We arrived in Thua Thien Hue on April 15th. We hadn’t originally planned to visit Thua Thien Hue, but realized we could squeeze in a trip to the country’s former capital en route to Da Lat. We ended up having an extremely productive detour.
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essential HELP: a weblog
international and community development in Vietnam
May 1st, 2013
We arrived in Thua Thien Hue on April 15th. We hadn’t originally planned to visit Thua Thien Hue, but realized we could squeeze in a trip to the country’s former capital en route to Da Lat. We ended up having an extremely productive detour.
April 17th, 2013
Not a moment goes to waste when we’re in Vietnam. The night before we left Hanoi, we realized that we could squeeze in one more visit to the Vietnam – Japan Eye Hospital (VJEH), where a cataract surgery mission is taking place, before we had to be at the airport for our flight to Da Nang. So we decided, why not?
We arrived at VJEH a little after 10, later than expected because of Hanoi traffic. Even though we informed VJEH that we would stop by less than an hour prior to our arrival, Dr. Nguyen Vu Thien, who manages much of the hospital’s operation, was there to greet us.
April 14th, 2013
There’s never been a dull moment since we arrived in Vietnam. Tiring, very. But dull, never.
The day after our trip to Nam Dinh, we headed towards Vinh Phuc province to visit participants of the microfinance program. Microfinance is excellent in theory: give small amounts of capital to female entrepreneurs, equip them with the power to make their own economic decisions, elevate the status of women in society, and watch the local economy grow. But only after visiting the program participants in the flesh can you truly come to understand how meaningful the program is on the borrowers’ lives.
First of all, it’s not just a program that passively gives out money. It helps the women build credit history and provides them with a host of other learning opportunities. On the day that we visited Vinh Phuc, there was actually a legal clinic being held on women’s property rights. Ms. Giang, an attorney who is dedicated to women’s rights, informed the women of changes in the laws and what it meant for their ability to hold and inherit property. The room was filled with women listening assiduously to Ms. Giang speak.
The surprising thing for us was that even after Ms. Giang told them about their rights, some of the women still weren’t convinced of the new laws’ utility. It just goes to show that Vietnam is still very much a patriarchal society, especially in rural and agriculture-based communities. We have a feeling, though, that once the women are able to see the new laws in practice, they will begin to excercise their rights more assertively.
After the morning’s legal session, we began visiting some of the borrowers’ in the microfinance program. Below is Ms. Dieu, who always has a smile in her eyes and giggles after every other sentence. She’s participated in the microfinance program for multiple cycles now, as she is steadily able to borrower larger amounts after building her credit history. She explained to us that participating in the program has improved her living standards and her outlook on life. When she told us that she’d sent her husband to do the day’s cooking so she could greet guests and attend the morning’s legal clinic, we knew right then that major improvements in women’s status had come to this rural commune. Just a few years, a woman to sending her husband into the kitchen would have been unheard of.
Here’s some raw footage of Ms. Dieu speaking to us! It’s unedited, so there are no subtitles for now, but we will get them up soon!
After visiting a few more microfinance participants, we stopped by a roadside restaurant for a family-style lunch. That means no shoes, lots of greens, and sitting on your derriere around a low-rise table. The food was fresh and delicious!
Feeling replenished, we once again began another round of visits to more women in the microfinance program. Ms. Yen below is a radiant 33 year old whose good spirit was infectious.
Ms. Yen explained to us that when she first got married, her husband and her had nothing. Not even a bed to sleep on! But now, she uses her microfinance loans to run a successful small business selling goods at open markets. Asked if she would want to scale up her business, Ms. Yen responded with an enthusiastic YES! Asked what her greatest worries were for her business, Ms. Yen replied that she thought she might not have enough inventory to sell. Hearing that, we immediately wanted to invest in this lovely lady’s enterprise.
There were many women that we visited that day, and these are just snippets of their stories. Eventually, we’ll sit down and share their stories in greater details with you. Please stay tuned!
What made the deepest impression for us throughout the day was the sense of unbounded optimism many of the women in the microfinance program have. All the loan recipients we spoke to today wished to continue with the program and borrow at larger amounts, and they were all fully confident of their ability to pay back larger amounts in a timely manner. We quickly came to realize that these women are all savvy risk takers–the very kind of people who are the backbone of progress. It was humbling getting to speak with them and getting to know the new ideas they are putting into motion. We’re looking forward to expanding the program to reach new borrowers and following-up with the women we met today.
We are so grateful to our local partners, the Center for Women and Community Development and the Center for Sustainable Development Studies, for joining us throughout the day and helping us realize this microfinance project!
April 12th, 2013
The past two days in northern Vietnam have been a flurry of activity. Yesterday, the VNHELP team in Vietnam started our day at 6:30 am and didn’t get back till 11:30 pm! We visited Nam Dinh province, a three hour drive from Hanoi, where we have a number of health projects.
April 10th, 2013
Hello from Hanoi! The VNHELP team is currently in Vietnam, visiting and evaluating projects. The first two days have been filled with meetings, and there are more to come. We’re excited to be here to learn about new developments in poverty relief and health intervention in Vietnam! Stay tuned for more updates from our travels in Vietnam–we’ll keep you updated as best we can.
Above is a view of the busy Hanoi streets from the hotel we are staying at.
March 21st, 2013
March 22 is World Water Day! What better way to celebrate one of Earth’s most precious resources than to share with you its impact in VNHELP’s most recently completed water project?
With support from our partners and community, VNHELP brought clean water to 37 different schools in Quang Ngai province. Many schools in Vietnam lack access to a clean water source, which means students either have to bring their own water to school or drink unsanitized water from a tap. If there’s no tap, or if a student forgot to bring his water bottle to school, there’d be nothing to drink. Can you imagine how difficult it must be to go a whole day at school without a drop to drink? Thankfully, students at these schools no longer have to imagine such a situation. UV filtration systems were installed in the schools, and a faculty member at each of the school was trained on how to maintain the system.
