The famous adage “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day…teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” suggests that it is more worthwhile to teach someone to do something, than to do something for them. 

Our Vietnam Deaf Education Program is founded on this concept and has been our barometer in programming decisions over the past three years.

Our program has increased awareness of what is possible for children with hearing loss and by transferring expertise through our training initiatives, the Vietnamese are becoming empowered to recognize gaps in services for these children in Vietnam and work together as a community to fill those gaps.

Focusing on the longer view is not as instantly gratifying as distributing and fitting hundreds of hearing aids but we believe the returns are much greater and more sustainable.  We do provide hearing aids, but do so in the context of our training efforts. Our audiology team coaches the Vietnamese on audiology best practices, how to use the equipment, conduct pediatric hearing tests, and guide them through the hearing aid fitting process.  During our clinics, we bring families in for consultations and hearing tests for their children.  The focus is not on how many hearing aids we fit or families we see, but rather, the quality of the training experience for the Vietnamese participants. If we train the participants well, they can counsel and support many patients over time outside of our training program and without the reliance of our team’s support.

Our multi-year, integrated training programs across audiology, speech pathology, early intervention, and auditory-verbal practice amongst teachers, medical teams, hearing aid fitters, families, therapists, and others in the child’s support network ensure that children who receive hearing aids and cochlear implants have the necessary follow-up support to really maximize the benefit of the technology, learn to listen and talk, and succeed in our hearing world. 

This July, we will be conducting our third annual summer training program in Vietnam.  The month-long initiative features Level 2 and Level 3 curricula with tracks covering Early Intervention, Classroom/Therapy for Vietnamese special education teachers, three levels of Audiology for educational audiologists and hearing aid fitters, and an evening Family Program comprised of lectures and consultations. We also are offering a short course to Vietnamese mainstream teachers about how to help children with hearing loss who attend neighborhood schools.

Taking the concept of teaching a man to fish one step further…we encourage the participants in our programs to train each other.  For example, during our Audiology Program this summer, our Level 3 participants will work together in an intensive workshop to develop an action plan for sharing their audiology knowledge with others in Vietnam and provide support to in areas where audiology services are in dire need. This will be their action plan to develop, own, and execute.  During our next Mobile Mission later this year, we look forward to meeting with them again to review progress on the plan and offer counsel as needed to help guide its implementation. 

As another example of fostering the perpetuation of knowledge sharing, the Audiology Program will also feature two afternoons of interactive, group discussion between all levels of participants as well as some invited officials. The purpose of this forum is to identify opportunity areas to better serve the needs of children with hearing loss and identify ways to encourage collaboration across the health and education sectors in Vietnam.

One of the Global Foundation team members explained our vision well in her blog during last year’s summer program:  “The Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss teaches the people in Vietnam the tools that they need to provide quality services to their own people. It is one thing to go to other countries and do the work for them, but it is a whole different thing to teach those who want to learn how to do it themselves.”