Eco-Heroes [EcoCupid on a Bike | EP 3]

Disabled People in Bình Định, Việt Nam Lead the Change for Recycling

2 June 2023

by huy

A 30-year-old centre in Bình Định province, Việt Nam empowers disabled people to nurture a garden from recycled materials and create livelihoods from recycling products, while raising awareness about environmental protection among locals via weekly garbage collection and parades.

Leaving the vast fields of pineapples and beautiful friendships behind, I’m headed for Bình Định. Along the way, I visited Mằng Lăng Church, one of the oldest and most beautiful churches in Vietnam. I also enjoyed the peaceful life at Sông Cầu Village. It took me 3 days riding on my bicycle to get to the only city of Bình Định – Quy Nhơn.

Bình Định is a particular province steamed with profound culture. Here, they have Hát Bội, a form of classical Vietnamese opera. I went to the local theatre to watch the artists practice almost every evening. This province also marks an important location in Vietnam’s history—where the Tây Sơn brothers, for the first time in history, unified Việt Nam. That’s why I expected to have many interesting experiences here.

I spent a week checking out the city, going about, making new friends, and, most importantly, getting information about unexplored environmental projects in the province. As usual, I didn’t have any connections when I arrived in this city. But after 3 days of staying there, I was notified of a promising environmental project located 20 kilometres away from the main city. And so I went.

Hidden deep inside a peaceful village was an amazing garden. My first impression of this place was that although it might look simple, the garden was incredibly well cared for, with lush green vegetable plots, beautiful plants, and adorable houses. However, what amazed me the most was that, upon closer look, almost the entire garden was built with recycled materials!

First look at the garden (huy)

The start of a recycling adventure!

I was surprised by how welcoming everybody was to me. I was heartwarmingly greeted by Ms Nga, the founder and manager of the garden, who showed me around. Ms Nga is a friendly woman, and she is passionate about what she is doing. With a humorous tone, she told me about the origin of her project. It all started around 30 years ago when Ms Nga’s sister broke her leg in an accident and Ms Nga, who had just graduated from high school, had to take care of her full-time for several years. The compassion towards disabled people that built up in Ms Nga during that time kindled her to start the very first centre, the Nguyễn Nga Center (NNC), in Bình Định to support disabled people. From education to employment, Ms Nga always tries her best to provide opportunities for the disabled people around her. 

2020 marked an important event for Ms Nga’s NNC when COVID-19 came and wreaked havoc on Bình Định province. Thinking it would be beneficial for disabled children to both have a hideout from the rampaging pandemic and experience deep interaction with nature, Ms Nga went to Phước Mỹ village to build the foundation of her garden.

Ms Nga introduced the recycled products made by the disabled people of Recycle Garden (huy)
Recycling classification at the Recycle Garden (huy)

Recycle Garden’s warriors and their battle to keep the community green

Although she appreciated the food, drinks, and other necessities donated by the community for disabled children, she was appalled by the huge amount of waste from styrofoam food containers, nylon bags, plastic straws, and others that had been accumulated. That’s why Ms Nga and the disabled children came up with the idea to sort the waste and breathe new life into them!

With the help of the disabled people, whom Ms Nga fondly calls ‘the warriors’, gradually the idea of the Recycle Garden was formed. At first, the garden was just a barren land without anything but donated necessities like food and drinks—they didn’t even have electricity then. Restoring the land and building a livable home there was hard enough, but the people fought on and crafted a beautiful garden with recycled materials. After a week of volunteering at the Recycle Garden, I can confirm that the success of disabled people came from the fact that the term “giving up” simply doesn’t exist in their dictionary.

Not only did the community use recycled materials to restore the area, but they also created a livelihood for themselves by recycling cloth patches, papers, plastics, glass, nylon, and metal. The cloth patches came from clothing factories, personal donors, and tailor shops, while other recycling materials came from local coffee shops, restaurants, and friends of the Recycle Garden.

Here, beautiful kitchenware and clothes are created by the skilful hands of disabled people. There is almost everything here, from pot holders, wallets, bracelets, notebooks, tote bags, and fabric fans, to intricate clothing like t-shirts and áo dài, a Vietnamese garment worn on special occasions. Meanwhile, cloth patches that are too old or too worn often get stitched together to make cleaning rags for the nearby timber or mechanical factories.

