The angels of Lac Village 2

10:25 | 02/02/2017 Culture & Art

(VEN) - Vi Thi Thuan and Do Thi Cuc of Hoa Binh Province have been nicknamed “the good fairies” by villagers in Mai Chau District’s Chieng Chau Commune. And with good reason: the co-founders of Hoa Ban+, a center for the disabled, have changed the lives of dozens of disabled women.  

the angels of lac village 2

Fiber spinning

Ups and downs

Hoa Ban+ (formerly Thuan Hoa) was founded in Lac Village 2 in May 2008. Cuc told Vietnam Economic News that the center initially had two female workers - Vang Y Sai from Hang Kia Commune and Ha Thi Hung from Pieng Ve Commune.

We met Thuan when she returned from a fine arts and handicraft trade fair in the province, located southwest of Hanoi. She told us about those arduous early days of the center. In 1986, rumor had it that gold was found floating in some areas of Mai Chau. Many women in the district rushed to seek gold, giving up their traditional brocade weaving occupation, which disappeared. Feeling nostalgic for the traditional craft, Thuan opened a small brocade production establishment in her house in Lac Village 2. The village is a famous tourist site and Thuan had no trouble finding buyers and outlets for her products. Apart from making brocades, Thuan went to remote, rural areas to purchase brocades made by Thai and Mong tribal women for sale to stores in Hanoi.

During her trips to these areas, she met people to whom fate had not been kind, including disabled women and children who had to make embroidery in exchange for rice and salt. She was deeply touched and spoke to her husband - Vi Van Cuong - about bringing those people to their house to teach them brocade weaving and help them earn a living with that craft. That was how the Thuan Hoa Center was founded.

the angels of lac village 2
Drawing on products with wax

Thuan said Thuan Hoa had really changed since Cuc joined. She used to be the leader of a tour guide team. During her visits to Mai Chau, young Cuc met Thuan and her family and saw what they were doing for disabled children and women.

She made a watershed decision - giving up her work as a tour guide to join Thuan Hoa and contribute to improving the lives of people with disabilities. With good English and experience of working with non-governmental organizations, Cuc found and developed projects for the center. The center was renamed Hoa Ban +, the name of a local flower chosen jointly by Cuc, Thuan and the Japan NPO (Non-profit Organizations) Center.

Cuc said disabled women usually lack self-confidence and need sympathy and encouragement. Although they are skilled workers, they need guidance and social, emotional support, Cuc added.

the angels of lac village 2

Hoa Ban+ products attract visitors and buyers

Cuc and Thuan went through ups and downs in operating the center and even had to subsidize its losses. But they have no doubt it was worth it: the center has become a social enterprise and a loving home for almost 40 women who work there.

Hoa Ban+ has received assistance from social businesses and non-governmental organizations operating in the field of fair trade.

The organizations send volunteers to the center for assistance in management and product design development training.

Recently, the Japan NPO Center opened a showroom of products made by social and fair trade enterprises, including Hoa Ban +. This is a good opportunity for the center to take a step forward on its path to branding and direct export, Cuc said.

the angels of lac village 2
Hoa Ban+ co-founder Vi Thi Thuan and the center’s worker

Simple wishes

At the small house for seriously disabled women at Hoa Ban+, we met Lo Thi Lan (from Vat Hamlet in Dong Bang Commune, Mai Chau District). We were surprised and impressed. Although Lan is blind, she has proven to be a highly skilled worker. Lan told us that she is happy to live and work at Hoa Ban+, and tries her best to make as many products as possible in order to earn enough money for eye treatment. Sharing the same house with Lan, Ha Thi Doan from Mai Hich Commune, was somewhat shy when meeting us. Doan said she has been at Hoa Ban+ for eight years and that she loves her job and wants to stay for a long time.

Not only Lan and Doan but also other women in Hoa Ban+ share the same feelings. The center brings them hope and support while providing them with stable jobs.

Although Hoa Ban+ founders haven’t thought of expanding the center, they would like to be able to offer more jobs to people with disabilities, who have a hard time finding work.

Thuan would like all of Hoa Ban+ products to be sold to local visitors and through stores in Hanoi. But in Lac Village 2, traditional products are facing tough competition from cheap Chinese goods. Thuan has proposed that local authorities adopt policies to promote traditional crafts and encourage local residents to preserve traditional crafts and contribute to assisting the disabled in the region.

Agreeing with her, Cuc added that she wished products made by disabled women would be widely welcomed as a way to help them integrate into the community and find hope.

Viet Nga & Nguyen Hanh