Luong Thi Thu Huong worked as an intern for British Council Country Director Robin Rickard from 2012–2013. To her, it was the perfect place to work, a life-changing opportunity that gave a person with partial sight like her the confidence and professional skills to have a better life.
Until becoming an intern assistant to British Council Vietnam Country Director, Huong was a shy girl and not the extroverted and confident person she is now. That shyness stemmed from an incident that cost Huong the sight in her right eye at the age of 12. She was constantly targeted by peers and did not feel good about herself for many years.
As Huong finished high school and came to Hanoi for work to cover the cost of her studies at the Open University, majoring in English, her shyness improved somewhat. She became more active in helping others, as she felt lucky not to have lost her eyesight completely like many other visually impaired people. But it was only when working at the British Council, even just for a year-long internship, that Huong realised it was likely the most important milestone of her career and life.
Huong recalled that when she was asked by the British Council to come in for a job interview and saw such a professional work environment with a lot of expatriate staff, she initially felt scared as so much was new to her. But the friendliness and openness of everyone there, especially Director Robin Rickard, slowly removed Huong’s anxieties.
Huong recalled that “Robin was a kindhearted, gentle and understanding man. I learned from him the value of attention to detail. Robin taught me not to be rash. There was so much work to do and sometimes I just tried to finish my work quickly without much checking. He showed me where I had made a mistake in order to learn from it.”
At the British Council, like any other employee, Huong could learn English for free. Through her work, she also learned new skills like how to use computers, copying machines and fax machines, office-style communication, how to deal with different situations over the phone, office administrative procedures and so on.
Huong also cherishes memories at the British Council related to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion advocacy that she was encouraged to participate in. Activities included supporting the Australia for Vietnamese children – ACCV charity event and the English club for the visually impaired, participating in Child Protection focused events, and trying her hand at modelling in an Equality, Diversity and Inclusion week fashion parade.
It was that environment which helped her gain strength and optimism in life, and she was always proud of what she did.
Huong’s growth in her career and a recommendation letter from the British Council helped her successfully apply for her next job at Viet–Phap hospital.
Huong talked a lot about what she got from the British Council. “Having an internship here was a big opportunity for me and many other people with disabilities to develop ourselves and our careers. Everyone there helped me by motivating me, showing me dedication, encouragement and guidance, through what they showed in their eyes, their actions or simply by a kind word. So I was no longer afraid to ask if there was something I didn’t understand. I felt at home and confident, and not an outsider. Everyone was very supportive. All my colleagues came to my wedding and visited my home when I gave birth to my baby. I was very grateful to them. For me, British Council is the kind of workplace I dream of, where respect and care for each other is central.”
Huong now lives with her husband in a small house in Hoang Mai district. The couple have a beautiful two-and-a-half year old daughter. In addition to her job as a call operator at the Viet–Phap Hospital, Huong also has a second job in web-based sales. Huong’s husband, Ngo Quang Hieu, is the incumbent Vice Chairman of the Hoang Mai district Blind Association and a talented English tutor.
“Equality, Diversity and Inclusion policies at the British Council and the people there made me much more confident. I no longer think of myself as a person with disabilities.”