To make this project even more meaningful, there was also a water, sanitation, and hygiene campaign to create better health awareness among children, teachers, and their families. Check out a slide show of the project below!
Thank you Ms. Mai Dolch for funding this project!
March 21st, 2013
For our second Women of Vietnam feature, we’re taking a closer look at Ho Xuan Huong, one of Vietnam’s most beloved poets often referred to as the “Queen of Nom Poetry.”
Even though her poems are widely known and there are even a number of streets named after her in Vietnam, Ho Xuan Huong has been something of an enigma. She is believed to have been born in 1772 and died in 1822. Her family history is disputed, but the general consensus is that she eventually became the concubine of a man named Tong Cuc, a ranking official of the Le Dynasty.
Despite her role as a concubine, Ho Xuan Huong showed a rejection of social norms and irreverence uncommon for women of the time. (Remember that she was living in 17th/18th Century Vietnam–an era steeped in Confucian traditions, which brought with them the exaltation of education and family values, but often the subjugation of women as well.) Her convention-defying attitudes were conveyed in her poetry. She had an uncanny ability to write of mundane subjects, but inflect them with sensual undertones (or overtones). She was a master of the double entendre, delighting her audience and providing a rare voice against sociopolitical oppression.
Her poems were later translated into English by John Balaban in a book aptly titled Spring Essence, though it’s almost always better to read the original if you can. You can view some of them here.
March 21st, 2013
Are you interested in learning more about Vietnam and the social issues the country faces? Do you have a can-do attitude and believe that every individual can contribute to making this world a better place? Are you looking for a better way to get involved?
If you answered yes, yes, and yes, then VNHELP wants you to be part of our newly formed Community Engagement Committee! The Community Engagement Committee (CEC) will work closely with VNHELP to generate awareness and raisefunds for poverty alleviation in Vietnam. Beyond that, you’ll also have the opportunity to lead new initiatives, learn about various causes, educate the community, and form friendships with good people who share your values.
For more mature individuals, this is a great chance to give back to your community on a deeper level. For younger individuals, you’ll learn leadership skills and receive mentorship from your peers. (Click on “Read the rest of this entry” below to see additional details.)
March 14th, 2013
VNHELP recently completed the construction of Lam Dong Elementary, and the school held its opening ceremony in March. Students migrated from their old school to the new one. The day was captured in photos. View the slideshow below to see the evolution of a school–Lam Dong from start to finish!
March 8th, 2013
Happy International Women’s Day everyone! On this day, we take a moment to celebrate all the wonderful contributions women have made to society. Some people might think, “Why do we even need an International Women’s Day? I hug my mom everyday without anyone reminding me, thank you very much!”
But the truth is, sometimes, if we don’t dedicate a moment to women, many of their contributions will go unappreciated and many of the challenges they face will still go unaddressed. Here’s a prime example of why we need International Women’s Day: according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), “Viet Nam is among a few countries in the world where gender pay gap has been widening while the gap has declined in most nations in the 2008-11 period compared to 1999-2007.”
On average, women in Vietnam make 70% – 80% of what men earn in comparable jobs. To reiterate: women earn up to 30% less than men for the same type of work! In a press release, the ILO stated, “The latest Labour Force Survey Report published in 2012 showed that female workers have lower monthly incomes than their male colleagues in all economic sectors – State, non-State and foreign-invested.”
Even in jobs traditionally dominated by women, such as healthcare and social work, women continue to earn less than their male counterparts. Furthermore, the glass ceiling is very much alive in Vietnam as the majority of management posts are still staffed by men. Vietnam also has a number of structural labor issues that increase the burden of low wages on women. For instance, even though working in healthcare may require more skills, jobs traditionally held by men but require less skills will still pay more.
These reasons alone point to why we need International Women’s Day. We need to bring these issues to the fore and rectify injustices. Really, we should be discussing these issues daily until women are treated truly equally to their male counterparts.
March 4th, 2013
Happy March everyone! March is a month chock full of events and activities. For the mathematicians, 3/14 is Pi Day. For the Irish and others who’ve adopted Ireland’s culture, 3/17 is St. Patrick’s Day. And for the literary enthusiasts out there, 3/15 marks the Ides of March, the date notoriously immortalized in Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar.
For us at the VNHELP office, we are happy to see March commemorated as International Women’s History Month. Why not take the opportunity to honor some of the celebrated women in Vietnamese culture through a “Women of Vietnam” series?
We’re kicking off the series with the Trung Sisters, better known to many Vietnamese as “Hai Bà Trưng.”
If you grew up in a Vietnamese household, then you are sure to have heard of the names of these two sisters floated before. If not, here’s your chance to be privy about two of the most celebrated figures in Vietnamese history.
February 22nd, 2013
Last week, we reported on the wrap-up of our second cycle of vocational training. As we await the final results of the students’ job placements, we took time to review how the program is going and how we can improve it.
During these discussions, our volunteer project coordinators shared a story about one very special student named Truong Van Ni.
We’d like to share his inspiring story with you today too.
February 22nd, 2013
During the course of participating in our Sponsor a Child program, many sponsors form a special bond to the children they support. Many even ask us if they can adopt the child, to give him or her a new life and formally make the child part of the family. VNHELP is not an adoption agency, so we can’t advise on the matter, but in recent years, we’ve often had to play the bearer of bad news. Since 2008, U.S.-Vietnam adoption has been banned due to allegations of baby-selling and kidnapping for profit following U.S. investigations.
Yes, it pained us to think that there were people who could engage in a form of child trafficking for their own monetary gain. And it also pained us to see the crestfallen faces on sponsors when their hopes of forming or adding to their family was immediately quashed.
