Flexibility and creative thinking are essential ingredients to the success of our work in Vietnam. This Mobile Mission’s agenda, for example, was coordinated with each Vietnamese school for the deaf, but no amount of preparation can account for the spontaneous opportunity and unexpected twists that arise. One needs to be able to adjust on the fly. During our time here in Dalat, I have enjoyed watching our seasoned team as they figured out the elements of their vast knowledge that would be of most value to share with the teachers and families given their specific level of understanding and needs.

Most teachers of the deaf in Dalat have just basic knowledge of auditory-verbal techniques but there are bright spots. Lam Dong School for the Hearing Impaired has classrooms where young children are encouraged to listen and use their voice to speak. They have about six families that come once a week for auditory-verbal therapy. Judy and Lea corralled these families into a room for an impromptu play group today and encouraged them, the early intervention teacher, and the director of the school to establish such a group ongoing. Play groups are valuable because they foster interaction between teachers and families to further the child’s development as well as provide opportunity for the children to develop social and behavioral skills. Judy and Lea quickly revised the schedule and set up an afternoon of lecture and practicum that catered to this group of early intervention promise. They advised the families and teachers about how they could work together to ensure the children develop auditory language throughout the day, both at home and at school.

During dinner with the school administrators tonight, the director volunteered that her staff was going to incorporate opportunities for more family involvement in their child’s learning process – including setting up a play group in March. She had listened and understood the value of family engagement.

Our days here in Dalat were busy, jammed-packed with our team, teachers, families, and kids flying around between the various elements of our program. It was a success and I’m proud of our crew. I always get a rush from the humanity of it all. The passion of our professionals. The intense focus and enthusiasm of the teachers as they soak up the knowledge. The earnest face of the resident “audiologist” as Jane coached her on how to test hearing. The big smile on the young early intervention teacher as Judy mentored her on techniques during a demonstration. The gratitude and steadfast determination and hope of the families. And, of course, the simple innocence of the children that we are all working hard to serve.

Our team left Lam Dong with administrators, teachers and parents buzzing with ideas and we most certainly left a mark. They have an attitude of positive thinking and sense of possibility. I am hopeful that we planted seeds of change that will bear fruit down the road.

Today was an off day, spent exploring Dalat as a group before the seven hour drive back to Saigon in our comfortable, big van. Next up is a program at Binh Thanh School for Hearing Impaired Children that starts tomorrow at 7 am. No time for rest!