20 Feb Limitless Lilan
“When I get home from the hospital I know my head is not normal. I can’t see out the left side. Every morning I take the thread and the needle. Every day I do the same; put the thread in. That first time it took 15 minutes to thread. I can do it after only one minute now.” – Lilan
Lilan had always sewed. Her passion for fashion and design led her to open and run a sewing business 30 years ago, where she even had a contract with Australian couture designer, Lisa Ho.
In 2010 Lilan suffered a stroke that affected her eyesight and mobility, and nearly put a stop to her love of sewing. She had limited use and little strength in her legs and had to get used to walking with a cane. Through the hard work of rehabilitation, Lilan had to relearn everything from basic motor skills to chopping vegetables and, of course, threading a needle … step by step.
Lilan’s body may have slowed down, but her determination didn’t. It was clear she had many goals and dreams that she still wanted to achieve, and she wasn’t going to let disability stop her. That’s when Lilan met social inclusion worker, Mei, and Uniting Ability Linker, Anna.
Anna and Mei soon linked Lilan with opportunities like volunteering, cooking and small sewing alterations. Through these social activities, Lilan’s self-confidence grew. One day, her eyes lit up and she shared that she had always dreamed of doing her daughter Jenny’s make-up on her wedding day.
“My intention was to learn something new and do something for myself.” Lilan said. “Anna and Mei encouraged me to take a beauty course. Together, we found a beauty diploma course with a teacher who could speak my language, Vietnamese.”
It was a year-long course and Lilan was delighted to learn new skills and meet new friends in the Vietnamese community.
“I was taught how to do makeup, massage and nails. My favourite was makeup – I’d practise on myself every day!” she said.
While the big day for Lilan to be Jenny’s make up assistant hasn’t arrived, Lilan is back on the sewing machine. She loves a bargain and enjoys hunting for discounted, imperfect clothing once a fortnight, which she takes home to repair and make new again.
“Mum has always been an inspirational person,” said Lilan’s daughter Jenny. “She’s always shown a lot of strength and resilience. She’s proactive and strong and sets her mind to do whatever she wants to do, which has helped her recover.”
Lilan is grateful for Anna and Mei’s support over the years.
“Their support has helped me find confidence and joy in trying and exploring new things,” she said.
“When you are sick, make sure that you’re still active and go out. Reconnect with community as much as you can. You can’t wait for yourself to get better. Be proactive and go out and learn and enjoy new things, so you get better faster.”