How IT opens up the job market for disabled people
In Vietnam, people with disabilities often face financial difficulties, relying only on their families and are therefore not independent. Historically, they have had problems accessing the job market, but technology is proving to be a game-changer. The Will to Live is a Vietnamese non-profit organization that empowers people with disabilities, by providing them with IT skills and placing them in well-paid jobs.
“Many disabled people and their families see the Will to Live Center as their last hope” (Nguyễn Công Hùng, co-founder of the Will to Live)
Starting up in a remote village
It was 2003 in a remote village, 300 km of Hanoi, the main priest brought the first computer to the village, and teached Nguyễn Công Hùng the co-founder how to use it. He liked it so much that he asked his parents to buy one too. They made an effort and contacted the rest of the family, and bought him his own computer. Since that moment, Nguyễn Công Hùng spent a lot of time on the computer, learning new skills.
He was already a member of a group of 7 disabled people, who helped each other. After a year with his computer, he trained the other members of the group. The group learned quickly and soon started tapping letters and editing weddings for the other people in the village and started earning money. Nguyễn Công Hùng became quite famous in Vietnam, even appearing on the national television. People with disabilities from across Vietnam asked him for trainings. At a certain point around 30 students lived in their family house, benefiting from the trainings.
In 2007, Nguyễn Công Hùng left the village for the “big city” Hanoi, to work for a major corporation. The experience was not what he expected, as the company seemed to use his fame to position themselves differently. So together with her sister, Thao Van, they started the “The Will of Life “ in 2008 in Hanoi.
During 2 years, Thao Van taught herself software for photo editing and graphic design. Her first job was as a graphic designer in a Danish company, establishing a long-term partnership with the organisation.
The center currently teaches 60 to 80 students- mainly from rural areas- in IT, graphic design and photo editing – at a professional level. The main criteria of selection is the motivation of the candidate to integrate the program. The teachers are all volunteers, and many of the alumni also teach to the new students. At the beginning, their model was to train the students first and to find them a job afterwards. As this proved to be difficult to coordinate, they changed their approach. They are now searching for a job position first, and then they train the students for this specific job.
Related article: Enjoy the silence: Reaching Out Tea House and Artisans
Equally important to these job skills are the personal skills.Usually in Vietnam, disabled people depend heavily on their family, while at the center they have to learn how to do everything by themselves. Moreover, after getting a job, they have to leave the center and live a independent life. Some of them also make handicrafts to earn money during their 6-month training.
Good prospects for students
Most of the disabled people in Vietnam live in very poor families, especially in the rural areas. They don’t really get support from the government, they receive only 9$ per months. After graduating the training, the students get employed by a company or become freelancers. In a short time, most of the students are able to cover their own expenses and can even send money to their family. The normal salary for IT jobs is around $230, almost twice as high as the salary of a factory worker . Some get hired by foreign companies, earning $500 a month. After 2 or 3 years of experience in the company, they can even access to position of leaders, trainers or quality “checker”. In case they don’t meet the requirements of the company, they are sent back to the center and receive further training. Up to now the will of live have trained more than 700 physically disabled people and more than 300 graduates have found work and have a steady income.
Challenges and future plans
- As the organization is not-for-profit, financing has always been an issue.
- For the center’s location, they have to rent three apartments to fit everybody. Hanoi is a developing fast, and the rents are constantly rising. The organization had to move 7 times so far.
To address the problems above, The Will to Live is planning to open a new center, built on their own land, and then further expand to other provinces. To realize this project they need to raise more funds.
Foreigner volunteers are welcomed in the center to provide english classes to the students.