But now there may be some silver lining. According to the Associated Press, “Vietnam and the United States are close to an agreement allowing Americans to adopt Vietnamese children again.”
US Senators and adoption lobby groups have been urging the Vietnamese government to develop tighter regulations and monitoring of adoptions to avoid profiteering. Speaking from Hanoi, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, a Democrat from Louisiana, said, “The government of Vietnam seems to be willing to restart, and there are just some final details to be worked out with the government of the United States…We hope that it will be in the near future.”
It’s impossible to tell what “near future” actually means; it could be six months from now, a year, three years or later. But we will do our best to keep you updated.
Meanwhile, an agreement to resume adoptions between Vietnam and Ireland was signed in September last year, ending the adoption ban enacted in 2009.
February 20th, 2013
Did you know Feb. 21 is International Mother Language Day? This day celebrates multilingualism and cultural diversity across the globe. It’s been observed since 2000, after UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization) decided to form a day recognizing the importance of linguistic diversity.
We think International Mother Language Day is a great way to celebrate the over 6000 languages that exist in this world. It’s also a good time for us to reflect on the richness of the Vietnamese language.
February 5th, 2013
Cung chúc tân xuân! Happy New Year from VNHELP! The Lunar New Year officially kicks off on February 10 this Year of the Water Snake. We hope your preparations for this joyous holiday are going swimmingly.
For new celebrants of the Lunar New Year, there are quite a few traditions and customs you may be curious about. In between monitoring projects and reading poverty assessments, we’ve managed to scrounge together a list of 10 things to know about Tet for you. Enjoy!
February 4th, 2013
Here’s the second roundup of photos from the second cycle of motorbike vocational training in Vietnam. Check out the first one here.
January 31st, 2013
Remember our re-launch of the vocational training in Vietnam program last year? In that first cycle, we gave 30 youth a chance to re-new their lives by participating in a 3.5 month training program to become skilled motorbike mechanics. 26 ended up graduating from the program. Following its success, we decided to continue the program with a new group of 30 youth. We are pleased to announce that all 30 participants graduated this time. Our project coordinators in Vietnam sent us printed photos of the second cycle, and we’ve scanned them to share with you!
Students get their hands-on in their learning.
January 30th, 2013
Earlier this month, VNHELP’s Nguyen Truong To Scholarship program distributed a number of scholarships to students in Vietnam attending universities around the Saigon metropolis. It was an occasion marked by a bit of pomp and circumstance, a bit of silliness, and a whole lot of optimism for the future. We looking forward to seeing how the scholarships will help these students achieve their goal of completing university, and we have faith in the success that is sure to follow many of them.
Check out some pictures of the students in Vietnam and the scholarship ceremony below!
January 29th, 2013
January 28th, 2013
Many of our volunteers and supporters often ask us what role the board of directors plays in the organization. It’s a difficult question to answer because their role can be so encompassing and diverse. In its simplest form, the board of directors sets the tone and strategic vision of the organization, helping ensure that the organization stays on mission and finds new ways to more successfully achieve that mission. But more often than not, board members are much more than people who convene every now and then to answer the big questions of what do we do? who are we here to help and what can we do to help?. Board members get involved in fundraising, they help identify strategic partnerships, and they determine what program areas to expand to, among many other things.
With board members wearing so many hats–from fundraiser to event planner to consultant–it can’t be emphasized enough that having dedicated and compassionate board members is vital to an organization. Especially considering how nonprofit board members receive no compensation from the organization, finding the right board member sometimes feels like finding a needle in a haystack.
January 24th, 2013
And to their credit, some of them are trying.
January 22nd, 2013
Read the Vietnamese version of this post here.
Hop Duc Bui, a retired engineer now residing in San Jose, CA, recently co-funded a water project in Pa Che with his colleagues at the Son Nam Charitable Group and the Yahoo! Employee Foundation. He compiled this story based on project reports from Vietnam and shares it with you.
January 22nd, 2013
Later this week, a group of world leaders and renowned economists will gather in conference rooms and workshops to discuss the state of the global economy. In particular, they will focus on the idea of “Resilient Dynamism,” this year’s theme at the World Economic Forum (WEF), happening January 23 – 27 in Davos, Switzerland.
In the context of their meeting, “resilient dynamism” refers to a country’s capability to adapt to changing conditions, withstand sudden shocks, and recover to a desired equilibrium in the event of inertia.
In advance of their annual meeting, the WEF also released the “Global Risks” report, which identifies both the global risks that have the greatest likelihood of occurring (these include severe income disparity, chronic fiscal imbalances, rising greenhouse gas emissions, water supplies crisis and mismanagement of aging population) and the risks that would have the greatest impact should they occur (these include major systemic financial failure, water supply crisis, chronic fiscal imbalance, food shortage, and weapons of mass destruction). Their conversations will be holistic, looking not just at isolated areas of concerns, but at how economic, environmental, governance, infrastructure and social systems relate and affect one another.
Looking through the WEF’s meeting programme, we at VNHELP can’t also help but contemplate what resilient dynamism means for Vietnam, its development, and the lives of the poor people we seek to assist.
January 21st, 2013
Even though 2013 New Year Celebrations have come to and end and many of us have returned to the routine of daily life and keeping up with resolutions, VNHELP is actually already at work planning another new year celebration. Tet, or Lunar New Year, will be celebrated in Vietnam on February 10th this year. Although Vietnam also uses the Gregorian calendar officially, Tet is still considered the most significant holiday in Vietnam. Many celebrate the holiday for a full two weeks, and the streets are awash in lucky red and gold. It’s a time for families to get together, friends to hang out leisurely, and children to gleefully hold their hands out in anticipation of receiving li xi (red envelopes filled with lucky money.)
January 18th, 2013
The weekly news roundup brings you a recap of the latest happenings in Vietnam and international development. This week, we have bears and Buddhist in Vietnam, and jobs and money talk across the globe.
