“To live this life, one needs a soul. For what, you know? To let go with the wind…” The lyrics of the song and its beautiful melody filled the air of the House of Youth. It is a subtle introduction to a home for deaf mute youths.
Located on Trieu Viet Vuong Street, the house impresses the visitors with its freshness. Its owners are young people about 20 years old with agile manner, bright eyes and radiant smiles.
The house is simply but artistically furnished. It is shaded by rows of green trees — and its garden is colourfully filled with flowers. The atmosphere is pervaded with the pleasant scent of lavender, lemon grass oil and herbal tea.
According to 24-year-old Pham Thi Nhu Quynh, a volunteer, the house is where the disabled can learn to become courageous, confident and independent people. It is not only a place to teach them a job, hone their communication skills and offer them a mental support, but also where they can use their own strengths and potentials.
“I have been here since September, 2016. My main duties are making soaps, herbal teas and extracting essential oils. This place is like a family to me and I feel very happy,” said participant Le Thi Thu Trang in sign language interpreted by a volunteer.
To become members of the House of Youth, applicants must be above 18 years old and have the approval of their families.
They are offered free accommodation, food and job training. They also receive wages of VND2-5 million (US$88-220) a month, depending on their seniority. After two years, they go back into the world armed with skills to work, save money and have confidence to manage their own lives.
Guests to the home offer money through a charity box or buy handmade soap, essential oil or herbal tea made by its members.
The main source of income comes from selling products to 15 agencies nationwide.
“I used to work as an accountant in a café in my hometown in Da Nang City,” said volunteer Quynh. “After hearing about the House of Youth, I quit my job to experience working there for 10 days. After coming back home, I felt I already belonged there. Therefore, in early February this year, I decided to come back to the house to work as a volunteer.
“I used to think much about my decision, which was disagreed by my parents. They were afraid that I would lose my future,” she added. “But I’m truly happy because I’m doing my favourite job and live true to myself.”
To other volunteers, helping deaf people means not only giving to others but also improving their own lives.
“Living and working with them teaches me about patience, determination and confidence, which is a practical supplement to my personality,” Quynh said.
Setting the fire
Founder of the House of Youth is 30-year-old Vo Thanh Luan from Bao Loc District.
Like other young people, Luan used to keep asking himself how to earn money and enjoy life.
However, after some incidents in life, Luan started to change his mind. “I used to have a wealthy foster-mother who lived alone and accumulated her assets; but when she passed away, she could not bring anything along,” Luan recalled.
In 2016, while he was studying abroad in the Philippines, he encountered the victims of Storm Haiyan, one of the fiercest storms in recent history. Seeing them starving and dragging themselves on the streets without proper clothing, Luan was so deeply moved that he gave away all his clothes and money he brought along.
On coming back to Vietnam, he decided to quit all his initial ambitions and habits to pursue a totally new path. The idea of the House of Youth came into his mind after days of tossing and turning.
Luan began the house from scratch. His most precious belonging at that time was a guitar. Thanks to the support of the benefactors, he was able to sell the instrument for VND140 million (US$6,200), which he used to hire a house in Da Lat City and to buy machinery to make soap and extract essential oil.
Through the social network, Luan started to get connected and welcome the deaf mutes as well as volunteers to train them.
The products made at the house have received much support from customers. Last April, the group opened a new house so that it could gain access to more customers and provide the deaf mute staff with more opportunities.
Presently, customers and staff of the House of Youth spend three nights a week learning sign language, another three nights learning to dance – and one weekend night, which is called Song nhu nhung doa hoa (Living Like Flowers) in which they talk about their happiness, changes and dreams.
Recently, the house was awarded second prize in the ASEAN Young Socialpreneurs Programme 2017 held in Indonesia. The programme is a competition for students and other young people from ASEAN and across the globe to create a business plan that significantly addresses social problems.
Luan has become thinner since the establishment of the house due to all the hard work and much thinking; however this has not hampered his happiness.
“As soon as everything is stabilised, I will open new houses to create more chances for deaf mute people,” he said.
“ I believe that my friends and I are living the happiest and most meaningful days of our youth,” Luan said.