Category – Social Work
October 4th has seen a number of significant events over the years. In 1927 sculptor Gutzon Borglum began working on Mount Rushmore. In 1957 the Soviet Union launched Sputnik. And in 2011, our dear friend and colleague Luong met Tea Talk’s founder Michael Ong for the first time.
REI has hosted a large number of volunteer teams serving in Vietnam over the past 25 years. Generally we seek to field one team at a time, to simplify logistics. But this month we had three volunteer teams of specialists serve simultaneously! Our Dental Team, Cochlear Implant/Otology Team, and a new initiative, our Art Journaling Team, served in Hanoi the final week of March—our own version of March Madness!
A new year, a new series of volunteer teams serving in Vietnam! Our first team of the season, our Medical Team, invested the week of February 20-24 serving in Hanoi. In the past we have called this our ENT (Ears, Nose and Throat) Team, but this year the team, our largest ever, served in a greater variety of venues than simply ENT.
“Building People to Build a Nation” has been REI’s heartbeat since its inception. Building capacity in individuals, done rightly and with the right people, should lead to increased capacity on a national level. But there are also possible midpoints, one of which is building communities through enabling them to take charge of their own development. Our Community Based Health Care (CBHC) program is specifically designed to do just that.
For REI, community health means more than a community having access to medical care. It means having a healthy community on every level. A community that functions well in determining its own resources, its own needs, its own priorities, and its own solutions to self-development, be it in the area of education, health care, sanitation, economic development, care for the elderly, care for the marginalized, whatever it may be—we visualize communities taking stock of their own situation and taking the initiative to improve. For the past several months REI has been training Vietnamese in how to help encourage communities to do just that.
Jacqueline Ngin, wife of Tea Talk's Michael Ong, has been a woman of influence in the lives of many, in Vietnam and elsewhere. This month we are reprinting a tribute to her written on the occasion of her birthday by REI Hanoi Team Leader Presley McFadden.
When Michael Ong first put pen to paper for an entrepreneurial social work class assignment as a student at Washington University, he imagined Tea Talk as a small, cozy café where he and his wife, Jacqueline, would interact with customers about social issues over a cup of tea or coffee. Now, two years after Tea Talk opened its doors in 2012, his dreams have been realized in a greater way than he could have imagined. Over 1300 young people have participated in various programs that Tea Talk has offered; CoRE, a Vietnamese NGO focused on Counseling, Research, and Empowerment has been birthed; and visions of Tea Talk 2 are on the discussion table. (Michael and Trang are pictured above holding the license for CoRE as an NGO.)
The grand opening of TEA TALK CAFE on April 10 launched the long awaited dream of Michael Ong to impact Vietnamese social issues in a creative, fun, and effective manner. Since the germination of the idea in a social entrepreneur class two years ago, MIchael and a great group of friends who believed in Michael's idea, worked hard to make this dream a reality. Read more about the cafe and the two year adventure.
Lien Tran, REI's Representative for Vietnam Relations, may be small in stature, but in every other way she is big for REI-Vietnam. Her head, hands and heart are all engaged to meet the needs of anyone who is in need of her help. This may be expressed by getting medicine for a visiting professional who is sick, taking a visiting professional to the best shop for buying embroidery pictures, visiting a sick family member of a Vietnamese friend, helping one of REI-Vietnam’s resident professional with visa issues, or waiting at Noibai airport to greet an arriving team member’s midnight arrival. When asked for help if it is within her power to do so, her answer is always “yes”.
Tea Talk, a social venture with the mission of making counseling and psycho-educational services accessible through the use of interactive drama, is the brain child of Michael Ong. Conceived while Michael was taking a graduate level course in social entrepreneurship at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, it was cited by Michael’s professor as the “best project” in the class.
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