January 11th, 2013
The weekly news roundup is back! In the first full week of the new year, we’ve already got a lot of interesting things to catch you up on. Check out some of our selected readings below!
December 13th, 2012
Our latest newsletter is up and ready for your viewing! In it, we’ve compiled highlights of the work you helped us accomplish in the last year. Check it out in the viewer below:
You can also view it in PDF format here.
November 20th, 2012
It’s almost Thanksgiving–time to officially ring in the holiday season! Before you chow down on a scrumptious holiday dinner, we hope you’ll take a moment to think about what your grateful and what you can continue to do give back to your community.
On behalf of everyone here at VNHELP, our executive director would like to send you all a special greeting.
November 13th, 2012
Cataracts are a serious issue in Vietnam. According to a 2011 study in the journal BMC Opthamology:
The good news is that cataracts can be treated through a relatively simple procedure. The bad news is that the cost of a procedure, which hovers around $350 – $400 in Vietnam, can be far too expensive for many poor patients. Recognizing the need and realizing that this is a fixable situation, VNHELP decided to initiate the Vision for the Poor program in 2007 to sponsor free cataract surgeries for low-income patients across Vietnam. We also established a matching fund, where we meet donations of $5000 and above, to encourage donors to give to the program.
November 5th, 2012
In the past two decades, Vietnam has made tremendous socio-economic developments and reforms. With an emerging middle class and declining poverty rate, Vietnam today is considered by many to be a cosmopolitan nation experiencing rapid economic growth and success. In addition to decreasing poverty and hunger rates, many national and international efforts have been made to increase the education, social, and economic opportunities available to women. But these efforts haven’t always worked out as hoped.
November 2nd, 2012
Meet Little Miss Phuong Anh, one of the latest beneficiaries of our wheelchair distribution program. Despite being born without legs and a left hand, Phuong Anh is a cheerful and bubbly four-year-old. She loves to play and move around, but it used to be painful for her to go outside because she had to crawl. The unpaved and rocky streets in Vietnam were a source of constant discomfort. With her own wheelchair, she’s now riding in style!
Special thanks to Thanh Huong Sandwiches in San Jose for donating to our wheelchair program!
October 29th, 2012
Back in May, VNHELP wrote about the start of a new school construction project in Son La province. Construction actually began in March, and six months later, in September, the school was completed! The timing was perfect–just when the fall school season was about to go in session. The school is now a place where young primary-school aged children are learning writing, maths, and other important creative and critical thinking skills. We’re looking forward to seeing how the school’s presence will brighten up these children’s futures!
October 24th, 2012
It’s been nearly two weeks since we concluded our 2012 Mua Thu Cho Em charity concert series, and we’re still feeling the after effects of the fun and generosity from those two nights. To prolong the euphoria and keep us reminded of how blessed we are are as an organization to receive such tremendous community support, we love to go back and browse through photos, reminiscing about the good memories. If you haven’t seen it yet, check out our concert recap for the Northern California concert. Here’s the Southern California recap too…
October 19th, 2012
Worldwide, October 17 was the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In Vietnam, October 17 was also the National Day of the Poor. Taking advantage of an apt date, the local United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) administrators used October 17 as an opportunity to present Vietnam’s new poverty reduction plans through 2015. Read the fact sheet here.
The most salient aspect of the new poverty plan is the push to alleviate poverty among ethnic minorities. As noted by several of the UNDP coordinators, poverty remains much more pronounced among ethnic minorities. Although Vietnam has successfully reduced poverty from 58.1% in 1993 to 14.5% in 2008 and malnutrition from 41% to 11.7%, poverty rates among some ethnic groups remains as high as 86%. In absolute terms, ethnic minorities make up 14% of Vietnam’s total population but 54% of its poor.
October 15th, 2012
VNHELP hosted the first of two Mua Thu Cho Em fundraising concerts for this year on October 7th. The concert took place at the Santa Clara Convention to a packed house, with people of all backgrounds coming together to enjoy a night of culture and charity. See for yourself in the snapshot below!
October 2nd, 2012
Since Vietnam began opening up its markets in the 1980s, the country’s economy has and continues to experience rapid growth. Economic reforms, coupled with aid from international agencies, have helped Vietnam reduce extreme poverty by more than three-quarters and hunger by two-thirds since 1990. Furthermore, Vietnam’s GINI Index in 2008, a scale that measures national distribution of income (with 0 representing perfect equality and 100 signifying absolute inequality), ranked at 37.57, a slight improvement from 2006’s 37.77 and 2004’s 39.16.
As Vietnam’s gross domestic product (GDP) increases to $320 billion in 2012 from $280 billion in 2010, the number of millionaires in the country dramatically rises as well. In June 2012, the Central Institute for Economic Management (CIEM) reported its findings on income gap reduction in Asia for the first half of 2011. CIEM revealed that the number of millionaires in Vietnam increased by 33% from the same period in the previous year. Official statistics from the Vietnam Stock Exchange in 2011 show the 100 richest people on the stock exchange market are worth over $2 million each, with two people qualifying for the United States’ $100 million CEO club.
However, as the number of Vietnamese millionaires increases and the market expands, the economic gap between rich and poor also widens. Despite improvements in the GINI index, the proportion of population below poverty line in Vietnam actually increased from 12.3% in 2009 to 14.5% in 2010. The monthly average income per capita by residence in 2010 was 2,130,000 VND ($102) in urban areas, with the top-earning regions being in the southeast (notably the Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province and Saigon [HCMC]) at 2,304,000 VND ($110). On the other hand, rural areas averaged 1,071,000 VND ($51), with the lowest-earning northern midlands, mountains and coastal regions coming in at just 905,000 VND ($43). The gap in income is reflected in spending as well, with the wealthiest spending 3.8 times more in healthcare and 6 times more in education than their poorer counterparts.
