The idea of setting up such a center occurred five years ago to Trinh Xuan Vinh, head of the Hoi An Association for Disabled Youth, who himself has a disability.
“Most members of my association usually have difficulty in finding jobs,” he says.
But it took Vinh and four other members, Dang Ngoc Buu, Pham Thi Nhat, Nguyen Thi Thuy Phuong and Nguyen Thi Thuy Trang, five years to raise the VND50 million (US$2,400) that was needed.
They finally opened it in January 2010 and it has since taken in people who make handicrafts like lanterns, embroidery photos, and bags, and do various other jobs. They also live there.
Many of its members, who despite their skills were often rejected by other employers, say their souls have been reborn after coming to Smile House, whe-re they are loved by everybody.
Besides physical disability, Nguyen Thi Luom, 16, also has autism. Before coming to Smile House, she would hardly talk to anyone, including her family members. But after just a month there, the smile has returned to her face.
Tran Van Mai, 24, who has been disabled since birth, was struggling to earn a living by selling lottery tickets and hawking on the streets, eventually became unemployed. Fortunately, Smile House took him in and gave him a job painting on T-shirts for tourism firms.
“God has taken my legs away but I still have my hands to draw,” he says.
“I once intended to [commit suicide] but I have been reborn.”
Besides work, Smile House also provides education to illiterate members while some foreign volunteers teach members languages to enable them to become tour guides or sell stuff to foreign tourists.
It now has 20 members and Vinh hopes it becomes well known in the community.
“If more people know about Smile House, our members can sell more products,” he explains.
Smile House members are making lanterns