REI-Vietnam News

The Award of Excellence

by REI-Vietnam |

Image: The Award of Excellence
Vietnam Honors REI with a Special Award

In the above photo, from left to right, are pictured Dr. Sylvie Chau, Mr. Phan Anh Son (General Director of PACCOM), our own Lien, Ngà, and Zonia Go. Not all of our resident staff were available to attend the ceremony, but the four REI staff above represented us well. As Brian Teel, our REI-Vietnam Director put it, "What a honor to our Resident and Non-Resident professionals who have invested both finances and personal expertise in Vietnam over the years. We are grateful past words." In truth, this is a recognition of the many, many people who have invested time, expertise and money in building up the people of Vietnam that they may build up their nation.

We thought you might be interested in the letter that REI submitted to PACCOM. It is below in its entirety.

- Building Together -

Twenty years ago the first Resource Exchange International (REI) volunteers journeyed to Vietnam. As our Vietnamese hosts sought to understand the values and direction of this new organization, our founding Director, Doug Sparks, made two commitments that continue to be foundational for us:

1. We seek to build human capacity in strategic sectors among those who will pass this on to others, thereby building the nation;

2. We begin by listening to what Vietnamese leaders tell us is needed in these strategic sectors.

Happily, these commitments immediately enabled the formation of a kindred spirit between the leadership of REI and PACCOM that has deepened and matured over the decades.

Our original projects in agriculture were welcomed at Hanoi Agriculture University (today HUA) and Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry (HUAF). This focus on agriculture was quickly complemented by English education and business education training at National Economics University, Foreign Trade University, and eventually Hanoi University of Foreign Studies (today Hanoi University).

Our agricultural specialists taught farmers, among other things, methods of protecting themselves against harsh chemicals while increasing production. Veterinarians were equipped with the knowledge of the skills needed to improve animal care. Educators were linked with the international community of nations and trained in modern pedagogy with a special emphasis on articulation and curriculum design. International accounting standards were stressed, the best in current business practices were introduced, and young entrepreneurs were nurtured by REI’s business practitioners.

Soon after this, medical training was identified as a major strategic sector to which we could bring world-class expertise. Our REI medical experts were astonished by the acuity of their Vietnamese colleagues as they quickly grasped the knowledge and skills needed to provide their patients with excellent care. Viet Duc Hospital, National Hospital for Pediatrics, National ENT Hospital, Bach Mai Hospital, Hue Central Hospital, Cho Ray Hospital, HCMC’s ENT Hospital, and the medical universities in Hanoi, HCMC, and Hue all became strategic partners with our medical professionals.

Modern surgical procedures were introduced, with thousands of surgical procedures now conducted by REI-trained Vietnamese surgeons each month in such areas as otolaryngology, cardiology, obstetrics, orthopedics, and gastroenterology. Other REI specialists in pathology, neonatology, family practice, and anesthesiology have helped to modernize care in these areas as well. Nearly 100 Vietnamese surgeons have traveled to the US through REI to observe the most modern medical procedures that promote successful patient outcomes. Nursing specialists are now benefitting from professional conferences and specialized training that directly benefits patient care.

Finally, the social services sector, our fifth area of strategic partnership, was launched when our resident staff began teaching at what today is the University of Labor and Social Affairs. From 2001-2013 four REI professionals taught at ULSA, helping to modernize the curriculum, improve professional English, and link the social work community with global resources, especially within ASEAN. When social work became an officially recognized profession in 2010, a new generation of trained Vietnamese professionals was ready to begin filling the need.

None of these accomplishments could have occurred without the clear leadership of and empowering partnership with PACCOM. PACCOM has consistently worked with REI to remove administrative obstacles, support prudent partnerships, and advise on future directions, all the while functioning as our advocates and proponents.

What is coming as REI and PACCOM walk together into Vietnam’s future? While details will evolve over time, certain priorities are quite apparent.

One priority task that lies before us together is determining what it will take for Vietnam’s medical, educational, business, agricultural, and social services professionals to fully exercise their specializations within the international professional communities.

As rapid modernization occurs and significant economic progress is made within the major urban centers of Vietnam, the question arises of how this advanced training can be distributed to more rural settings where it is most needed. This, too, is a key task that lies before us.

University students today are presented with far more opportunities than prior generations have enjoyed. But will today’s students pursue their studies solely with an eye to their own career, or with a fervor to simultaneously achieve personal success while benefitting others and the entire nation? Once more, developing and encouraging this mindset is a crucial task that lies before us together.

As foreign experts, REI understands that we are guests of Vietnam. Furthermore, we understand that our perspective as foreigners can be helpful but limited as the country takes its rightful place within the international community. PACCOM’s leadership and counsel are invaluable to REI as we move into the future together, a future fraught with challenge.

But our commitment to our two proven principles offer much hope as we move into the unknown. We will continue building those who will build their nation, and we will continue listening to others, including PACCOM, before and as we develop our plans. Although REI is a relatively small INGO, we trust that through following these principles, the result of our work will be immeasurably greater than our size, to the benefit of Vietnam.

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