September 26th, 2012
Today, the U.S. Labor Department released its annual assessment on forced labor and child labor across the world. For Vietnam, the results are grim. Along with South Sudan and Suriname, Vietnam has been added to a list of 74 countries that have serious child labor issues.
According to the report, products that could likely involve child labor in Vietnam include bricks and garments. Garment production may also involve forced labor.
Nearly all of the Southeast Asian countries, including Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, are included on the list, although the number of products with the risk of child labor production ranges in number.
The report is released in the midst of increased discussions on human trafficking following President Barack Obama affirmation that he would help clamp down on trafficking at the UN summit on Tuesday. Evoking the harshest of terms, Obama said:
September 26th, 2012
As the new president of the World Bank, Dr. Jim Yong Kim has been asking, “What will it take?”
That is, what will it take to end poverty when 1.3 billion people are living on less than $1.25/day. As Dr. Kim notes in this new video released by the World Bank, that’s 1 our of every 5 people in this world barely scraping by.
Vietnam fares slightly better with 17% percent of the population (a little under 1 in every 5 people) living at $1.25/day, according to the latest World Bank figures available. But when you inch that number up to $2/day, the proportion of the population living in poverty is nearly half at 43%.
So we’re just as curious as Dr. Kim. What do you think it takes to end poverty? Will it be in collective action and people combining resources for a common good? Will it be private sector growth and new job openings? Is it a world where everyone is an entrepreneur? How does the environment fit into the equation? Is it a combination of everything?
Watch Dr. Kim’s video below after the jump.
September 18th, 2012
We’re ecstatic and grateful: thanks to our supporters, we met our OneVietnam challenge–and then some. With your donations, VNHELP is now one of the top three fundraisers on OneVietnam Network. These numbers and rankings change almost daily, so we don’t know how long we’ll be there, but we’ll enjoy it while it lasts. Will we ever get to the top spot? Who knows! But more important than an ranking is the fact that we have new funds to support our humanitarian and development projects in Vietnam. From money to connect poor households to clean water sources to scholarships for university students, you make it possible. Thank you!
September 17th, 2012
Here are a few news articles worth taking note of for the week of September 9th.
September 12th, 2012
We published an article on the blog of the International Diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA) about diaspora philanthropy and fundraising! Check it out. Here’s a little snippet:
Read the full article on the IdEA’s website.
September 11th, 2012
VNHELP is now on OneVietnam Network, a new crowfunding platform that enables you to easily donate to your favorite causes and receive timely updates on the projects you’ve helped support. Please check out our page at www.onevietnam.org/vnhelp! OneVietnam has challenged to reach 50 donations in one month–we’re currently almost half there at 21. Please help bring us to 50 and earn us a permanent spot on the network! We really appreciate your support, and the money we raise through OneVietnam will go directly into our projects to help the poor in Vietnam.
September 7th, 2012
The news roundup for this week is mostly somber, with financial woes, health concerns, and dying elephants making the headlines.
September 6th, 2012
Check out this new infographic from the UN”s World Food Programme which explains how high food prices are affecting the global poor.
Note how some families must spend up to 70% of their income to meet nutritional needs, with the proportion raising up to 85% during times of inflating prices. This means that just 15% of income can be allocated to education, health, and other essential needs. Trade-offs are inevitable.
In Vietnam, food, prices, and hunger are complicated issues. Although many of us would like to think of Vietnam as a country abundant in cheap, delicious foods, the Global Hunger Index actually categorizes Vietnam as having “serious” hunger problems. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), which produces the Global Hunger Index, an average of 31% of Vietnamese were undernourished between 1990 – 1992. But just as Vietnam has been able to drastically reduce its poverty rates, it’s also been able to reduce the proportion of the population undernourished. Between 1995 – 1997, the average dropped to 22%, then 17% between 2000 – 2002, and 11% between 2005 – 2007.
Inflating food prices can also a carry an array of effects on Vietnam’s poor. THE IFPRI noted that increasing prices between 2006 – 2008 could have actually reduced poverty in Vietnam by 8% because the increase food prices benefited many rice farmers, who constitute Vietnam’s rural poor. On the flip side, a recent post on CNBC.com noted that China, Hong Kong, and Vietnam are the three Asian economies most vulnerable to soaring food prices. This, according to economists at Nomura, a financial management consultant firm, is because food prices make up a large portion of Asian countries’ Consumer Price Index (CPI), a measure that weighs the average price of basic goods for a consumer.
Tai Hui, a head economist at the Regional Research for Asia with Standard Chartered, explained to CNBC that China, Hong Kong, Vietnam are particularly vulnerable to food inflation because their CPI baskets are highly correlated with global prices as measured by the CBR/Reuters Food Index, which have been increasing in the past three months: “Hui said for every one percentage point increase in the CRB Food Index, inflation in Vietnam, and China and Hong Kong goes up 13.7 basis points, 6.3 basis points and 4.9 basis points, respectively.”
For now, though, hunger in these three economies has not hit crisis levels. We’re hoping it remains that way–and gets better.
September 5th, 2012
A new blog post from the World Bank asks, “Is Vietnam’s workforce ready for the future?… Are Vietnam’s workers ready to move from low to high tech production? From rice to robots?”
These are all extremely relevant questions facing Vietnam today, and it’s something we often ponder about at VNHELP as well. While we are optimistic about Vietnam’s development, we are also tepid. A common critique leveled at Vietnam is that it’s education system is antiquated, placing too much of an emphasis on memorization and not enough on creativity and critical thinking. As true as this may be, we also think this is just one of many problems the Vietnam’s education authorities address. To have better workers, we believe that you also need good mentors. You need experienced people who are willing to cultivate younger workers, and you need young workers who are willing to share their experiences with their peers. But according to many whom we’ve conversed and consulted with, Vietnamlacks a culture of mentorship. The education structure, as well as the competitive businesses environment, promotes a race to leapfrog to the top rather than an ethic of teamwork, both vertically and laterally.
