mirroring’ with our friends.

Our final results were a dance that used mirroring techniques we learned from Linh. It was great to see everyone working to together to accommodate everyone. We ended the day learning to “Hello Vietnam,” a song that will be a part of the performance.

After saying goodbye to our friends, we went to a restaurant named Rat Hue and had okay central Vietnamese food.

Ngoc Doan

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Day 4: Building Trust

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Day 3: Co-leadership

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Leadership game to see which team could build the biggest tower

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Preparing for the game of reaching for our goals

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Reaching for our goals that we wrote on little slips of paper

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Reaching for our goals that we wrote on little slips of paper

Margaret Tran

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Day 2: Building a team

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Line up!

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Chained together!

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Number game where we have to close our eyes and count to twenty within our group without two people saying the same number

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Tanks and generals with blindfolds

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Hanging out in groups

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Loosening up our vocal cords as a group

Margaret Tran

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Day 1: Orientation Day

We all met at 8 AM sharp this morning and stretched together. Each of us choosing a particluar stretching exercise, we went around the circle holding each stretch for a count to 8 seconds. I had everyone go down and touch their toes – the person next to me had everyone roll their wrists for 8 seconds. After that we all did “Shake It Out,” shaking our right arm, left arm, right leg, and then left leg to loosen them up.

Actually I decided that “Shake It Out” is one of my favorite parts of the day – warming up with everyone else and starting the day together in an active way is very nice.

After the exercises, we made our way to the DRD, where its founder, Ms Hoang Yen told us about her story and how she founded the DRD. She had gotten a scholarship to study anywhere in the world – and she chose a place in Kentucky because there was a well-known center there that researched disability issues. After completing her Master’s degree, her mentor gave her the opportunity to pursue a Ph.D, but she decided to return to Vietnam instead, in order to found the DRD Center.

She told us about how she spent a year looking for donors and supporters – an entire year filled with uncertainty, looking for a space to operate and partners willing to work with her. The center has grown from a staff of four people to nineteen people, and it’s now a major resource in Ho Chi Minh that enables those with disabilities to empower and educate themselves. Over time, she has been able to accumulate several thousand sponsors and the DRD has gained international recognition as an organization supporting the disabled community in Vietnam.

Ms Hoang Yen talked about how difficult it’s been – many people with disabilities were born into poor families. The center has an initiative to provide wheelchairs to PWDs who can’t afford them, but they run into problems – it’s very expensive and difficult for a poor family from the coutnryside to travel to Ho Chi Minh to pick up a chair that’s more expensive than their home. She talked about how although 15% of the Vietnamese population has some sort of disability, only about 30% of those people are able to find jobs. Those PWDs that have been successful in business are usually from well-connected, wealthy families.

The center is always working – it’s a small organization with limited funding, so it works on small pilot projects that can perhaps later be continued and expanded. Where it can, it provides scholarships for people who have been working at the DRD for a long time. To me, the center seems both very limited and very effective – it’s difficult to change perceptions toward PWDs and to motivate a PWD to take control of their lives. It’s difficult to find donors. It’s difficult to get the government to address issues relevant to PWDs. At the same time, I think they’ve come really far. They’re an established organization with many programs and many people who rely on them for support. They are well-known, and it seems a lot of other organizations are interested in working with them and helping them.

I will remember these three pieces of advice that Ms Hoang Yen gave to everyone:

1) Make events interesting

2) Get media attention

3) Keep trying

I think especially for founding an organization, and especially for an NGO or non-profit, this will be very valuable advice.

In the afternoon, we did teambuilding activities.

First, we worked on standing 2 floor tiles, 3, floor tiles, 4, floor tiles, 5 floor tiles, and then 6 floor tiles away from each other, and trusting each other enough to fall, meet in the middle, and catch each other at the same time. It was an exercise in trust I think, and it was also fun.

Second, we did a mirror exercise, where we practiced following each other’s movements, and then moving together. This was also fun, and maybe gave us a subtle education in moving so that others can understand and follow.

It’s our second day doing team building activities, and I think it’s actually been very useful in getting the group to bond and be comfortable with each other. It’s very nice.

At the end of the day, we discussed possible DRD-PV-13 projects.

This is part of the list we came up with:

Handicrafts – making a better design people can use to increase sales

IG9 – raise 5 million VND (remainder from 20 million VND goal)

Help make jobs for PWDs more sustainable

Finding more available wheelchairs to be donated

eHouse – working with people from the DRD to further develop English skills

One for Change campaign – help get the word out

Leadership training

Handicrafts – develop a more effective marketing channel to increase sales

(go through Air Asia Foundation)

Develop program to increase volunteers at DRD, targetting students in Ho Chi Minh

Hopefully we can really follow through on some of these initiatives.

For Spotlight ON!, where we spend half an hour getting to know people one-at-a-time, Phuong An and Seong went. Phoung An seems like a really outgoing, sweet girl, and she can rap Super Bass really well. It was really fun listening to her talk. I think Seong has a really interesting story regarding how he moved to the U.S. from Korea, and the special dynamic he has with his father and brother.

Nancy Nguyen

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Lunch at a delicious Vegetarian Vietnamese Restaurant!

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First Day meeting some of our friends at DRD (Đời Rất Đẹp or Disability Research and capacity Development center)

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Circling up!

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A trust exercise where we both fall forward, knowing that our partner will catch us

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Yummy dinner of cha gio, goi cuon, and com chien

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Three wheeled motorbikes to get around the city

Margaret Tran

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The list of mentees of PV13

Here is the list of 11 mentees of Project SEALNet Vietnam 2013
Congratulation! We are  happy that you have been accepted to join SEALNet’s Project Vietnam 2013!
Your commitment to service and willingness to challenge yourself in this project have truly impressed us and we are excited to have you on our team.

  1. Nguyễn Lê Phương Anh – Le Hong Phong High School For The Gifted, HCMC
  2. Châu Thị Tú Nhi – Foreign Trade University HCMC
  3. Trương Thị Thu Thảo – Foreign Trade University HCMC
  4. Đinh Thị Trúc Uyên – Foreign Trade University HCMC
  5. Phạm Vũ Hoàng Giang – University of Social Sciences and Humanities HCMC
  6. Lê Đình Toàn – Danang University of Technology
  7. Tăng Dương Bảo Trân– Foreign Trade University
  8. Nguyễn Vân Trang – Ha Noi University
  9. Đỗ Thu Vân – Hanoi Amsterdam High School for the Gifted
  10.  Nguyễn Lâm Bảo Châu – University of Law
  11. Võ Ngọc Phương Chi –  University of Social Sciences and Humanities HCMC
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