The REI-Vietnam Story
In 1992 our first Director, the late Doug Sparks, led a team of fifteen REI volunteers to visit the three major regions (northern, central, southern) of Vietnam in order to assess needs and access possibilities. Critical connections were begun in the educational and agricultural sectors, and seeds were planted for future collaboration in the medical field as well.
The following year REI organized training workshops in both English education and agriculture, and we began our first medical program in 1994 with the late Dr. Ton That Bach, Rector of Hanoi Medical University (HMU), who emerged as our key sponsor. That same year Jerry and Diana Dudzik arrived in Hanoi to work with the Ministry of Education and Training in English education, and by 1997 a team of Resident Professionals were serving in English, medical, and agricultural sectors.
Business education was first added to our program in the mid-90's and became a sustainable program in 2004. Our social services sector was launched in 2001 with an emphasis upon curriculum development in social work, thereby contributing to the emergence of social work as a recognized field of specialization in Vietnam. Simultaneously, a team of English language professionals also arrived in Hanoi and began collaborating in teacher training and curriculum development at a leading Hanoi university. Additional social work and English resident professionals from three countries have arrived in Hanoi in recent years, expanding our staff presence to our current level of five couples and one single, plus our Vietnamese representative and her assistant.
Positive results over two decades have been achieved through a dynamic partnership with our Vietnamese colleagues. Our professionals transfer knowledge and skills but are also strengthened themselves through the collaborative programs. It is the Vietnamese themselves, however, who implement changes and make improvements. For example, since we have begun collaborating with the National Hospital for Pediatrics (NHP) in Hanoi, the hospital staff in the neonatal unit have been able to drop the infant mortality rate over 80%.
REI has a rich history that repeats itself anew as talented Vietnamese leaders emerge who benefit from close working relationships and partnerships with our staff. REI has enthusiastically been invited to return to locations in all three regions of the country, and several new institutions have recruited our assistance within the past few years. In our 10 visiting professional programs throughout the year approximately 60% of the participants are returnees, including some who are returning for their 17th trip! Almost all of our expatriate resident professionals have lived in Hanoi for 3-7 years. Warm relationships are at the heart of all we do.