Disabled young people in Hanoi are using discarded cloth to recreate folk paintings at the Van Phuc Silk Village.
Le Viet Cuong (centre) at Vun Art Cooperative
Le Viet Cuong, chairman of Ha Dong District Disabled People's Association, set up Vun Art Co-operative in April 2017. Cuong is disabled so he understands how hard it is to be able to find a job. His hope is to be able to pass down the craft and create jobs for disabled people.
Each member at the co-operative has faced different difficulties. One woman has a mild intellectual disability, one has a mobility impairment and had suffered from depression. Many of them struggled or were unable to find a job before joining Vun Art. A 21-year-old member at the co-operative is deaf and once struggled to work as a porter until he joined Vun Art and earn VND4m (USD171) to VND5m a month.
At first, there were 35 members and 14 of them have become the core members. They can come to the co-operative or take the work homes to complete their products.
"Those who live far from the co-operative will be given financial support of VND1m to VND4m to cover rental fees, utility bills," Cuong said.
Accompany Vun Art is 70-year-old painter Dang Thi Khue who gives lectures for free. She even introduced her daughter and colleagues to Vun Art. "It's very difficult to teach disabled people. Some people lacked life skills and were reluctant to open up to other people. You have to give them encouragement first. Vun Art is not only a workplace but a rehabilitation centre," Khue said.
Cuong has mobility impairment after having a high fever when he was only one year old. In 2015, he was voted to be the chairman of Ha Dong District Disabled People's Association and has a deeper understanding of other disabled people.
He went to the house of each member to persuade them to join the co-operative and spent his own money to take care of them during the first phase.
In order to have quality products, he met with professional artists and asked them to teach co-operative members about art. During the weekends, he brought their works to all stores in Hanoi to find customers. Their silk paintings are based on old folk paintings. At first, they have to find suitable pieces of cloth, iron them out, and glue to the board. Each process is assigned to different members.
"I want customers to buy our products because of their quality and aesthetics, not because of the sympathy for disabled people," Cuong said.
To make their products more diverse, besides silk paintings, the members at Vun Art also make silk cards, silk toys and bags. They then opened workshops for young people to explore traditional arts.
According to Cuong, they had worked with some tourism firms to open tours to let tourists visit Van Phuc Village and try making silk paintings at Vun Art.
Born in a family of three children, Thong was deaf and dumb since birth due to malaria. Seeing people around speaking affectively to their own parents, he often wondered to himself if life was so unfair to him.
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