So, we believe for Vietnamese workers to be globally competitive, it is not just a matter of enhancing technical and cognitive skills, it is also a question of whether Vietnam can get into the right mindset for success.
What are your thoughts?
Photo from the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs via Flickr (Creative Commons)
August 30th, 2012
Last week, VNHELP received some photos from the opening ceremony of the new school we helped build in Kien Giang as part of our school construction program. There will be more photos and video footage coming in, but we wanted to share what we have with you now.
About: Kien Giang is located in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta region. The province is known for its aquaculture and rice farming, though much still needs to be done for the province in terms of education, health, and economic development. Please take a look at our project pictures below!
August 23rd, 2012
For the 18th annual Mua Thu Cho Em fundraising concert, VNHELP is offering up something new: a mini website chock full of images, music samples, and details about our events.
Please check out our website to find out more about on concerts and how you can be part of our fundraising efforts benefiting the poor in Vietnam. Don’t forget to forward the site to your friends as well!
A special thanks to Aurelae Designs for helping us put it together!
August 20th, 2012
We’ve aggregated together this past week’s notable news for the weekly round up, and there’s certainly a lot to catch up on. Check it out below.
August 10th, 2012
Here are four stories to take note of before you head out for the weekend.
August 3rd, 2012
In addition to the excitement of the Olympics, a lot of things are happening in Vietnam and in the world of international development as well. Check out some of this week’s highlights below.
July 27th, 2012
A lot has happened in the past week, impacting not just our human existence, but our natural world as well. Most notably, the HIV/AIDS conference in Washington D.C. is about to wrap up, and the World Wildlife Fund came out with a new report warning about the treatment of endangered species in Vietnam.
July 25th, 2012
This is the second post on a two-part series on HIV/AIDS in Vietnam. Our first post focused on the current HIV/AIDS situation in Vietnam. As the International AIDS conference in Washington D.C. rolls on, this second post will focus on the history and stigma associated with HIV/AIDS in the country.
July 20th, 2012
Hey VNHELPers, will you be in Madison, Wisconsin anytime between now and September 30?
If you are, please stop by the Tamarack Studio & Gallery on Washington Avenue to see “Soul of Vietnam,” a photo exhibition by photographer, musician and aviator Lawrence D’Attillio. Lawrence has spent an extensive amount of time capturing Vietnam’s transition from a country recovering from war to a country entering the global economic and cultural landscape. Included in Lawrence’s exhibit will be photos he’s taken of various microfinance projects in Vietnam. Lawrence and the Elmsbrook Rotary Club were instrumental in getting the VNHELP microfinance program on its feet, so we’re thrilled he’ll be able to showcase the positive impact of microfinance on women’s live to a national audience.
Lawrence’s photo exhibition will begin a national museum tour in 2013, but will stay in Madison till the end of September. If you’re unable to make it to Wisconsin this time, cross your fingers and hope the exhibition will make a stop at a museum near you.
Best of luck to you and your photo exhibition Lawrence!
July 13th, 2012
Here are some articles of interest for the second week of July.
July 10th, 2012
How innovative is Vietnam? This is a simple question that can be difficult to answer.
On the one hand, Vietnamese people can be incredibly resourceful. How often do you see parts of a presumably out-of-commission truck strapped to an ox to create a new mobile contraption? (The efficiency of this invention, though, seems questionable.)
On the other hand, Vietnam has lax intellectual property right laws that end up promoting brand imitation rather than innovation. Case in point: Google-branded toilet paper. Probably not what the tech giant had in mind when it wanted to expand to new markets.
July 6th, 2012
Here’s the second installment of our international development and Vietnam weekly news roundup. This week, we’ve combed through the internet to bring you articles on English teachers in Vietnam, civil conflicts, obesity, macroeconomics and foreign policy. Please check them out below.
July 6th, 2012
Between July 22 – 27, researchers, policymakers, activists and people living with HIV/AIDS will convene at the 2012 International AIDS Conference in Washington D.C.
This is the first time in 22 years that the world’s largest HIV/AIDS conference will be held in the US. Although the conference hosted its 1985 inaugural meeting in the U.S. and two additional meetings in 1987 and 1990, a controversial decision to ban travelers with HIV/AIDS from entering the US sparked enough outrage that the conference had to be held outside of its first home for over two decades. The decision to return stateside only came after President Barack Obama’s 2009 pledge to remove travel restrictions on people living with HIV/AIDS, which came into effect early 2010.
The theme of this year’s conference is “Turning the Tide’s Together,” a recognition that the HIV/AIDS epidemic has reached a defining moment where new medical advancements could lead to large-scale prevention and treatment. The theme also reflects the cross-sector response needed to effectively stem the spread of the disease and the misconceptions associated with it. Governments, the private sector, NGOs and private individuals all have a role in reversing the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
As the conference date approaches, VNHELP will bring you a two-part post on HIV/AIDS in Vietnam. The first will be an overview of the current state of HIV/AIDS in Vietnam and what’s being done about it. The second part will take a closer look at the history of the disease in Vietnam.
June 29th, 2012
Welcome to VNHELP’s new blog feature: a weekly news roundup of the latest events in Vietnam’s social and economic development. There is always a ton of stuff going on in Vietnam and in the international development world, and sometimes it can be hard to keep track of what the latest innovation in water technology is or why inflation in Vietnam is sinking or cresting. We’ve prepared the weekly round up to help you stay posted with interesting and informative articles around the web. The weekly round up is curated by our staff, with an emphasis on global news that directly and indirectly affects Vietnam.
