VietNamNet Bridge – If anyone thinks that a barrier exists between children with disabilities and those who have none, they are mistaken.
Fun for everyone: Children with disabilities join in a lantern parade during a Mid-Autumn Festival party at the Disability Resource and Development centre in HCM City. (Photo: VNS)
In fact, most children see those with disabilities as potential friends with whom they can have fun.
On Sunday, a gathering of around 100 kids testified to this feeling.
The evening gathering was held as part of Tet Trung Thu (Mid-Autumn Festival), which is a children’s festival and falls on the full-moon day of the eighth lunar month.
The gathering took place in the yard of a mansion in District 10 where the Disability Resource and Development is based. The DRD (Doi Rat Dep) is a local non-governmental organisation providing support to disadvantaged people.
Visually and hearing-impaired, mentally impaired and autistic children mingled with others from nearby neighbourhoods in District 10’s Ward 12. They ranged in age from five to 13.
The enclosed yard was fully packed with children. Their boisterous laughter enlivened the space, while their hands were gesticulating wildly.
The kids also spilled onto the passage in the front, which was roofed to provide more space for kids during a lantern-making competition.
They were divided into 20 groups of five and provided with bamboo frames, cellophane of various colours, rayon, scissors and glue to build their own lanterns.
Twenty colourful lanterns of different shapes, most of them lovely animals like rabbit, peacock, swan, bird along with stars and flowers, were hung up in the air after they were completed.
"I wish that all of my friends were as gorgeous as swans in the Mid-Autumn Eve," explained one member of a group, describing the significance of their works to the jury.
All of the kids in the groups held conferences to discuss the significance of their lanterns, according to Nguyen Thi Loi, a fourth-year student specialising in social work at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities.
"We just gave them some hints, like what a flower or heart means," she said.
Loi and dozens of other volunteer students were assigned to supervise and support groups of kids.
"It takes them from one to two hours to complete the lanterns," she observed. "Some hearing-impaired kids are craftier than their other peers."
Most of the difficult parts of the job were done by those without disabilities, while the others did simple things like paint a little bit on cellophane or clean up garbage.
Some parts of the work required collaboration. One kid kept the frame steady for another to glue cellophane, and another kept cellophane stretched for the other to cut into different shapes.
Even though they found it hard to communicate with each other, they tried to express themselves or ask for scissors or glue through gestures.
At times when disputes emerged, they made concessions.
"Some of them liked different colours, and finally they used all colours on their lantern," said Loi.
"Even normal adults like us would find it hard to make lanterns, let alone kids with disabilities," she said, when asked why kids were provided with completed frames rather than separate bamboo sticks.
A flower lantern represented the children’s dream to have a beautiful flower to celebrate the festival, while a house-shaped lantern conveyed wishes to live in happiness.
"Every wing of this five-wing star represents each of us, given that they have our fingerprints on them," explained one child about his group’s work. "It means that when we joined hands together, we can make a brilliant star."
Tran Thi Ngoc Anh, who is 10 years old and lives nearby, observed that the children with disabilities had "fun to the max".
"I approached a cute-looking girl and asked her name," she added. "But she just turned back and gesticulated with her hands."
"Even though she knows that I do not understand her language, she did try to reply," she said.
Nguyen Ngoc Ha, 15, who listens and speaks with difficulty and lives at Binh Thanh District’s Hy Vong (Hope) School for hearing-impaired kids, said she tried to win the highest prize with her group’s lantern, which was in the shape of a fish in the paddy field.
"We love to sing and dance," said Ha, who performed dances and songs to celebrate the moon and legendary figures who live on it.
"I love other hearing-impaired kids so much and try to make them express themselves like me," said Ha, noting that it was not until she was nine years of age that she began to speak after being sent to a special school.
In fact, disabled kids love to approach celebrity singers who come to entertain them. They crave handshakes and pose for photos with them.
The party, performances of lovely songs and dances, a fashion show and parade with lighted lanterns were activities that spiced up a fabulous evening for the kids.
Nguyen Thi Ngoc Anh, a teacher of Hy Vong School who accompanied some kids, said hearing-impaired children were hungry to mix and have fun with other children.
"They rarely set foot out of school, so they never want to miss a chance like this."
VietNamNet/Viet Nam News