Our Level 2 teacher training program kicked off bright and early this morning. We had welcome speeches, a song, introductions, and a pre-workshop test for the participants to gauge how much learning they retained from last year’s program. This group of about 55 teachers from schools across South Vietnam passed last year’s final test, meriting them placement in this year’s advanced course. Over the next 2 weeks, we’ll engage them in lecture and practicum to help build on their understanding about listening and spoken language in young children with hearing loss. Our goal is to provide them with strategies and tools that they can use in their own classrooms back home.

After a delicious lunch of stir fry, pho, and bread, teachers and Global Foundation professionals gathered in the cheerful lecture hall to start the learning process. The next three hours were spent reviewing course material from last year’s program focused on audiology, speech pathology, early intervention, and auditory-verbal education.

At 5:00 pm, families starting pulling up to Thuan An on their motorbikes with young children in tow. Thuy and I gave them a preview of the parent program that will run for the next month. The first two weeks comprise of evening series of training sessions and practicum. The second two weeks, their children will have the opportunity to meet with our audiology team for hearing testing, troubleshooting and possible fitting of hearing aids. These appointments will be followed by private consultations with our auditory-verbal therapists and speech pathologists who can address questions related to spoken language development.

We also have a webinar series that will connect families in Vietnam with families in the United States for knowledge sharing about hearing loss issues. The parents were riveted to learn about the program’s aspects and eagerly signed up for the different facets. There were familiar faces from last summer’s initative and it was warming to see how their children had progressed.

The first parent program started at 6 pm with an overview of audiology fundamentals. Lauri Nelson talked about how to read audiograms, care for hearing aids, how listening and language are intertwined, and how parents can take part in the process of ensuring their child’s development.

At the end of the program, our guests Helen Woolard and Charlie Shafer gave presentations about what it is like to have hearing loss. Helen is a 20-year-old photography student out of University of North Carolina who has bilateral cochlear implants. Charlie is a 15-year-old high school student from Seattle who has a severe to profound hearing loss and wears hearing aids. Both of them are examples of success — but beyond their hearing loss, they are just wonderful human beings. I appreciate them coming here to share their personal stories with the families. One father later remarked that to have our team of very talented professionals and Charlie and Helen in Vietnam gave him hope that he might just be able to provide a better future for his young daughter who is hard of hearing after all.

It was a full day but an amazing, heart-warming one…the perfect start to what I know will be an incredible month of inspiration, learning, and empowerment. I’m very grateful to all of those who are with us for contributing their time and expertise to the Global Foundation’s efforts.