How Would You Describe the Mission of Church World Service in Laos/Vietnam?
One of the missions is to help prevent children from dropping out of school. It began in one primary school and it has developed into four schools with child development centers.
How Do You Fit in Their Mission?
As a professional social worker I have developed a program called the Social Development Program of CWS/GM Laos.
The program is designed to help keep children from leaving school before their education is complete. It began in one primary school in Vientiane and it has developed into four schools with child development centers. The main activities are after-school programs.
The program has informally spread out to many other schools and other social services in four hospitals and a national disability center, a women’s disability center and a national drug rehabilitation center. It has also expanded into other schools in Northern Laos.
What Led You to Engage in This Calling?
I was born in Tan My Village in rural Ninh Binh province, Northern Vietnam, in a traditional Catholic family. I was a refugee in 1954 together with about 1 million people from the north to the south of Vietnam, when it was divided in two by the Geneva Agreement.
After high school I went to a medical social work school in Saigon (former name of Ho Chi Minh City, South Vietnam). The school was called Caritas and was run by the St. Vincent de Paul Sisters (Sisters of Charity) for three years. After I graduated, I was given a scholarship by the Vietnam Christian Service - VNCS - (a local name of Church World Service – CWS - in Vietnam in 1969) to further study in the Philippines for five years to earn a full Bachelor’s in Social Work (BSSW) and Master’s in Social Work (MSW).
What is a meaningful Scripture for your daily work?
Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these." Matthew 19:14
(A few years ago I saw some sculptures in a church yard in Thailand of Jesus surrounded by little children which are so inspiring!)
What are some of the challenges facing the people of Laos/Vietnam or yourself?
In Laos: many young people wish to go to college and have no opportunity.
In Vietnam: many social work students are struggling to find enough funds to go to university; many social work graduates cannot find jobs.
For me: not enough time and energy to go to the rural areas to work with the poorest of the poor.
What is a lesson you have learned from our partner that you feel should be shared with churches in the US?
They are very calm, very patient, always cheerful despite the fact they lack many things that we take for granted.