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Let’s Beat Down the Wall That Stands in My Way

Let’s Beat Down the Wall That Stands in My Way

Limits. That’s the word that has been running through my mind this entire week. Each turn that I make, I am faced with a limit, with a restriction that hinders me from my original idea of media documentation. There are limits on media and especially on the impact that VIET2010 fellows have here as we discover the good and bad of the programs we explore.

My first media limit occurred when we were at Tu Du Hospital, where we visited the hospital’s ward for children with disabilities. As we got out of the van, Co Xuan told us to put away our cameras. Inside the wing for children, I encountered a number of children with disabilities, where if the audience that I am speaking to could see their physical conditions, it would evoke a strong sense of sympathy and possibly surprise or horror.

Be Thao, from the baby’s room, is one of the first child that approached us. Her face is lively and she reaches out her hand to shake our hands. From her head to about her waist, Be Thao looks just like a child without a disability. However, as I continue to look further down, her legs are crossed in Indian style sitting position and skinny from underdevelopment. She crawls around on her knees, but has one of the biggest smiles I have seen.

Be Hiep, 10, has no feet. His limbs are cut off right under his knees. As for his hands, his fingers were infused together to form 2 fingers. Although in this condition, Be Hiep did not let it stop him from walking and removing a DVD from its case to show me and Vi. He is not burdened with his disability and continues to live life the way he knows how to. He is super excited to be showing us his treasures.

I wish I could have documented these experiences through photos. I wanted to capture the strong spirits of the children, not exploit them to evoke the audience. However, I can only capture them in writing and their faces in my mind. I didn’t want a picture of them to display their disability, but rather have pictures of the children interacting with the group or myself to show how these children have learned to live with their disability. I asked one of the nurses in the baby room why we weren’t allowed to use cameras and she answered that people have misused the images of the children and so they no longer allowed visitors to take pictures. I later learned at the sites we visited after Tu Du also does not allow pictures to be taken.

My second realization of limit involves the impact that VIET2010 fellows can bring to the places we will be doing service. After the meeting that Vi and Ben attended for their site of service, Vi was extremely bothered by her mission. She told me that she felt some hopelessness at the site she would be working at. Vi wanted to create a long lasting program and have a long term impact, but here, she doesn’t know if her work would be enough; she doesn’t want her work to be only a short term thing. Her goal made me think about my own goals and mission for my site of service. However, since I have not visited my site yet, I do not know what to expect.

Limits are further expressed when we visit the sites that have programs to help people with disabilities, such as, Hoc Mon Employment Training Center and Disability Research and Development Club House. Here at these sites, people with disabilities like missing leg limbs or loss of eyesight can learn a trade. They learned how to make jewelry, wood carvings, flower arrangements, or massage. However, this is limited to people who have 2 strong hands and their mind must be fully functioning. Therefore, this limits the number of people with disabilities that can be helped. Children and adults who suffer from brain malfunctions or retardation cannot be readily helped at these programs. So then what can we do? Who should I focus on helping? Who is actually affected by Agent Orange/Dioxin, the focus of VIET2010?

These questions are all jumbled in my head right now. At our debriefs, we have tried to sort out the question of serving people with disabilities and serving those people with disabilities that was caused by Agent Orange/ Dioxin. These are really complicated questions that have few defined boundaries. There are gray areas that we must take into consideration and make the best of what we have learned.

So my limitations lead me to writing my second media project, of which I have done no justice for. My writing could only capture a glimpse of the strength of people with disabilities and the questions that complicate our project. As a visual learner, I wish that I could have had images to work with, but to respect the centers who kindly accepted us, I must respect their requests. These 2 limits will cause great difficulty as I try to express my thoughts and prepare my work for the educational tour, but will also push me to think of new ways to approach the problems that faces me along the way.

 


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