Lien Tran may be small in stature, but in every other way she is big in Hanoi 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”. How REI and Lien met In 1992 the late Director-Emeritus Doug Sparks led the first team to Asia to see if Vietnam would be a good fit for REI. Lien was assigned as REI’s official guide and translator. Within two years Doug had invited her to become REI’s official representative in Hanoi, and she has been our organizational face there for these past 18 years. As REI’s programs have expanded in Vietnam, so have Lien’s responsibilities. Her primary duties include interfacing with universities, hospitals, and government ministries where our Resident and Non-Resident Professionals serve. She plays a critical role in everything from securing needing visas to helping design official schedules for the 60-80 professionals who annually volunteer and serve in REI’s five service sectors of English Education, Medicine, Business, Veterinarians, and Social Services. Lien also represents REI at many functions, and in general ‘opens doors for REI’ throughout the country. Her role draws upon the best of her diplomacy and cultural sensitivity in helping our volunteers from nine countries to work effectively with our Vietnamese hosts.
A life of serviceLien’s faithfulness to REI has remained strong for nearly two decades and is matched by her zealous enthusiasm to help build her nation. Her ability to develop quick and lasting friendships, her savvy in knowing how to get things done, her “can do” spirit, and strength of character combine to make her an outstanding ambassador for REI-Vietnam. As she often repeats, “REI is a small organization with a big heart.” In 2007, Lien along with five of our medical surgeons was awarded the National Hero’s Award at a formal ceremony in Hanoi by the Ministry of Health for her unwavering service to Vietnam. Lien’s family Lien’s husband Dr. Long, a college professor with a PhD from Germany, worked for decades at the leading Engineering University in Hanoi and currently works at a ‘sister’ engineering university just outside Hanoi. He is also currently authoring a textbook on polymers. Throughout Lien’s time with REI, Dr. Long has been tremendously supportive of her work and often volunteers himself at special times of need. Lien’s two sons, Giang and Minh, were just young boys when she started working with REI. Now they are young financial professionals in Hanoi after having studied in the US and England. Her ‘adopted family’ If you go on a trip to Vietnam, you can be assured that Madam Lien will go out of her way to welcome you and do everything she can to make your trip an enjoyable and successful experience. But don’t plan on coming just once. She will do everything she can to bring you back again and again, because you will be part of her ‘adopted family.’