The Level 1 participants started arriving early this morning, some by motorbikes three to a seat packed to the gills with personal effects. Others came by bus and made the last stretch of the journey on foot laden down with suitcases and bags. This group of teachers is new to our program, traveling from schools across the south to join us for 2.5 weeks of immersion in fundamentals of audiology, speech pathology, early intervention, and auditory verbal education.

Our Level 1 participants work at the same schools as those in Level 2. So it was quite an endorsement to have this new group learn about our program from their peers and be so enthusiastic to take part this summer. I joined Thuy and Dao to welcome them on a beautiful sunny day that just added to the optimism radiating from the group. It was like the first day of summer camp. The participants sat around the wooden desks bright eyed and rapt with attention, excited to start the learning process ahead.

On Sunday, I joined a longtime friend of mine from a HCMC-based nonprofit organization. Chinh is one of those selfless human beings who inspire you to be a better person simply through the way she leads her life. We met at a local restaurant located in a shady, pleasant courtyard that had a bit of classical music piping in as a pleasant backdrop. Chinh’s passion is to devise and lead projects that serve the needs of children across a breadth of disabilities, and she’s implemented solutions that have improved the learning environments and living conditions of these children in South Vietnam. I always enjoy hearing about Chinh’s latest projects and brainstorming with her about possibilities for our own program. She understands well the intricacies of Vietnamese governance and has the respect of many people here that has enabled her to get things done.

One of the projects she is currently involved with is a hearing aid distribution program. We had a preliminary meeting several months ago with other local NGOs to discuss how such a program might be designed and made sustainable. The model that she is proposing includes micro-credit elements whereby low-income families would be provided a hearing aid for their child with the requirement they would pay for it over time in small increments. Eventually, the cost of the hearing aid would be covered, the family would own the hearing aid outright, and the funds generated would help support the program.

Chinh shared that she had been contacted by the US Consulate about my team’s presentation there this Thursday. The Consulate asked if she would serve as our interpreter – she agreed – and we had a good laugh over the coincidence and the fact that we already know each other well. She also commented that her temporary roommate is an assistant professor at Ho Chi Minh City University of Education and is in the deaf education field. We connected the dots and figured out that Anh was one of our interpreters from last summer’s program. Anh is incredibly bright and forward-thinking, as is Chinh. It was cool to think these two new friends are living together. Anh is about to depart for Australia to begin her master’s degree studies in auditory-verbal deaf education. It was fun to see that it really is a small world of six degrees of separation.