June 29th, 2012
Thanks to donors who go above and beyond the usual amount of support we request for the kids in our Sponsor A Child program, the Dieu Giac Orphanage’s staff were able to save up enough money to take the children for a summer trip to Vũng Tàu!
Vũng Tàu is famous for it’s beaches, and it’s about 130 kilometers (80 miles or so) away from Saigon, where the Dieu Giac Orphanage is located. Imagine how much fun it must have been for the kids. They shared with us a few snapshots, which we’ve put together below.
Seeing the kids smile so brightly really makes us feel like everything we do is worth it. What a way to open the weekend!
If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor, please feel free to contact us at VNHELP.
June 28th, 2012
You’ve been asking and we’ve been keeping coy about it, but now we can final announce it: This year’s Mua Tho Cho Em concert will be on Sunday, October 7 in Northern California and Sunday, October 14 in Southern California! Headlining the show will be singers Thu Phuong, Ha Anh Tuan, and Quang Linh. More details after the jump.
June 21st, 2012
On June 19, the U.S. State Department released its findings for the 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report. Released annually, the Trafficking in Persons report provides a comprehensive understanding on the state of human trafficking–both sex and exploitative labor–throughout the world.
Human trafficking is often referred to as 21st century slavery. Presently, an estimated 27 million people around the world are victims of human trafficking. But overall, there seems to be progress. As more people become aware of the issue, more is being done by governments, international organizations, grassroot organizations and individuals to combat human trafficking. Compared to last year, 29 countries, including Vietnam, were upgraded on the Trafficking in Persons report’s tiered list.
June 20th, 2012
Want to light up a cigarette in public? Not so fast, say lawmakers in Vietnam.
Yesterday, it was confirmed that Vietnam has passed a law banning smoking in all public places. The law also prohibits tobacco advertising and bans the sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18. The law is set to go into effect in May 2013.
High tobacco use is certainly an issue in Vietnam and throughout most of Asia. According to the World Health Organization, 40,000 people die of tobacco-related causes in Vietnam each year. The figure is expected to rise. One in three boys ages 15 – 24 smokes. The Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance (SEATCA), an anti-smoking group, estimates that there are 15.3 million smokers in Vietnam, and nearly half of all adult males smoke.
The question now is, will this new law have any impact? A similar decree was passed in 2010, banning smoking in public, raising taxes on tobacco and restricting cigarette sales. But the decree was seen to have little effect, as public smoking and cigarette sales remain casual sights in Vietnam.
Rather than pure legislative action, regulation coupled with a greater public health awareness campaign might be the path to go.
June 19th, 2012
Are you more likely to be happy living in Vietnam than in Switzerland, Norway, the U.S. and even Bhutan (the only country to measure “gross national happiness“)?
That’s what the results of this year’s Happy Planet Index (HPI) suggest. Designed by the New Economics Foundation (motto: “economics as if people and the planet mattered”), the HPI sets forth to be the “leading global measure of sustainable, well-being.” It ranks countries on how well they create the conditions for citizens to live long, happy, sustainable lives using three primary indicators: life expectancy, experienced well-being and Ecological footprint.
June 15th, 2012
To many people, dengue, like cholera and tuberculosis, seems to be one of those diseases from the days of yore. This may be because dengue made its greatest marks on global history during WWII, when mass movements of troops across the Pacific Theatre facilitated the spread of the disease. But that was over 70 years ago, a time of which few of us have any living recollection. More recent outbreaks of dengue rarely draw the same media attention that outbreaks of diseases like avian flu or swine flu do, so many of us go about without any awareness of dengue.
June 14th, 2012
The Global Peace Index, an initiative of the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), recently released the 2012 Global Peace rankings. The Index compares 158 countries according to their “absence of violence” across 23 qualitative and quantitative indicators (see below). This year, Vietnam came in 34th, putting it in the first tier of the world’s most peaceful countries. Southeast Asian neighbors Malaysia (20th) and Singapore (23rd) are almost among the world’s 35 most peaceful countries.
June 14th, 2012
When the world’s largest development agency speaks, the rest of the NGO/NPO community listens–whether to critique, scrutinize or get new ideas from.
Following its May update on the East Asia and Pacific region, the World Bank has released the results of the mid-year World Bank Group-Vietnam consultative discussions and made public the newest Vietnam country cooperative strategy for 2012 – 2016. We’ve been soaking up all the information these two reports have to offer. Between the cooperation strategy and consultative discussion, there are over 200 pages of material. Much of it underscores what many us can feel instinctivelly: that after a quarter century of model development, Vietnam’s growth has slowed; that much of Vietnam’s earlier growth came at the expense of the environment and plans for sustainable must be set in motion; and that Vietnam’s human capital, infrastructure and innovation systems must be developed for it to avoid the “middle income trap.” But all is not grim–buttressed by a young workforce and a strong export portfolio (for the time being), Vietnam has plenty of potential to tap into.
So that you can avoid pouring days over the two reports, we’ve perused, combined and summarized highlights from both.
June 11th, 2012
Foreign marriages are a sensitive subject in the Vietnamese community, and increasingly so in the international community as well.
June 8th, 2012
Four months ago, a group of 30 Vietnamese youth arrived at the doors of the A Dong vocational school in Saigon (HCMC), hungry for an education and a shot at a stable livelihood. None of these youth really knew each other. Some were from right in the city, passing through A Dong’s school gates for the very first time; others came from distant villages. All were looking forward to a change in their lives, and all formed the first cohort of VNHELP’s new pilot vocational project, which aims to train disadvantaged youth to become skilled motorbike mechanics.
June 6th, 2012
According to United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), Vietnam has made major progress in education in recent years. Official figures estimate that enrollment rates in primary education have reached near universal levels, such that more children are receiving an education now than ever before.
But in our view, any one child out of school is still one child too many.
