The teachers dropped by in pairs and small groups at Thuy’s office to say their goodbyes. It was clear they didn’t want to depart, stalling with small talk and lingering over the supply of Jolly Rangers and fresh dragon fruit on the table that served as a coincidental display of east meets west. Full of energy and inspiration and with bright eyes, the teachers shared their ideas about how they plan to apply the new knowledge gained. They expressed hope that our team would return, and offered ideas for topics to cover in next year’s program. It was heartwarming to recognize that our team really made a significant impact in such a short amount of time.
When the conversations finally dried up, the teachers filed out the door and sandwiched themselves on motorbikes between scores of luggage and tote bags. With warm smiles and friendly waves, they pulled out of Thuan An Center, many with long drives ahead to return to their hometowns stretching across South Vietnam from Hue to the Mekong.
The day had started hours earlier with a goodbye ceremony that reflected the friendship and good will that has built up between our American team and the Vietnamese participants over the course of our one-month program. Our team sang a rendition of Singing in the Rain, much to their delight, and by the end of the song, they all had joined in the song’s corresponding hand and body gestures with us. Small gifts were exchanged, photos were taken, and genuine laughter was in rich supply. The Oberkotter Foundation gave us a supply of little pink squishy brains to pass out to the participants as a reminder that language acquisition starts with the brain. The participants loved these little gadgets and carried them for inspiriation and good luck as they headed inside to take their final exam. Those who pass will be rewarded with a certificate of completion from HCMC University, which has endorsed our curriculum.
And with that, our program drew to a close.
There is much to reflect on and think about for the future. Our team did a wonderful job transferring knowledge and generating awareness about listening and spoken language acquisition, audiology practices, and early intervention methods. Their teaching efforts were actionable – the feedback we received from the participants was that they felt newly empowered – that they had learned techniques and strategies that they will be able to apply in their own homes and schools. Some parents already have, and it has been so awesome to hear their success stories. We increased understanding about the importance of early and consistent access to sound in children with hearing loss, and how parents can play a role in their child’s language development.
The parent program was especially impactful. Informational resources and support networks just simply aren’t there for parents in Vietnam. So, I am most proud of the fact that we were able to provide a measure of support, giving parents the tools and knowledge they need to help their children acquire language and the cognitive and social skills they need. The parents didn’t know each other at the start of our program, but became fast friends. They took initiative to exchange emails and phone numbers and are laying plans to meet every few months, even those living in far away outlying areas. I have no doubt that they will support each other. The Global Foundation is currently exploring a variety of ways to support their continued learning – and that of the teachers – throughout the course of the next year.
This summer’s training event may have concluded, but the foundation is just getting started. There is much potential for listening and spoken language development in children with hearing loss in Vietnam. Beyond our multi-year training program at Thuan An Center, we’re also working with partners to determine how best to address gaps in hearing health care – such as the lack of audiologists, wide-spread access to hearing screens and hearing technology, and early intervention support for babies and toddlers with hearing loss younger than 5 years of age. The possibilities are exciting and we’re looking forward to watching it all unfold.
This is our last blog entry until our next program gets underway. Thank you for following along in our experiences here – I hope it was insightful and somewhat entertaining to read! On behalf of everyone associated with the Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss, we appreciate your support and interest in our work. If you’d like to receive periodic updates about what we’re up to, please subscribe to our quarterly newsletter at www.childrenwithhearingloss.org/contact.shtml
Cam On and Tam Biet – until our next adventure!