Since "Doi moi", the shift from a central-planned economy to a market-based economy, Vietnam has regained it's presence in the economic world. The painful past and promising future of Vietnam are currently being staged in the normal routine of lives, causing great changes in the community. These rapid transitions bring new challenges to its people. VietNamNet Bridge (Feb, 2009) reports, lack of social workers reaches critical level and asserts Vietnam will need to train an additional 8,500 social workers in the next five years, and 15,000 in the next 10 years, in order to arrive at the recommended one professional social worker per 10,000 people.
REI anticipated this need and our partnership with the University of Labor and Social Affairs (ULSA) started in 2001. ULSA is one of the leading universities mandated by the Vietnamese Government to equip its students to tackle the challenges ahead. Our staff are positioned to train and assist Vietnamese social work professionals in acquiring resources to advance their social work skills and knowledge. Mentoring is a key component in this process. Listening to our Vietnamese counterparts and identifying specific areas of need are important aspects of our partnership at ULSA.
Our current work involves the development of a social work curriculum, the training and supervision of faculty and students with social work skills and knowledge. Short-term teams have conducted specialized workshops like suicide prevention, working with domestic violence, and basic counseling skills.
In addition to social work, REI assisted ULSA with the implementation of English clubs to improve the language capacity of the students, many of whom are from the rural villages surrounding Hanoi. We seek to serve where the greatest need is. Therefore, our volunteers bring their skills and knowledge to complement and support our Vietnamese counterparts, not to compete or lead. We build as we learn from the Vietnamese how and what they want to build.