“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.
REI’s entire CBHC team, consisting of Dr. Gary and Merri Lee Hipp, Dr. David Bjork, Blair Anderson and Anna Snider, arrived in Hanoi in early September for their seventh 4-day training session with our Vietnamese Core Team. You may recall that in June and October of 2015 the team presented two training sessions to 20 or so interested participants. From this pool of talent we selected a smaller group of people to receive more in-depth, extensive training. We now have five committed young women taking the next steps in preparing to impact communities. From left to right below are Trang, Huyen, Luong, Trang Nha, and Huong, our Core Team.
During this September session the team continued deepening their understanding of how to build a healthy and effective team (extensive research has shown that working well together works much better than not working well together). Core Team member Luong commented, “I used to strongly advocate my views in almost every discussion, especially in a team context. The training in “Skillful Discussion” we received not only enlightened me about how to have a more productive discussion by balancing advocacy and inquiry, but also taught me how to respect others’ views, even though we might have different perspectives.”
The team also spent a number of hours reviewing key principles of Community Based Health Care and going deeper in their understanding of CBHC. Now they are moving to the next step: choosing the first community with which they will work. Luong shared, “I was highly encouraged by the professional working process on how to select a community. We started with brainstorming about what criteria we should use, and followed that by making a list of potential communities to research and visit. We plan to visit, do research and gather data, later discuss how well each community fits our criteria, and then decide on the best community. These steps will be greatly helpful for us as we choose our first community next year.”
As part of the hands-on training, the team went to a nearby coffee house to make observations on that micro-community, without doing any interviews (interviewing skills were taught in an earlier training session). This is called the “Look, Listen, and Learn” approach, quietly observing and assessing the community.
Selecting a community will not be not as easy as it might seem. Our desire is not simply to work with a well-functioning community and make it better, but to work with a community with genuine needs. We want to work with the poor, the marginalized. As one moves further out from the urban center of Hanoi, there are more of these poorer communities, but fewer in the big city itself. So one limiting factor in selecting this first community is proximity. Each member of our Core Team is busy with other responsibilities and projects beyond CBHC. So while there are many communities in the country which could use this help, the Core Team is currently researching communities within an hour or so of Hanoi, so that travel will not eat up the time they have committed to this vision. They are also looking for a community that can, in time, have an impact on neighboring communities, and not be a community in isolation.
But if all goes well, over time we will see transformed communities. As Luong summarized it, “I anticipate that the great gap between rich and poor communities and people in Vietnam will be lessened. When people are empowered to fully reach their potential, they will work harder and live healthier lives. Vietnam may have to deal less with the high population growth rate in big cities, as the government can invest more in other provinces and local residents will know how to flourish in their own hometown. Poor people will not remain passive, waiting for support from their government and NGOs. They will be aware of their own capacity and their own resources, able to work and have a better life.”
That’s the vision. Thank you for your part in making it happen!