When dengue fever took the life of her son, it seemed that things could not possibly become more difficult for Yên, living in Binh Phuoc – but a horrific accident changed everything, leaving her with a significant head injury and without a safe place to call home.
After the accident, Yên was hospitalised for some time before being allowed to return to the home she had been living in with her mother and brother.
While she received advice from a traditional medicine specialist to assist with her rehabilitation, Yên also required ongoing medical attention, including an operation to her injured hand, costing VND 6,000,000 ($A360) – a huge amount of money for a person in her situation.
When she returned to live at her mother’s house, it soon became apparent that it would not be a safe place to recover. Her brother, who was convinced that she should move out, became repeatedly violent towards her and left her no choice but to leave the family home, with nowhere to go.
Without help, Yên would have had no choice but to continue living with her mother in a violent environment. While some people with disabilities in rural Vietnam can get some government assistance, there is no guarantee for help or when it may arrive.
Because of generous donations from people like you, the Binh Phuoc Association for the Disabled, The Poor and Orphaned (BPADPO) is able to help people such as Yên. When Mr Mon, a BPADPO District Representative, heard about Yên’s situation, he found out that her sister owned a vacant house in the village.
With the help of generous supporters, and through BPADPO’s Community Support in Health and Self Care project, Mr Mon gained permission from Yên’s sister to repair the floor and install a new roof, as well as an inside toilet and a wall to create some rooms.
A toilet and secure shelter may seem simple, but they improve dignity, health, sanitation and societal inclusion for people like Yên. Without access to a toilet, people have no choice but to defecate in the open. This makes the environment unclean, with faeces contaminating water and food. Without proper hygiene, diarrhoeal disease can spread quickly.
It also puts people at risk of being attacked. Defecating in the open means a lack of privacy and safety, particularly for those who already face social exclusion or violence. For people living with disabilities, particularly those that affect mobility, defecating outside can be difficult and unsafe. As a people group already facing social exclusion, this puts them at particular risk. Women and girls face a high risk of being attacked in these situations.
So for Yên, to have an indoor toilet means so much. She has independence, as well as a toilet she can use with dignity and without fear of being attacked. She has a clean environment to live in, so that she can eat and wash without the risk of disease.
BPADPO covered the costs to complete Yên’s new house, while her family contributed labour. Yên moved in just before Tet (Vietnamese New Year), giving her a sense of independence and, importantly, a safe place to live with her children.
Now, as she sits inside her home in Binh Phuoc, Yên’s hair is pulled to one side and evidence of her head injury remains – but things have changed significantly in her life.
“I am very happy. When I got this house, I cried for three days and three nights. My son is also very happy,” she said.
While life looks hopeful for Yên, there is still much work to be done in rural Vietnam. Only one third of the rural population has access to adequate sanitation facilities, and the outlook for those living with a disability in the Binh Phuoc Province can be particularly poor.
With your financial support, BPADPO can continue to provide practical help to people like Yên, giving them a new outlook on life and hope for a better future.
* The name of this woman has been changed to protect her identity.