The Road to Inclusion: Integrating people with disabilities through community interaction

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

August 3rd – 18th, 2013


Although Vietnam has taken steps to improve opportunities and lifestyle for Vietnamese people with disabilities, the need for more supports from the outside communities persists. Due to the lack of exposure, many Vietnamese youths are unaware of the challenges faced by people with disabilities in their community. This lack of awareness is alarming because the future of the country’s policies surrounding disabilities rests in the hands of these young leaders. To effectively garner more societal support for the disabled community, we need to first fill in the youth’s knowledge gap about their lives and challenges.

To raise awareness to the presence of disabilities in Vietnam, our 15-day project attempts to attract more attention toward the issue from the community, especially from the younger Vietnamese generation, since they will be the ones who can continue and sustain the actions of bringing the larger community to care for the disabled. To bring the community closer to the disabled community, this project will focus mainly on three processes:

  1. Using community-based art as a platform for people with disabilities to find their voice as well as a space for the disabled community and larger community interaction.
  2. Improving leadership skills for Vietnamese youth through workshops involving a mentor-mentee model.
  3. Working closely with local partners to foster youth’s action on disabilities in the future.

According to the USAid report, the Vietnamese Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affair estimates that approximately five million men and women, currently, have disabilities. Not only do they face the lack of adequate education, but they are still struggling in a wide range of areas, including health, income, access to basic necessities, social integration, and marginalization. As Nelson Mandela once said, “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.” This need not be the case for individuals with disabilities. 

Although Vietnamese society has been doing its best to try to improve the lives of the disabled, their efforts, in some ways, have fallen short. There is an increasing number of vocational centers for Vietnamese with disabilities; however, these centers are only accessible to a small part of this population. The majority still experience limited supports. Because many groups of Vietnamese with disabilities live in rural areas, they need a wide array of supports, for instance, education, and we believe that the Vietnamese youth can provide these supports. Unfortunately, the disability issue seems not to be included among the prevailing social concerns of the youth. Not getting enough attention, care and support from the outside community can lead to other issues such as issues of access, participation, and inequality of opportunity. Projects that have tackled disability issues in Vietnam have focused mainly on giving groups of Vietnamese with disabilities a voice, but as long as there is an insufficient amount of community attention brought into the process, the impact of these projects will be limited. Hence, this project, designed with these issues in mind, endeavors to draw forth more attention from the Vietnamese community to Vietnamese with disabilities.

  1. Foster understanding from the community about disabilities in Vietnam through community interactions that will take place during our final performance.
  2. Create strong friendships between our SEALNet team members and PWDs throughout the two weeks of our project.
  3. Inspire, and prepare local students to become better leaders who will sustain our project.
  4. Incorporate more supports from local student organizations and NGOs toward PWDs and PWD centers in Vietnam. 

We believe that local communities in Vietnam are in an ideal position to be the ones who continue to sustain our mission of raising awareness about disability issues and supporting Vietnamese with disabilities. Our approach includes three main processes corresponding to three key components:

Leadership component

Using mentor-mentee model, SEALNet international team members (international college students – mentors) and local team members (local college students – mentees) will improve their leadership skills through series of leadership workshops, bonding activities, and group problem-solving exercises. 

Community-based art component

Using community-based art activities, our SEALNet team (both international and local) will work with a group of people with disabilities and prepare a performance. This final performance will be a platform for our disabled friends to express themselves and a place for significant interactions between the disability community and the greater community. It is not just a “we perform – you watch” but a “we all perform” performance because we believe that only through interaction can we aim to achieve understanding and empathy. Moreover, this final performance will also be a fund-raising event where the handicraft and artwork of our friends with disabilities. Funds raised from this event will be donated to the center we will be working with.

Service and collaboration component

We will work closely with local partners, including NGOs, student organizations and local businesses to not only acquire more supports from them for people with disabilities but to also foster social activism among youths on disability issues. These local partners will not only help us in spreading the word and publicizing our project but will also aid us during the fundraising process. Mass media also plays a key role in eliciting more attention from the community toward disabilities in Vietnam.



Disability Resource and Development Group (DRD), Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam ( DRD’s mission is to promote the full participation of, and equal opportunities for, People With Disabilities (PWDs) in all spheres of society. DRD aims to support groups/organizations of PWDs enhance the awareness of our society and PWDs themselves.

Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities (HCMUSSHVietnamese: Đại học Khoa học xã hội và Nhân văn Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh) is one of the member universities of Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City. The HCMUSSH plays an important role in Vietnam’s higher education, especially in the fields of social sciences and humanities.


As with all SEALNet projects, all team members are expected to take a personal stake in the project. Team members of Project Vietnam 2013 are expected to:

  1. Fully participate in all activities during 2 weeks of our project
  2. Contribute to the team’s fundraising effort
  3. Involve in the planning process, including coordinating with local partners, designing leadership workshops and art activities for the project
  4. Be active and positive to reach out to share and help other people in the team as well as PWDs

We are seeking college students from around the world, with different backgrounds and experiences to join our team. The following qualities are desirable to all team members:

  1. Interested in working on disability issues; previous experiences with working on disability issues are preferred (but not compulsory)
  2. Previous experience with art/performance is a plus
  3. Enthusiastic in both service and leadership
  4. Willingness to understand and form strong relationships
  5. Open-minded to and willing to collaborate with others, especially people with disabilities
  6. Strong commitment and goal-oriented
  7. Good problem-solving skills
  8. Willingness to step out of comfort zone
  9. Can “say yes before knowing how’’

In searching out the truth be ready for the unexpected, for it is difficult to find and puzzling when you find it.

— Heraclitus


Matthew Tran (Yale ’14) –

Quang Do (Duke ’16) –