Our Vietnam Deaf Education Program is putting an advanced twist on the old adage — “give a man a fish and he eats for a day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime”.  We teach therapists and teachers across 38 schools in 20 Vietnam provinces in our training program about how to help young children with hearing loss learn to develop spoken language.  But perhaps what is more impactful is the organic ripple effect of knowledge and benefit that our training is creating. 

When these teachers return home from our training programs, they are sharing their knowledge with other teachers and families in their own schools and communities who are then applying the lessons learned.  Furthermore, our program has fostered networking between teachers across the participating schools in our education program and across functions to include professionals in our audiology program.  We teach both audiology and auditory-verbal therapy/education in an integrated fashion at each training program because both fields are equally necessary to help a child with hearing loss  succeed.  Not only are the children being served today directly benefiting from the growing knowledge and expertise of the participants in our training program, but also the children who these teachers and other professionals will work with well into the future. The benefits are exponential and sustainable.

Thuy and I visited three schools in three different provinces over the past few days. All three schools have teachers who have been enrolled in our training programs for at least two years.  There were numerous examples of how our program is making a mark in both subtle and dramatic ways — from the way teachers are now approaching their work to the changes to facilities and classroom design to the stories they shared with us. 

For example. the Global Foundation’s team of educational professionals have been stressing the importance of utilizing everyday listening and language opportunities in the teachers’ instruction. Rather than a rote approach of having the children repeat words or sentences after the teacher, teachers are being encouraged to apply interactive activities that foster natural conversation in the learning process. This has been perhaps one of the most difficult concepts for the Vietnamese teachers in our program to grasp because it is a such a different approach from what they are used to.  However, these past few days, we have seen evidence that the teachers are moving in this direction with positive results.

One teacher built an entire lesson around jackfruit. She brought in a jackfruit for her kindergarten class. They talked about what it looks like and what it tastes like. They had an interactive discussion around a colorful book the teacher created about the jackfruit’s lifecycle. They talked about how to cut it open and how to eat it. The conversation was lively and completely conversational throughout.  In the course of learning about a kind of fruit, the class of eight children with hearing loss were also practicing listening and speaking.

In another example, a teacher told of how a parent came to their school with a child newly identified with hearing loss. The educational staff directed the family to a hearing aid distributor in Ho Chi Minh City that they now have a relationship because of our training program. After securing the hearing aids her child needed, the mother attended our parent program during our summer training to learn how she could help her child at home. She started applying the strategies she learned from our course. Meanwhile, the school started early intervention therapy instruction as a result of our training program and was able to offer early intervention therapy services to the family. As a result, the child dramatically improved his auditory and language skills in a short period of time and continues to progress quickly.

It has been incredibly rewarding to hear and see the testimonials of the impact of our program.  The ripple effect carries on.