“Paige, there is so much I want to do,” Thuy’s eyes were bright as she downloaded to me the new ideas for her center.

Her brainstorm was a direct result of our training, born during the flight back to Ho Chi Minh City from Nha Trang. In addition to hosting our team at Thuan An Center,Thuy was one of our interpreters throughout the Mobile Mission. All that valuable time spent with our professionals gave her new knowledge and renewed inspiration.

“How and where to even start with these new ideas?” she mused. I advised her that even Rome wasn’t built in a day. When I explained the meaning of that adage, she smiled and nodded, “Yes, that is right. Bit by bit.”

We wrapped up our Mobile Mission in Nha Trang. It was a busy but highly successful three weeks and we came away with valuable insights that will help our program moving forward. We recognize that the Vietnamese participants in our program tend to focus on the tactical aspects of audiology and auditory verbal practice instead of a broader, grander view of case management. To help address this, Jacque, Lauri, and Zofia spent alot of time with the audiology participants explaining the how and why behind various hearing tests and interpretation of results. Judy and Lea taught the therapists and teachers about child assessment and lesson planning — how to set a roadmap for a given child’s development and set goals and strategies to achieve objectives.

There was alot of hands on work in both programs over the three weeks which was incredibly valuable in helping the participants understand and apply lessons learned in real world environments and with their own children. There has been positive momentum amongst the Vietnamese to create more opportunities for audiologists, families, and teachers to collaborate on a regular basis. Doing so will ensure the children they serve are hearing as optimally as possible to facilitate their spoken language development.

The Vietnamese are beginning to see the role that parents play in the success of a child’s progress and are starting to encourage families to be more involved in the education process. The high turnout and participation level of families at all of our Parent Meetings across the month are proof that parents want to learn and understand how they can help their children. The Vietnamese are recognizing the benefits when audiology, education, families, doctors, etc work together as a team to support the children and are laying plans to make that integrated network a reality.

After two sumer programs and two Mobile Missions, we are laying the foundation for lasting change, bit by bit, brick by brick, program by program. We are increasing knowledge of what is possible and awareness for the mechanisms that need to be in place for successful results to help children with hearing loss. Audiology is starting to take root in Nha Trang. Parents have established a parent group at Thuan An Center to support each other and to better engage with the teachers. Therapists at Children’s Hospital are implementing the assessment guide that Judy created into their daily work with children with hearing loss there. Participants from all three locations we visited during this Mobile Mission will attend our summer 2012 training program at Thuan An Center. They have asked that we return to their respective sites in future Mobile Missions for more training and guidance.

We had a remarkable team on this Mobile Mission. I cannot say enough about their passion and commitment to our program. Lauri, Zofia, Jacque, Judy, Lea, and Jim generously shared their years of experience with the Vietnamese and left a big mark with their warmth, care, and sense of humor. They inspired hope across these three weeks by empowering the participants with tangible skills and knowledge that they can apply right away in helping children with hearing loss.

It was a successful endeavor and yet, like peeling layer of an onion, we see there is much work that still needs to be done. Lauri, Jacque, and Zofia raised the hearing aid thresholds for several of the children they counseled, but hearing aids can only amplify sound to a certain point. If a child has a significant hearing loss and cannot hear sounds in the speech range with hearing aids, it will be difficult for him or her to learn to listen and talk. The Vietnamese are hungry to make cochlear implants more accessible for the children who would benefit from them and implement the follow up support to ensure their success. The Global Foundation will work with the Vietnamese to help bring this to reality.

On the education side, teachers and therapists are progressing in their depth of knowledge about auditory-verbal practice for children with hearing loss. They were engaged and enthusiastic to learn. They took Judy and Lea’s ideas and suggestions to heart and are already making moves to implement new ways of doing their work. They need much more hands-on coaching and practice with the children and families so they know how to apply theories learned. This is something we will emphasize in the coming months, starting with our Teacher Training Program this summer. We’ll also create and inplement new ways to provide ongoing feedback to the Vietnamese about their classroom and therapy work.

Our focus on training is absolutely the right model. We are helping the Vietnamese understand what is possible and can be expected on a case by case basis for each child. We are giving them a road map for how to implement and improve things for their children who have hearing loss. We are working with every member of the child’s team — doctors, audiologists, therapists, teachers, families. By giving them the knowledge and the tools, they can build the system that fits their needs. And by empowering them to do this work, stewardship is ensured of the system they develop and construct over time.

Though I am looking forward to returing to the US, it is always difficult to leave here. The mutual trust and bonds we have developed grow deeper with each program that we conduct. Ours is a real team effort on both sides to work together to help children with hearing loss whether in research, program development, brainstorming new ideas and solutions, or finding new sources of funding for this work. I often talk about the ripple effect of a powerful idea…and we are indeed seeing the fruits of our labor ripple out to touch others as people we have trained provide more support services to children with hearing loss, whether to those directly in our program or steps removed. I’m looking forward to my return to Vietnam in June to see the progress made and to continue to weave new stories into the tapestry of our Deaf Education Program. We’ll conduct the third year of our summer training program at Thuan An Center starting July 9, 2012.

I want to thank Hear the World Foundation, the US Consulate of Vietnam, Unitron, Westone, Quang Duc, Ear Gear, and the many generous donors who provided financial and/or in-kind support to making this Mobile Mission a success. And a heartfelt thank you to each of you for following along on our adventures. Your confidence and belief in the possibilities of our unique model is helping us ensure children with hearing loss around the world have access to the education and professional resources they need to reach their full potential.