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Empowering Ethnic Minority Students Through Social Entrepreneurship (Part 2)

After the first three weekends learning about social entrepreneurship, start-ups, making business plans,  public speaking, and

gender, the students entered the third component of BLV’s training program. This consists of  a ten-day workshop learning how to

make handmade quilling artwork. The students were all very excited about this third training component that would help them to

be able to make beautiful gifts for their friends and family. Some of the students who are skillful enough, will have a chance to join

the quilling handmade production chain of Coeurs De Papier, our  sister organization, which helps to fundraise for our non-profit

organization,  Better Life Vietnam. 

Better Life Vietnam invited Ngoc, a quilling artist who has been in this industry for seven years. Ngoc started her career as a quilling trainee at a disability  center seven years ago. Due to an illness as a child, she has a disability which reduces mobility in her legs. She used to have to go everywhere with the help from her mother. With a strong desire to be dependent, she worked hard for many years to reach this goal. . She can now walk on her own, although still with great difficulty. Ngoc is married to a fellow trainee at the disability center. They have two beautiful little daughters. Ngoc attributes her life to quilling artwork. It provides an income to allow her to look after  her children and the whole family. Her husband has a more severe disability, so the family’s financial responsibility rely heavily on this small but very strong lady. 

Ngoc was so nervous when Ms Thinh Nguyen, the Founder of Better Life Vietnam, talked to her on the phone about the training. She said she had only taught at the disability centre, and was nervous to enter this new environment. She was afraid of being underestimated by the students.  Thinh reassured  Ngoc: “No, Ngoc, please do not feel that way! You should be proud of yourself as a successful disabled quilling artist who can now teach those people who have no disabilities. The reason we chose you, over another quilling trainer, is because we believe in your ability. In addition to sharing your quilling making techniques and experiences, we believe that you will also be a mirror for the students to look at. Please help us inspire the students with your story. The young students will find your resilience and strength inspirational, which may help them look at their lives and the challenges they encounter with more bravery.”  Thanks to Thinh’s words, Ngoc showed up confidently at the training and was impressed by the students’ intelligence and enthusiasm to be social change agents. 

In the first part of the training, the students were introduced to the Quilling techniques, the  tools required  to create the beautiful handmade artworks, what quilling artwork can be used for, and job opportunities as well as estimation of income working in this industry. 

The students then learnt and practiced basic quilling techniques, using quilling tools to form basic shapes from thin slides of the colorful paper. 

After learning all the basic quilling techniques, the students were taught simple samples of greeting cards to work on. The trainer chose a more complicated and difficult sample each week, to challenge the students.  Some students chose to be creative and create their own patterns. Others looked for samples on the internet to inspire them. 

The hardest part of Quilling is learning how to create an image of different objects, such as a flower or an animal, by putting different pieces of quilling paper together. This requires creativity and many years of practice. The students found it difficult at first, but with the help of the trainer, they were able to learn the methods and techniques to allow them practice on their own in the future. Practice makes perfect!! 

After the 10-day offline training, the students have entered the self-practice period, where they have two months to master their quilling skills at home, using tools and materials provided by the Program. At the end of this period, students will be assigned a sample to work on and submit as their final assignment. These assignments will be graded by the trainer who will then decide which student can actually earn some money by making handmade quilling artwork. We are looking forward to receiving the students’ final assignment! You can support our effort in empowering the disadvantaged youth by purchasing amazing quilling handmade artworks at https://www.coeursdepapier.betterlifevietnam.org/