A strong in-country partner is key to the success of any international project. The relationship that the Global Foundation has with Thuan An Center, and director Thuy specifically, is what has made this ship sail. There are so many moving parts and nuances to conducting the extensive programs that we do, particularly from half a world away. Thuy’s leadership, work ethic, and passion to help children who are deaf or hard of hearing in her country is unparalleled and I have been incredibly grateful to have her not only as our partner in this movement, but also as a dear friend. I caught up with her yesterday to lay out the details for the coming month. I saw her last in November 2011, but it was as if no time had passed at all. We caught up on each other’s news over a bowl of grapes and mangosteins before settling right back into the business of planning our program.
There is no question that a big part of our success has been the ability of our volunteer professionals to work together to produce consistently high quality work for our Vietnam Deaf Education Program. Our summer Teacher Training and Mobile Mission teams are comprised of seasoned professionals with decades of expertise collectively in audiology, speech pathology, and auditory-verbal deaf education and therapy from hospitals, early intervention centers, private practice, and universities spread across the United States, Canada, and Hong Kong. They bring different experiences, professional backgrounds, and perspectives about pediatric hearing loss to the team, and like a beautiful mosaic, it just works. It has been incredibly rewarding as their leader these past few years to watch them collaborate in structuring and building this amazing curriculum and then have fun together in Vietnam carrying it out.
Today provided an indication of the growing reputation that our work and our team are garnering in Vietnam. I had a meeting with Children’s Hospital 1 to prepare for our Mobile Mission training there later this month. With a sheepish smile, the director shared with me the list of Vietnamese participants. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the list had more than doubled in size.
When we first started planning, we were focused on doctors, technicians, and therapists from this one hospital and a hearing aid dispenser. Word had spread about the program we are providing here. Now the list includes, among others, directors of early intervention centers, the dean and members of a collegiate special education department, teachers and principals from mainstream schools that have children with hearing loss enrolled, and therapists and doctors from three ENT hospitals spread across Vietnam. This group collectively represents the entire country – north, south, and central. Not bad for a two-year old program. It speaks volumes about the Vietnamese desire to learn and the exceptional work of our professionals who have helped to make this program what it is.
This response will certainly bode well for us as we continue conversations to expand our model nationally. I’m honored to have the Vietnamese trust in the Global Foundation For Children With Hearing Loss and could not be prouder of our team. One of my favorite quotes is from Margaret Mead, “never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”