Just massage, with a little love and hope

Published: 21/09/2008 05:00



VietNamNet Bridge With a gentle smile, Nguyen Thi He greets her client, politely saying hello and leading her quickly up the stairs, inviting her into the massage room.

Relaxing: A visually-impaired therapist massages a customer.

She puts on some soft music, turns on the lamp and begins the massage, as skilfully as any professional masseuse. With her sweet voice, she asks her client many times if he or she feels comfortable or wants more or less pressure.

Sweet, gentle and intelligent, this 22-year-old girl is like many others, except for one small exception. She is visually impaired. One eye is without any vision, and the other eye can only see at 20 per cent of normal ability. While this may set her apart from many, she fits in well at the Just Message centre in Hanoi where every therapists shares her disability.

The four-storey centre, located on a tranquil lane at the end of the Van Phuc Street, has been open since November of last year and currently employs eight young girls and boys from disadvantaged families in Hanoi and its outskirts. For many, the centre may be their only chance to earn a stable living.

With their vision impaired, they rely on their skilful hands and sensible hearts to earn a living.

“For them, a massage is not a mechanical operation. Meditation is incorporated into their daily routine, so that when they enter the massage room they are focused and centred,” says Nguyen Thu Hang, who manages the centre.

At the centre, they can learn Swedish therapeutic massage and Japan’s Shiatsu techniques, placing the centre apart from other blind massage centres in town.

Hope for the future

“Being visually impaired is a serious handicap in a city like Hanoi, and youth often find it difficult to find well-paying and respectable jobs,” Hang says. “Our centre provides them with not only a stable income, but also with dignity, a sense of community, and hope for the future.”

Just Massage began as a collaboration between Action for the City and an international non-governmental organisation to create a place for young adults with visual impairments to learn the art of massage and run their own centre.

Before they started working, the youth underwent a six-month training course and two months of practice. A professional massage therapist from the US with experience working with the visually impaired, trained the therapists in Swedish therapeutic and Shiatsu techniques.

Swedish Therapeutic Massage is a combination of aromatic oil and long flowing strokes that reduces stress, relieves muscles tension and promotes an overall feeling of relaxation. Shiatsu is a traditional form of body work, based on traditional Japanese massage techniques and the ancient principals of yin and yang.

The students also received a certificate in physiology and anatomy through Bach Mai Hospital. Additional training in hygiene, business and marketing skills has equipped these therapists to offer a professional, high quality massage experience.

Life at the centre

They also learned English from native English speakers who volunteer their time. “They can communicate quite easily now with foreign clients,” Hang says.

Most of the therapists at the centre admitted that the first eight months of the training course were not easy, but they were determined to succeed.

Ranging from 22 to 32 years old, the group quickly bonded, sharing with each other a love of massage and aspirations for a bright future.

“I love the job and am so proud and happy that massage can help other people be healthier and more relaxed.

“The job is not so difficult and is very suitable for me,” says Nguyen The Cong, one of the therapists at the centre. Most of his colleagues shared his sentiment. Five of the eight youth live at the centre and only go home once a month. For all of them, the centre has become their second home.

“I have not only found a stable job to earn money to live and to support my family, but more importantly I feel more confident and more integrated into society,” says He.

Seven blind people living together, however, does have its drawbacks.

“Sometimes, we bang our heads on the door and against each other when we pass without saying anything,” says He, laughing.

One client from the US said she’d had messages from all over the world, and would easily hold them up to the centre’s standards.

“My therapist, Dung, was exceptional,” says Jennifer. “She is very skilled and asked me many times if I felt comfortable or if I wanted more or less pressure. What is special about Dung is the feeling of love and care that she puts into the massage. Her love and gentleness is very healing.”

The centre is located at 12 D2A Van Phuc Street in Hanoi. Information on the centre can be found at www.justmassage.org.vn.

(Source: Viet Nam News)

Update from: http://english.vietnamnet.vn//buys/2008/08/800129/

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