Three cities and five destinations spread across south and central Vietnam over a two week span…no doubt our January Mobile Mission was a jammed-packed adventure but a very successful one at that.

Our team did an amazing job sharing their expertise to approximately 400 people between our school visits and Saturday lecture. If anyone needed evidence that compassionate hearts and commitment to the task at hand can turn in stellar results, look no further than our experience. The team prepared hearing aid kits in the back of our van on the bumpy, curvy ride from Dalat to Ho Chi Minh City, overcame challenges like electricity outages, coughs, and technology snafus to help teachers and families. They got up early and worked late to deliver on their mission..all while keeping their sense of humor fully intact. We explored the sights together, had a lot of fun, and enjoyed many hearty belly laughs along the way.

I am very grateful to Judy Simser, Jane Madell, Lea Watson, Charlotte Ducote, Sharad Govil, and Joanne Restivo for volunteering their time and expertise to our efforts. Their passion and energy was contagious and they certainly left their mark with the Vietnamese people we had the good fortune to meet during our journey this month.
This has been a wonderful experience for the opportunity to spend time with the teachers and families at their home schools. The programs in Dalat, Da Nang, and Ho Chi Minh City all face different situations and challenges but share the consistent desire to to well by the children they serve. We fit 95 hearing aids on children who needed them. We trained people who do audiology work, we mentored teachers about auditory-verbal strategies, and inspired hope in parents that their children can indeed grow up to become successful, independent members of society.

I”m getting emails from other parts of Vietnam and from potential partners about our quality work. We are on the right track with this Deaf Education program and I look forward to continuing our efforts with Ms. Thuy at Thuan An Center and other Vietnamese professionals to empower their health care community, teachers, and families with the awareness, training support, and technology that their children with hearing loss need.

Our team spent two hours assessing our Mobile Mission experiences over some well deserved drinks and snacks on our last night in Da Nang. We all feel that more audiology training would be helpful in the schools and hospitals. Newborn hearing screening and audiology care and support are rarities here. The Vietnamese government does not yet recognize audiology or speech pathology as professions. Among other things, this has hampered university training in these areas. The government and insurance companies also do not currently provide any funding for hearing aids or cochlear implants which has created challenges for families to access such technology. We saw many children with profound hearing loss in these two weeks alone that would benefit from cochlear implants, and yet they likely will not get them. Hearing aids need to be more accessible and shouldn’t take months to repair.

Follow-up support in the way of trained professionals in early intervention, auditory-verbal therapy, and speech pathology would ensure these children succeed after they are fitted with hearing devices. Support mechanisms should be developed for parents and kids with hearing loss who are mainstreamed in neighborhood schools.

In spite of these challenges, there are many positives and bright spots of potential. The teachers care and are eager to learn new techniques to help their children develop spoken language and acquire education. The families, like families everywhere, want the best for their children and will do just about anything to ensure their success. Everywhere we went, the turnout was phenomenal. There is no question there is great desire to improve the landscape in Vietnam for children who are deaf and hard of hearing, both in present time and for the future.
The Global Foundation’s goal with its Vietnam Deaf Education program is to provide the mechanisms for increased awareness and improvements through education, training, and access to technology so that the Vietnamese have all the tools to make sound choices for their hard of hearing and deaf children.

Our Mobile Mission has drawn to a close, but the Global Foundation is already looking ahead to our next effort. We are conducting the second year of our teacher training program at Thuan An Center in a four-week program between June-July 2011. Over 100 teachers and families are scheduled to travel from the 35 schools in our program to attend the training. Many of these participants are returnees from last summer’s effort and we look forward to helping them build on their knowledge. We also plan to engage in family consultations, hearing testing, and fit hearing aids on children who need them. Our team is devising a special audiology workshop for hearing professionals, medical students, and those who audiology work in the schools. It promises to be another successful event and we are all looking forward to it.

This will be the last blog entry until we land in Vietnam again in June. Thank you for following along with us..and I hope you found it engaging! On behalf of everyone at the Global Foundation, thank you for your continued support and interest in our work. We are very grateful. I hope you will stay in touch with us….please visit our website at for more information about our programs and to sign up for our quarterly newsletter.

Meanwhile, until June….Camon and Tam Biet!