June 6th, 2012
As mentioned in yesterday’s post, VNHELP also partners with the Thien An Institute in Can Tho to help orphans, street kids and children with difficult family circumstances. Like at Dieu Giac, each of these children are connected to a kind-hearted sponsor in the U.S. or a different country from abroad. They send letters, correspondence, photos and sometimes even get a chance to meet in person. Thank you again to our VNHELPer, Dang Le, who brought back a packet of photos for us which we’ve scanned to share with you all. And of course, thank you to the wonderful philanthropists and sponsors who are making a difference in these children’s lives. The slide show below is just a small selection of some of the children who are currently being helped through the program.
June 5th, 2012
Since 2006, VNHELP has partnered with the Dieu Giac Orphanage in HCMC (Saigon) to provide a warm, nourishing environment to orphans and street children in Vietnam. Through our Sponsor A Child Program, we connect a compassionate donor from the U.S. to a child in need of support in Vietnam. Some of these children are orphans, some are street kids and some are admitted on a special basis when their families are unable to continue giving them proper care. We sponsor over a hundred children annually at both Dieu Giac and our additional partner, the Thien An Institute. One of our very dedicated VNHELPers, Dang Le, just returned from a personal trip to Vietnam andwas gracious enough to bring back a few photos of the kids currently sponsored through VNHELP for us. Say hello to some of the children below.
May 25th, 2012
When you’re dedicated to poverty reduction and community development, it’s important to keep up with the latest economic headlines. Economics, poverty, and development often go hand-in-hand, whether it’s through creating stable employment or through sculpting an ecosystem that gives budding entrepreneurs a chance to start their own enterprises. The relationship between the three isn’t always simple, but they’re all highly dependent on one another.
May 23rd, 2012
Most people living in developed countries think of tuberculosis as a disease of the past–the mal de vivir that afflicted 19th century poets and factory workers, but no longer weighs into modern life.
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Each year, over 8 million people are affected by tuberculosis and 1 million end up succumbing to the disease. What was once dubbed as a “romantic disease” is now a “disease of poverty”: of the 22 countries identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as high-burden tuberculosis countries, all are “developing countries.” Six are in Southeast Asia. Vietnam is one of them.
May 18th, 2012
It’s getting a little easier to be a woman in Vietnam, at least when it comes to matters of maternal health.
May 17th, 2012
May is the start of the rainy season in Vietnam. Although heavy rains are often necessary to replenish the soil and renew the land, they also pose serious flooding risks that ultimately disrupt many livelihoods and leave people in a precarious position. Just this week, a cyclone wreaked havoc in Vietnam’s Lao Cao province, uprooting more than 100 trees, inundating the land and blowing the top off of 35 homes. According to Prevention Web, Vietnam ranks 4th of 162 countries in flood risks, 10th of 89 countries in cyclone risks and 12th of 76 countries in tsunami risks.
May 16th, 2012
It’s hard not to be awestruck by the natural beauty of Son La province. Bordered by Laos to the South and Yen Bai, Lao Cai and Lao Chau provinces to the north, Son La is Vietnam’s 5th largest province. The weather is temperate and roughly 80% of its land is mountainous, making it a hiker’s paradise.
May 4th, 2012
VNHELP has a new home. Over the weekend, we moved down a floor to a different suite in the same building. Our new suite is more spacious, so now we have more room to greet visitors and display the different projects we’ve worked on in Vietnam. Do come by and say hi!
Special thanks to some truly wonderful volunteers who came by and helped us with the move. They were: Steve, Bill, Annie, and Dan of the local scouts; Khoa, a long time volunteer; and some of our staff’s family members. Although it was just one floor down, we really couldn’t have lugged down all that heavy furniture without them. VNHELP has the best volunteers, hands down.
May 4th, 2012
Clack, clamp, scrape. Clack, clamp, scrape. The sound of a shovel dragging up against the dirt. On a warm April afternoon, a team of men are at working leveling the hilly grounds of Son La province. They move with methodical precision, making sure the land is pat and the bricks are laid out tightly atop each other.
Here, a school will be built.
April 25th, 2012
A big thank you to UC Santa Cruz’s Vietnamese Student Association for selecting VNHELP as the beneficiary for their 6th annual charity show. We’ll be at UCSC on May 13 to speak a little bit about our mission, our projects, and what drives us to work on behalf of Vietnam’s poor. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. and will also include performances from various UCSC student groups. You can view the event page here for more details and ticket information. Please come and join VNHELP in the festivities. It’s Mother’s Day on the 13th, so bring your moms for a fun-filled evening!
April 18th, 2012
VNHELP is proud to announce that we’ve been selected as a $5000 “quick-grant” recipient by the Yahoo Employee Foundation. $5000 is the maximum awarded for quick grants. The Yahoo! grant will go towards funding our clean water projects in Vietnam. With so many of Vietnam’s rural poor still obtaining water from unsanitary sources, ensuring that all citizens can access clean water for their consumption and living needs will be a challenge for Vietnam’s future development. So thank you Yahoo! and Yahoo! employees, for enabling VNHELP to connect poor households with the water they need to live healthy, productive lives. Rest assured that someone’s life will change for the better as a result of your generosity.
April 6th, 2012
2012 has been a rollicking year for VNHELP so far. We started construction on a new school in Kien Giang in January, launched another round of our vocational training program in February, and started looking at how we can expand our microfinance programs to help Vietnam’s poor–all while continuously screening new proposals and planning events in the States.
In the midst of all these activities, we took a look at our website and decided it was time to modernize our online presence. We want you to be able to better understand and keep up with VNHELP’s volunteering and donor opportunities, and one of the most effective ways to do this is by strengthening our web platforms. The main site will stay functional as we work on it, but we decided to start this blog as a way to keep in contact more frequently and more regularly.
So keep posted for a cleaner VNHELP.org, visit our blog, and like us on Facebook for even more VNHELP updates!