Beautiful handmade items made by people with disabilities in Da Nang

By DA NANG Today / DA NANG Today
November 24, 2023, 20:32 [GMT+7]

Beautiful and exquisite handmade products made by people with disabilities in Da Nang not only create employment opportunities for those in similar situation, but also contribute to promoting Da Nang as an attractive destination for domestic and foreign tourists.

Mr. Hua Van Minh telling the story of his journey to create souvenir items made from bamboo toothpicks. Photo: KHANH NGAN
Mr. Hua Van Minh telling the story of his journey to create souvenir items made from bamboo toothpicks. Photo: KHANH NGAN

Souvenirs used as marketing tool to enhance the city's image

Hua Van Minh from Da Nang’s Son Tra District used to be a civil engineer,and he spent most of his time working at construction sites.

Minh quit his job as he broke his spine after being hit by a falling rock while working at a construction site, that left him paralyzed from the waist down.  Minh became confined to a wheelchair after this accident that severely damaged her spinal cord.

However, the love, support and encouragement of his family helped him overcome his disability to use bamboo toothpicks to create handicraft items.

In 2014, he released his first product, a model of the Eiffel Tower, after 3 months of its creation. Then, a model of the Meridian Gate, also known as the South Gate or Ngo Mon in Vietnamese, the main gate to the Imperial Citadel City of Hue, which is a tourist attraction in Hue City was his second product to be launched after just 10 days of its creation.

He said that he initially asked for help from his family to buy raw materials in order to allow him to create handicrafts. Some time later, he bought a three wheel motorcycle for the disabled to buy bamboo toothpicks to create his products, as well as transport them to souvenir shops the city for sale.

He consigned his first products to souvenir shops in Da Nang, and he received active customer feedback. As a results, he made adjustments to his new products in order to create them with more unique and sophisticated designs, as well as make them more attractive to customers.

His products are models of some of the city’s unique features, including the Han River, Rong (Dragon), and Tran Thi Ly bridges, the Hue T-junction overpass, and the Da Nang Administrative Centre. In addition, he designs and makes other items depicting tourist attractions in other Vietnamese localities, including the Hue Imperial Citadel, and Rong or communal houses in the Central Highlands. Apart from selling his products at Da Nang-based souvenir shops, he also sells them to online shoppers. Each his product costs from VND 700,000 – VND 1.5 million, depending on its size required by the customer.

He noted “It takes me a lot of time to create each item because it requires accurate skills and meticulous preparation.  I have to boil the bamboo toothpicks and dry them in the sun to ensure the products’ durability, and to prevent termites from damaging the items”.

Sharing his process for designing a new product, the 41 year-old man confided: " I outline my design ideas for new products to create the best ones to meet the requirements of my customers. I now source bamboo toothpicks from the Muncipal Blind Association to create my products. It takes me at least 3-4 days to make a handicraft item."

On average, he can earn VND 5million -VND 7 million per month from selling his products. His current job not only provides a steady income and brings stability to his life, but also showcases his creative skills and talents.

Devoting a small amount of efforts to promoting the image of Da Nang to tourists makes him very happy. His job also motivates him to continue learning and developing new skills to create better products to attract customers.

He said “I am very happy when I create a new product which is attractive to both domestic and foreign customers.  It motivates me to continue my efforts to develop even more products.  I am planning to share my souvenir-making experience with local disabled people to help them earn a living”.

Overcoming disabilities to achieve greatness

Ho Thi Lang, a resident of Hoa Phuoc Commune, Hoa Vang District, has overcome her disability to confidently set up her own handicraft business, paper quilling art. Although she is disabled, she still seems energetic and optimistic.

Lang’s quilling products won the first prize at the 2023 start-up idea competition themed ‘Economic development associated with increasing trade value for local products’ which was launched by the Hoa Vang District Chapter of the Da Nang Women's Union.  She dared not to believe that her quilled paper pictures could conquer the competition.

Ho Thi Lang won the first prize for her quilled paper pictures at the 2023 start-up idea competition.
Ho Thi Lang won the first prize for her quilled paper pictures at the 2023 start-up idea competition.

Lang was born into a poor family with 3 sisters. At the age of 6, she showed symptoms of bone and joint pain, disproportionate shoulders, and crooked spine. In addition, she had a spinal tumor that grew larger over time. She was labelled a hunchback after being diagnosed with scoliosis so her doctors recommended surgery at a total cost of nearly VND 200 million. However, her family could not afford to pay for her surgery so that she had to live with her disease.

In 2014, Lang went online to learn about the art of paper quilling and then decided to go to Ha Noi to study this paper craft while working as a worker to earn money to support her parents due to not wanting to be a burden to her family.

In 2019, after mastering the quilling techniques, Lang returned to her hometown in Hoa Vang District. She was then introduced by her relatives to a local vocational training center to work as a vocational teacher for people in a similar situation to herself . At that time, she could not turn her start-up idea into reality due to the COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in difficulties in sourcing paper materials and no orders from customers.

In 2022, with financial support worth VND 10 million from philanthropists in response to appeals made by the Hoa Phuoc Commune Chapter of the Da Nang Women's Union, Lang boldly borrowed additional 20 million VND from her friends and relatives, as well as used her family’s house to start her own home-based handmade greeting card business.

Telling about the first step of her journey to start a business, the 29 year-old woman said: "At that time, very few people knew about paper quilling art. Therefore, I often posted product introductions on my own Facebook page, helping me get my first customers. This gave me motivation to pursue my passion for paper quilling as a full-time job."

Lang said that each of her products tells a story about her hometown. It takes her 1-2 hours to complete a product but it takes her 4-7 days to complete a large-sized quilled paper picture. She now can earn between VND 4 million - VND 5 million a month from selling her quilling products.

Lang said that, in addition to selling cards at home, she also sells her products online with nature and human designs. Making her product different from competitors, she has received a lot of orders from customers who want to use her cards as gifts for their partners, friends, and relatives.

Lang realized that paper quilling art is suitable for people with disabilities. Hence, she extended a helping hand to people in a similar situation to herself after stabilizing her business. She is willing to provide wholehearted support for vocational and skills training for those who want to learn this art. She has a strong desire to expand her greeting card facility in the future to receive more trainees to help them make money with paper quilling art, as well as help them enjoy full lives within their communities, so that they are not a burden to their family and society.

Reporting by KHANH NGAN – Translating by H.L