Our team gathered yesterday in the bright conference room of Thuan An’s early intervention center for a celebration of a successful end to our level 3 teacher training and level 1 audiology training programs. The Vietnamese  professionals started things off with an enthusiastic rendition of the chicken dance.  Words really don’t do justice….so instead, take a look at this clip of that  moment in time:

The ensuring ceremony involving 70 people was filled with good will, expressions of genuine appreciation, deep belly laughs, and just pure joy.  There was such a positive vibe on behalf of the Vietnamese, a sense that anything is possible. This inspired ceremony was a fitting end to a program during which I witnessed, time and again, the determination of all the participants and professionals involved to do right by the children. These two weeks have truly been a pursuit of happiness on behalf of children with hearing loss.

At the start of this summer’s program and during this goodbye ceremony, I stressed to the Vietnamese participants that this Vietnam Deaf Education program is their program. The Global Foundation provides the resources and professional expertise to support the Vietnamese, but this is about them and what they feel they need to support their children who are deaf or hard of hearing.  We have encouraged the Vietnamese from the start to suggest new ideas or ways to enhance what we are doing here. Our Mobile Mission series, for example, is the direct result of their request for Global Foundation training support in their home schools and communities during the year.  As I reminded them yesterday to provide feedback and help shape the future of our work here in Vietnam, their faces lit up and they broke into smiles.

I blogged earlier this week about the planning sessions that the Level 3 audiology participants have engaged in to encourage collaboration across partners in support of children with hearing loss in Vietnam. They discussed the challenges, identified a set of goals, and developed an action plan to establish a working group that will develop protocols and test a model of communication and support for families of children with hearing loss across hospitals, audiology clinics, and schools.  On Thursday, all the audiology participants across the three levels in our program gathered to hear the Level 3 group present their ideas and to provide feedback. Most of the Vietnamese that participated in the discussion agreed that families of children with hearing loss would benefit from more resources and information and were enthusiastic about the idea of establishing a process and a referral network for these families.
Charlie, a 16-year-old American guest with hearng loss, joined us this summer for the second year to share his life experience with the Vietnamese families.  He has a severe to profound hearing loss in both ears and wears hearing aids. Charlie attends a mainstream college prep high school, plays sports and musical instruments, enjoys his time with friends and family, and is an all-around great kid. His personal story has resonated with the Vietnamese parents as they are always looking for reassurance that their children with hearing loss will grow up to be successful members of society. Charlie gave a video and presentation last week during our evening parent program about his experiencea with hearing loss. As the adults listened to Charlie’s presentation, their eyes softened and the tension in their straight backs relaxed a bit. They gathered their children close and encircled them in hugs. 

During the exit interviews that Kim and Kathryn conducted with the early intervention program,  the participants expressed that they were excited to share the things they had learned with their families upon returning to their home schools. They understand better the process of goal setting, assessment, and developing plans and activities to foster auditory skills and language development in a child with hearing loss. It was touching to sit in on these exit interviews and watch, first, the Vietnamese beam as they expressed the things they had learned, and then see Kim or Kathryn brighten in turn as the Vietnamese comments were interpreted to English.

 Some members of our team will be providing video analysis and mentorship to a select group of Vietnamese participants starting this Fall. When we introduced the concept with the group of teachers who were selected to participate, it was as if they won the lottery. They are so excited and grateful to have our team’s support in this concentrated fashion so they can continue their professional development.

A shining moment for me personally came at the end of the day yesterday when two parents and a little girl sought me out. They were from Dong Nai and had come to attend our Level 3 program along with a group of other families. The little girl proudly presented a bouquet of flowers in expression of appreciation for our team’s efforts. Then, one of the parent gave me a warm hug and handed me an envelope. Through an interpreter she explained that the parents of Dong Nai were making a donation to the Global Foundation so that we “could support children with hearing loss yet to come in Viet Nam.”  It was a touching and most unexpected gesture that went right into my heart and memory box.

This week ended with a goodbye ceremony, but it also started out on Monday with a welcome to our Level 2 and 3 audiology workshop participants. On Monday next week, about 50 teachers will arrive to kick off our Level 2 teacher training program.  So we are just at the halfway point and there is no doubt much much more in store. More soon!