In 2012, Mrs. Huong Nguyen received the Humphrey Fellowship from the United States Government to spend a year of non-degree graduate-level study, leadership development, and professional collaboration with U.S counterparts in University of Minnesota, United States. During her trip to Seattle organized by the Humphrey Program in the University of Washington, she met Kirk Adams, the President of the Lighthouse for the Blind, at a dinner in March 2013. This was the first time she heard about the model of social entrepreneurship that adopted the business mindset to address social issues. She surprised to know that the Lighthouse for the Blind in Seattle could produce such high-quality manufacturing products that it could be supplier of aerospace manufacturers like Boeing, though it is a social impacted organization. Returning to the hotel with Kirk’s words “Maybe one day you can do something to help the blind people in Vietnam”, Huong started immediately searching information about the blind in Vietnam and their situation.
Only few sad figures available: Only 8% of the Vietnamese visually impaired go to school, 15% attend training courses, and 20% have jobs. Most of the Vietnamese blind live off their families, rarely communicate with others in their communities, do not believe in themselves and have little hope for the future. Massage therapy has been one of the best jobs for Vietnamese blind people; unfortunately, training in all aspects of the profession receives very little financial and technological support from governments and other resources. Hence, they only work in low-end parlors with low income, about 1-1.5 usd per 60-minute-treatment and exposing to physical and sexual abuses. Their job is not respected because of the society’s prejudice against massage as a form of prostitution disguised.
After doing an intensive research, Huong, also a research fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, then made a decision to leave her position as a young director-level government official with promising political career, together with her husband, lawyer Phan Vu Anh, to co-found Blind-Link in May 2013. To be the first and pioneering in this field in Vietnam, Blind-Link chooses to attack the issues by providing the blind with professional and personal development trainings, creating high value-added jobs via Omamori Spa chain, and transforming the image of blind massage.