To say that these men and women take their responsibility seriously would be an understatement. Each personally paid for the trip that took them half way around the world to another culture (some to two cultures) to learn more about the work of REI on the ground level.
Board members interact with Resident ProfessionalsWhile the Board had its official business to attend to, the members of the Board also served in various ways while in Vietnam. First, they served the REI Resident staff by hosting a lovely dinner where Board members and Resident Professionals could better get to know one another. They also interacted with the Resident team at a morning Board meeting to hear life and work issues that staff face. Numerous Board members took the initiative to meet with team members in smaller group settings as well. One staff said that it was an especially affirming time of being appreciated and understood. Other ways board members served Dr. Craig Hedges (ENT surgeon) and Dr. Bob Telander (Pediatric surgeon) have had a long history of serving in Vietnam through short term medical training trips beginning in 1994. On this trip, Dr. Craig coordinated a two week medical team, as Dr. Bob followed his time in Vietnam with a quick journey to Laos with Roderick Beidler (REI President and Director of the REI work in Laos). Other Board members joined Dr. Bob and Roderick in order to learn more about the needs of REI’s medical and English work in Laos. Tom Parrish, doctor of law (pictured above), taught with REI’s business team at 5 universities the week before the Board meeting. Two other Board members, Kay Parrish and Rebecca Hedges, developed English curriculum around a Thanksgiving theme and led a team of women to interact with students in English Clubs at the university where some of our Resident staff work. (See two pictures below.) Newest Board member Andy Weeks and Board recorder Cherlynn Moes helped Rebecca with teaching classes during the days following the Board meeting.
There was also opportunity for the Board members to interact with their Vietnamese hosts on a personal level. Rick and Mavis Heupel as well as the Hedges interacted with some who were interested in talking about a variety of topics including marriage. On both the Professional and the Personal levels, the Board made a significant impact to many.
Board members reflect on their time in Vietnam and Laos Priscilla Sparks (Chairperson of the Board and widow of REI founder, the late Doug Sparks) : “As enjoyable as it was to have our Board meeting in Hanoi, there is nothing like being on the ground and meeting with our Resident staff. These people are remarkable. With each visit I am more aware of the challenges they face living and raising their kids in another culture and the extra effort they put into keeping relationships alive and well. My admiration for these people in Hanoi and Laos is boundless.” Roderick Beidler (President of REI-Inc.): “We could not have asked for a better outcome for the Board’s historical, first-ever, out-of-the country Board meeting.” Tom Parrish: “On a scale of 1-10, I would give it an eleven.” Dr. Bob Telander: “The visit to Hanoi and meeting with the dedicated REI members living in Hanoi was inspiring. The highlight for me was traveling to Laos and meeting so many wonderful and dedicated Laotians. The in-country REI teams are true heroes to me.” Dr. Craig Hedges: “I was happy to have the other Directors see what we have been doing over the years. Having other Directors there prompted a retrospective look and helped us see all that has happened since we began working with our Vietnamese friends.” Rebecca Hedges: “I want to become more like the Resident staff that is so filled with love for the Vietnamese people.” Kay Parrish: “We are grateful that we were able to have some time being with the Resident REI staff, to see the quality of their lives and their work. We were impressed and inspired by them all! Many friendships were started and strengthened. Also, it is touching to know that many people in Vietnam and Laos are ready to reach out to us and give their friendship. That is truly the best kind of ‘resource exchange’.”
It is with much gratitude that REI-Vietnam expresses thanks to the Board for making this momentous trip to Vietnam. It is a privilege to serve under a Board with this caliber of expertise and character. It is a Board that truly cares about its constituents. Other notes of thanks: Nguyen Xuan Vang, Director-General of Vietnam International Education Development, arranged for the Board to meet in his offices for the meetings. Director Vang, as he is known by REI staff, has been very gracious to REI-Vietnam both during his tenure as President of Hanoi University and in his current position.
• The Resident Professionals were so supportive and helpful in the design and implementation of the English Clubs and other classes. Special thanks to Michael & Jacqueline Ong, Zonia Go, and Presley & Mary McFadden for their help and support.