A few weeks ago, I was invited to an interview at the studio of Talk Vietnam, a talk show that runs on Vietnamese national television. This was the first segment of a production that Talk Vietnam will air in the coming weeks. This process of taping has provided a wonderful opportunity to shed light on the cause of pediatric hearing loss in Vietnam, the potential for these children to learn to listen and speak when the rights supports are in place, and what the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss is doing to help our education and health care partners in Vietnam enhance the system of support for children who are deaf or hard of hearing.
Today, the Talk Vietnam camera crew arrived at Thuan An Center from Hanoi to capture footage of our summer training program. The best part of the day-long taping was the visit to the home of a family that the Global Foundation has helped over the past few years. This segment will be one of the story lines featured in the planned production.

In summer 2010, on one of the evenings leading up to the launch of our Vietnam Deaf Education Program, Thuy and I hosted a parent night. Families came to sign up for individual consultations and learn more about our planned training activities. A few weeks earlier, a Vietnamese family had just learned their 2.5 year old daughter Tam has a severe hearing loss. That night of the parent meeting was the first time I met this father.

There are moments in life that we just never forget, those logjams of memory that stay with us for all time. As I sat with the father in that humid, hot room, I felt his worry and concern. He asked me many questions about my own hearing loss and the services I had received when I was young. He was devastated his family had not recognized his daughter’s hearing loss until now and he wanted to know how to help Tam learn to talk.  I shared my story and tried to reassure him that our team of professionals that was due to arrive in the coming days would be able to help set him, the rest of his family, and Tam on a path to success.

After he left, I sat in that room for a long time reflecting on our conversation. We focus so much on the conceptual program development effort. It isn’t until we are here and fully immersed in the work, that the impact becomes very real. I sensed the march of time for this little girl I had yet to meet, but was encouraged by her father who would do anything to help her learn to speak and hear. In fact, that year, he asked to enroll in our teacher training program even though he was not a teacher. He felt the daily month-long schedule would provide him with more information than the shorter evening parent series. This family has been a part of our Vietnam Deaf Education Program ever since.

Talk Vietnam asked me to identify a family for our production who could share how they have benefitted from our program. I immediately thought of Tam. I was honored that the father not only enthusiastically agreed to take part, but also invited us into their home for the shoot. It was a real gesture of appreciation that touched me very much.

A few weeks ago, the father came to Thuan An Center on his motorbike after work in the pouring rain to meet with me to discuss the taping.  As he sat with me and Thuy, he shared that after attending our summer program that first year, he set up a room in his house that would be dedicated to therapy for his daughter. He built on skills learned during the first year by attending last year’s summer training and our 2012 Mobile Mission.  He and his wife have attended our Parent programs and Audiology clinics. He and his family have utilized the teaching concepts that our team provided to help his daughter develop her auditory and language skills. He also hired three Vietnamese teachers from Thuan An Center, all of whom have been engaged in our Deaf Education Program since inception, to work with his daughter on a regular basis.

Tam is now 5 years old and enrolled in mainstream kindergarten. She wears two hearing aids to overcome her severe hearing loss and listen and speaks very well. She is successful in school, enjoys reading, has many friends, loves her younger brother, and is just a wonderful, vivacious little girl.

As the cameras rolled yesterday, Tam read a book and played with some toys wtih Mai, her Thuan An teacher. The conversation flowed easily between the pair, and it was clear that this little girl has bonded deeply with her teacher. The father went on tape to answer some questions from the production crew about Tam’s story. The media team then decided to interview Tam by herself.   I  was so impressed to watch this young girl sit attentively in her chair with the camera and microphone squarely in her face. She was poised, answered the questions they asked of her, and just did a terrific job.

I’m thinking that we’ll see her in Hollywood someday….

I am looking forward to watching the final production and will be sure to share it widely when it is posted. The Talk Vietnam media team has been amazing in their attention and interest in this story. I am hopeful that we painted a picture of what is possible for children with hearing loss and that it leads to increased awareness and support for these children in Vietnam.