I am constantly trumped by the disabled and agent orange affected residents of Peace Village. They always prove to me that humans do have blockages and preconceived notions in their minds. They make me question;
Where do we get these from? How have they formed?
I think our preconceived notions affect our attitude and behaviour towards others. Especially towards people with disabilities. Society hasn't always been kind to such individuals.... often they have been victimised, stigmatised, ostracised and discriminated against.
Dr Allan Schwartz believes that "the problem of holding preconceived notions as being true is that they can lead us to very negative and critical beliefs about others and that can affect our behaviors toward others".
I see this many times in relation to individuals with a physical disability. A physical disability does not also translate to a cognitive one! Just because they lack the motor control and their speech is sometimes affected, doesn't mean they have impaired brain functioning.
My beautiful friends here at Peace Village are examples of this. The ones with severe physical disabilities are ignored and left sitting in an empty room or cot, despite the fact they have typical intelligence.
My friend Cuong has a severe physical disability but if you have the patience to sit with him and allow him time to express what he wants to, he will. I understand him now: he always says hello and asks me how I am.
I only bring basic things to do: some colouring in, spinning tops, painting with water, blocks.... things I know their fingers can handle.... but this brightens up their day so much! Otherwise, it's endless hours staring at a crackling tv, the ceiling or the wall.
I made a new friend this trip. Phuong.
At first I thought she was mute as she always nodded at me but never uttered a word.
I do not know her diagnosis, but it is clearly something physical. She gets around by shuffling, so I know she can't stand up. One side of her body seems to be affected more than the other.
I watched her for over 40 min showering and then putting on her clothes with one hand.
I wanted to jump in and help but I stood back as I didn't want to imply that she couldn't do it by herself... she clearly does this everyday alone.... and I didn't want her to think that I thought she couldn't.... if that makes sense.
I watched the carers and other residents say things to her and she replies with a nod or shake of the head or a point of the finger.
She understands alright.
She holds onto a hat and in the hat she has put all her worldly possessions: a few crayons, part of a comic book, a few random plastic block pieces and some candy. She clings to this for dear life.
After about a week of going and saying hello to everyone, the nod was accompanied with a 'xin chao'. I got a Hello! I stopped walking!!!!
I got down to her level and asked her how she was and she said she was fine. She asked me and I said I was happy.
I asked her her name and she told me Phuong. She then told me she was 20 years old.
From this our friendship has developed.
We sit and colour and paint and build. When she is finished she asks me to take her photo and then she looks at it and giggles.
These moments.... I cannot explain what they do to me..... I go back to missionnampossible's motto: doing something is better than nothing.
Peace Village teaches me that it is better to have an open mind about other people and to not allow ourselves to be guided by beliefs founded on stereotypes.