The big dream of a little woman

Born with spinal muscular atrophy, Nguyen Thi Van runs a graphic design company and a vocational center for people with disabilities. Van dreams of building a “seedling garden” which nurtures the dreams of people with disabilities.

Nguyen Thi Van, 32, co-founded Nghi Luc Song (Dream Seed) Center in 2003 with her brother Nguyen Cong Hung, who has disabilities like Van. The center provides ITC and social skills training for people with disabilities in Vietnam.
The Hanoi-based center hires dozens of workers, with more than 70% of them having different kinds of disabilities. Van has managed the center by herself after her brother died in 2012.

The center has so far provided vocational and skills training for more than 1,000 people with disabilities, a majority of them going on to land stable-income jobs, with some even setting up their own businesses and helping other disadvantaged people. After six months of training, someone can earn 300-600 US dollars/month, Van said.

Nguyen Thi Van, CEO of Dream Seed Center. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

With her colleagues and partners at a working session. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

The work space at Imagtor. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Van introduces her company’s working process to foreign partners. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

At a training session at Dream Seed. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Van leads a skill training session at Dream Seed. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

With her Australian husband. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Van believes that technology is a lifesaver for people with disabilities. “Our center aims to help as many disadvantaged people as possible to take advantage of technology to support themselves,’ Van said.

In 2016, Van established Imagtor, a social enterprise providing photo, video, and IT solutions for foreign real estate companies. Half of Imagtor’s customers are US companies and the rest come from Australia, Japan, South Korea and European countries.

Imagtor gives top priority to quality of service and price, which are the two most decisive factors for a business to survive. Van said.

At Imagtor, Van has created a working environment where all employees are respected and treated equally. Regardless of whether the employees have disabilities or not, they work under the same rules of discipline and are entitled to the same reward.

More than half of the company’s in-house staff are people with disabilities. Imagtor’s employees earn 9 million dong (nearly 400 US dollars) on average per month.

Van is honored by Forbes Vietnam as one of the 50 most influential Vietnamese women in 2019. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

At a discussion within the Women’s Summit organized by Forbes Vietnam. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Van receives an award at En Xanh (Blue Swallow), a program to build, accelerate and recognize business initiatives for social changes. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Van performs at an Ao dai fashion show. Photo: Tran Thanh Giang

Van hopes to train many people with disabilities to fully tap their abilities so that they can fulfill their aspirations to lead a decent life.

At the DBS-NUS Social Venture Challenge Asia 2017, Imagtor won three awards in the categories of Dell Digital Award, the HEAD Foundation Innovative Social Enterprise Award (Education) and Enterprise Category.
Story: Thao Vy – Photos: Tran Thanh Giang & Forbes Vietnam