Today was busy with a new interpreter on board, videographer on campus for a day-long shoot, a huge parent event, and two visitors from Phonak, one of the world’s largest hearing aid companies.

I was in Thuy’s office with Helen talking about a consultation when Thao, our latest volunteer, stepped inside and brightly introduced herself. Thao is a Viet who is studying speech language pathology at San Jose State in the USA. She learned about the foundation and our program through the Internet and emailed to find out how she could get involved as she was returning home for the summer. At the time, we were searching for interpreters not only fluent in both English and Vietnamese but with fundamentals in speech and hearing sciences so they could effectively understand and interpret the technical terms in our material. Thao has family in both HCMC and in a town near Thuan An, making the commute very doable. Most importantly, she is a wonderful person with a positive ambiance. I am pleased that we can repay her graciousness in part by giving her an opportunity to interact with our team’s four seasoned speech language pathologists and learn from their teaching. It was just the perfect match all around and I’m really looking forward to having her with us this next month.

Sharad, Product and Audiology Manager for Phonak Singapore arrived later in the day with Tuan, the Marketing Manager for Phonak Vietnam. Thuy and I gave them a tour of the program in action before setting down with them in her office to talk for a few hours. The hearing aid market in SE Asia is immature and there are serious gaps in access and distribution. There are presently no audiologists, leaving it to doctors at ENT hospitals to diagnose and treat hearing loss. This has posed challenges for information dissemination with schools and families, follow-up care and testing of hearing, and ongoing maintenance of hearing aids. Tuan offered to arrange a factory tour for our workshop participants, something I am sure they will look forward to in the last week of the workshop.

For tonight’s family program, parents were encouraged to bring their children with them to engage in two hours of interactive coaching with our team. We initially expected about 12-15 families, but over 25 turned out in spite of a big storm – and many teachers showed up to observe as well -creating quite a circus. Our team scrambled though in their typical good-natured way and did their best to coach families in three different rooms about various approaches in spite of limited resources and interpreters. We’ll need to make some adjustments to next week’s version of this interactive evening, but the families did leave at the end of the night smiling and chattering away with each other about the tips they learned.

Vincent, our videographer, arrived on his yellow Vespa motorbike from HCMC, camera gear in tow. A few months ago, I was looking for someone who could produce a video about our work in Vietnam but didn’t have much budget to attribute. Just when I thought my efforts would be futile, a Vietnamese contact introduced me to our new friend. Vincent is an American expat with extensive experience stemming from his days working at creative agencies in New York and San Francisco. I shared our mission and work with him through email and something must have resonated as he agreed to take our project on. We met for the first time last week and instantly hit it off, sharing travel stories and similar personal philosophies on work/life balance and the importance of giving back to society in a meaningful way.

Vincent came to the welcome ceremony this past Monday and was kind enough to capture the moments of the special day with my personal camcorder as well as his more professional camera. He was at Thuan An all day today shooting footage. He dodged the rain and lightening to capture the various activities within our teacher program, consultations, parent program, and conducted interviews of teachers, families, and Vietnamese and American professionals. The day ran long. We were still doing interviews at 10 pm tonight when Vincent offered to come back tomorrow so I could do my own interview with renewed energy. I so appreciate the gesture for the chance to sleep away a bit of the dark circles that I am sure sit under my eyes.

It was a crazy, nonstop day…but such a great one. I came back to the DINKY tonight inspired and so amped up and excited about everything we’re doing!