From time to time any healthy family will get together for a few days to enjoy one another’s company. The REI family gathered together for our Global Forum in Monument, Colorado last month, from July 6-13, in order to renew and deepen relationships, as well as to clarify our vision and sharpen our tools. We schedule this every three years, and it is always a time of encouragement and motivation!
You may be aware that REI serves not only in Vietnam, but presently in six other countries: Laos, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Cuba, and Djibouti. One of the highlights of our time together was the interaction of staff serving in different contexts. Michael Ong, for example, one of our resident staff in Hanoi, spent a significant amount of time talking with Tom Jones, resident staff in Djibouti, comparing notes on their different approaches to the same vision of building people to build nations. What these two men do is very different: Michael works primarily in the area of social services, largely through his work at Tea Talk (see our June 2014 article); Tom develops the English program and teaches at the University of Djibouti. What do they have in common? You know the answer already—both men are dedicated to the building up of their adopted country through building up the people there. This cross-exposure is of immense importance to what we do. As REI staff mutually share their experiences with others of like heart, their vision is sharpened, their devotion to the task is strengthened, and their creative juices start to flow as they hear about other initiatives that could impact how they serve.
Another result of our Global Forum is increased unity not only within our global REI community, but also among our own Vietnam team as well. As you may recall, we have three groups of staff serving with REI-Vietnam: - our resident professionals living in Hanoi, - our visiting professionals coming to Vietnam on short term trips, - our administrative teams in Colorado Springs and Hanoi. The forum gave opportunity for all three of these teams to deepen their relationships and develop increased appreciation for what each contributes to the work.
One special highlight was having the members of the resident team share on a deep level with those living stateside the joys and triumphs as well as the challenges and struggles that come from serving outside of one’s “passport culture.” Through this sharing, through this listening, the “us-them” dichotomy which can exist between field staff and administrative staff is reduced or even eliminated when we get together and come to better understand one another, and remember that we are all pulling in the same direction. And we had sessions of training as well. Our dear friend Gail Jones, who served on one of our business teams last October and plans to return to Vietnam again next month with her husband Olin, led us in a half-day session on determining our individual strengths, and how we can maximize our potential as a team through understanding what each person can best contribute. We also discussed each staff member’s role and the corporate role in fundraising. Our deep desire is to share our passion for long-term investing in the Vietnamese people with other individuals and foundations who share this vision, and who can invest financially in this work. We believe that there are many who will enter into financial partnership with us as they learn about who we are and what we do, and that some of these partners will themselves work with us hand-in-hand with the Vietnamese people, some as members of our traveling teams, some as resident staff. In a world with an uber-abundance of communication, it is essential that we are able to present well the vision of REI-Vietnam to current and potential partners. Finally, among other things, we also worked on metrics—that is, how we can measure the effectiveness of what we do. A current pithy quote found on a refrigerator magnet says, “Thoughts count, words are wonderful, DEEDS DELIVER.” REI-Vietnam is in the business of delivering as we “build people to build a nation,” the business of building current and future influencers who have the skill, knowledge, and vision to build their country to the welfare of all Vietnamese, and who will continue to do this well after REI departs from their nation. By establishing systems of metrics, of measurement, we can be assured that we really are delivering the deeds that we are committed to accomplish.
We are already looking forward to our next Global Forum, scheduled for 2017. What countries will REI being serving in then? What will be the major needs in Vietnam three years from now? Only time will tell. In the meantime, we are eager to invest our best efforts, both corporately and individually, in building people to build a nation!