11/15/2006, 00.00
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Vietnamese Catholics concerned about the fate of 300,000 blind children who are waiting for appropri

by JB. VU
These children have no guaranteed assistance and education and are still waiting to see their formal rights respected. Their problems are at the centre of a meeting in the archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City.

Ho Chi Minh City (AsiaNews) – Appropriate social policies for the disabled, especially for blind children, are needed in Vietnam, this according to the Catholic Church which has already taken some steps in that direction. On the occasion of the International Day of Catholic Volunteers that was celebrated last Sunday, a group of Catholic volunteers organised a meeting with blind children in the archdiocese of Ho Chi Minh City. The children spoke about their daily difficulties; the social workers, for their part, expressed their views as to what the government might do.

One blind boy, 15, said he dreamt of "going to school with the help of someone who could see. This way I could fit in. In Vietnam it's difficult to find a job, plus there still is a discriminatory attitude towards the blind".

"Still I am very happy," he said, "because some volunteers are close to us and I hope more activities will be organised for the blind."

Vietnam has some 300,000 blind children, most born with the handicap. Mai, 14, is one of them. She said she would like to read and write in Braille, but that no one has yet to teach her. "I feel marginalised; I can't communicate, nor can I leave home."

Mr Nguyen, who heads 'Warm Shelter', an organisation devoted to help blind children, lamented the lack of social policies for the young.

"Along with a series of government policies we must raise the consciousness in people about disabled people and blind children," he said.

Mr Nguyen, who is also blind, said people with disabilities lead "miserable lives".

"Vietnam must take concrete steps to respect the United Nation Convention on the rights of the child that it ratified in 1990. Hanoi is proud of having adopted this treaty but it has failed so far to live up to it."

The country has some five million disabled children, a social worker present at the meeting said, including deaf-mute and people with mental and physical handicaps.

"All this," he noted, "is leading to a serious moral crisis in society. We must raise awareness among the population, not only among politicians, about the rights of these people".

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