Thuy, looking graceful in her Ao Dai arrived at the DINKY bright and early to take us to Thuan An Center for the welcome ceremony. Members from the American consulate were gathered along with representatives from the government, university, other NGOs, and media. It was great to have Chinh from the Saigon Children’s Charity share in our special day as well.

After warm introductions and banter, we headed to the reception room for the festivities. The yellow French colonial building was bright and cheery with teak wooden desks lined in three long rows and shiny, clean floors.

Above the stage, a large banner hung on the wall, proudly announcing our workshop and our supporters. Thuan An’s Operation Director kicked things off with an introductory speech before Thuy took the stand to share the story about how she and I met, bringing back a lot of wonderful memories. She explained how my time at Thuan An Center inspired me to start this foundation and how we are working together to help children with hearing loss all across Vietnam get the education and resources they need for successful lives.

I followed her tough act with my own speech in which I introduced the team. I’m so thrilled to have all of them here – it’s a great group of talented, passionate professionals with wonderful, positive attitudes. I really can’t say enough about them. Kit from the American consulate wrapped up the event with an inspiring diatribe about how our countries can work together to create positive change. The excitement and energy was palpable. The day bright in every sense of the word.

We gathered for lunch in the adjoining room. Vietnamese and Americans interacted over traditional dishes and bottles of Saigon beer. My table was filled with representatives from the American consulate and local NGOs and we spent the hour talking about possibilities and ideas for how we can help others.

After lunch, we started up the program with all 95 participants gathered in one room. The first two days’ schedule covers what we call Speech and Hearing 101. Our team took turns providing a general overview of the four areas of our workshop – audiology, speech pathology, early intervention, and auditory verbal education.

I sat up at the front manning the projector and it was really fun to look out on the sea of rapt Vietnamese teachers, soaking up the words of wisdom. The teachers have come from 34 schools as far away as Hue (1,300 km) to attend this program. Later, I got an email from Chinh about wanting to speak with Hanh of the Ho Chi Minh Deaf Association about a focus group survey that she is conducting. Chinh shared that Hanh asked to postpone the meeting because she was too busy enjoying our workshop. That was a nice endorsement for sure!

The program for parents kicked off in the evening. About 28 parents gathered in the warm classroom after their workday to learn the fundamentals of audiology. We passed around a consultations sign-up sheet and within minutes, the entire schedule was filled. Some parents signed up for multiple 1-hour sessions, but we have over 100 requests for individual meetings over the course of the next four weeks.

I had high expectations for this day but boy, I really don’t know how it could have gone off any better than it did.