Recycled products made from cloth patches (huy)
Thu, and other members of the community, is giving these waste cloths new purposes (huy)

At another station, toys, plant pots, garbage bags, brooms, and other household appliances come to life under the masterful hands of Mr Toan, Recycle Garden’s proud recycling engineer. Mr Toan found it exciting to come up with new recycling ideas and bring them into existence. But it wasn’t until he moved to Recycle Garden with Ns Nga and other disabled people and saw the large amount of trash in Bình Định, that he was motivated to create this recycling station.

Mr Toan added with glee, “It is an exciting process so I hope that in the future, there will be more people to join me at this recycling station. To me, this is meaningful work that’s worth doing.”

Mr Toan is making another toy motorcycle recycled from waste carton boxes (huy)
An intricate drumming kit miniature made by Mr Toan (huy)

And many wonderful activities in Recycle Garden!

Other ventures of Recycle Garden include tourism and education. It was only by coincidence that Recycle Garden became a tourist spot in Bình Định, but the NNC community saw this as an opportunity to raise awareness among visitors about environmental protection and promote their recycled items. Recycle Garden started hosting recycling workshops where visitors, especially the children from the local kindergarten, can join and make amazing toys and decorations for themselves. Here, people can also experience camping, BBQ, and the main attraction: the wonderful slippery slide!

huy and the disabled warriors of Recycle Garden are enjoying the evening playing on the slippery slide (huy)

In the Recycle Garden, there was, of course, a garden! The disabled people here have cultivated an organic garden to sustain themselves. They believed that in order to keep up their contributions to society, they must maintain a healthy lifestyle. EcoCupid decided to sponsor a vegetable plot at the Recycle Garden!

huy is working on the vegetable plot sponsored by EcoCupid (huy)

Of all the work that the Recycle Garden did, the disabled people are most passionate about the “Green Kilometre”. Every Friday, “the warriors” gather in the garden and go out to collect all the garbage within one kilometre of the local area. According to the warriors, unlike other garbage collecting projects, their focus wasn’t on cleaning up waste but to spread a message. 

“If a disabled child can protect the environment, why can’t you?” asks Ms Nga.

The disabled people from the Recycle Garden are doing their weekly trash collection (huy)

They believe this is an immensely strong message to the community, and it is! I went with them on the “Green Kilometre” twice. And every time, I witnessed the concerned faces of the adults alongside the road, some of them were even too embarrassed to look at the disabled children cleaning the trash in front of their houses. Some even helped us out! Some kids who saw us found it exciting to join us on our weekly cleaning service, as they get to hang out with the disabled children of the Recycle Garden. Together, they learned from Ms Nga the value of waste management before joining the warriors back at the Recycle Garden to have ice cream and play on the slippery slide! I see this as a highly effective way to educate children about environmental awareness with hands-on experience.

Local children also love to join the “Green Kilometre” activity and learn about waste management from Ms Nga (huy)

Despite all the challenges, the disabled people here still keep their spirits high. They hope that in the future, they will find a way to handle all the waste that they can’t manually recycle. It pains them that sometimes the garbage station is so far away that they have no choice but to burn the garbage. They also want to create enough products so that they can have a secure platform for their goods that can sustain their livelihood. 

In the coming time, the disabled people of the Recycle Garden will have many more activities to raise awareness in the community about environmental protection, through exhibitions, recycling competitions, and summer camps, where local secondary school students can learn about recycling and have fun at the Recycle Garden during their summer vacation.

In more than a week of staying and volunteering at the Recycle Garden, I was treated with true kindness, friendship, and compassion. I admire the passion and determination of everybody here. They may not have much in terms of possessions, but the hope in their hearts and their will to do good for the environment will keep them moving.

Stay tuned for the upcoming EcoCupid documentary about the Recycle Garden to learn more about their wonderful activities.

(Edited by Amanda Tolentino)

Our featured Eco-Hero

Recycle Garden is a disabled persons care center that does weekly clean-up parades in its neighborhood. Based in Xóm 2, Long Thành Village, Phước Mỹ commune, Bình Định province, Vietnam, Recycle Garden focuses on maintaining a garden from recycled materials and creating a livelihood for themselves by recycling garbage into clothes, kitchen wares, household appliances, and toys. You can reach out to them at

This article was produced with support from YSEALI SEEDS for the Future grant 2023.


huy, from Vietnam, is Ecocupid’s web developer. He is currently riding his bicycle all around Southeast Asia doing crazy stuff, learning about various cultures and discovering emerging environmental projects for EcoCupid’s platform.

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