The 1992 survey trip to Vietnam that birthed REI. Roderick Beidler (2nd from right),
Doug Sparks, REI's founder (3rd from right), Ms. Lien, the trip's translator, and now REI's official Vietnam representative (5th from right)
Twenty-nine years ago a team of fourteen arrived in Vietnam to assess firsthand the country’s needs and to evaluate if they could provide meaningful assistance. From that humble origin, Resource Exchange International (REI) was birthed.
One key member of the delegation was Roderick Beidler, a leader in another nonprofit. He was drawn to return on a mission of peace after having departed two decades earlier in a time of war. What he experienced on that two week survey would change the rest of his life. As Roderick sat down with various Vietnamese leaders, listening to their urgent needs, he had a clear response: “I knew I had found my place.”
Six months later back in Chicago, he and wife Connie would host Ms. Lien, the government’s translator on that first visit. Lien was soon to become REI’s official representative in Vietnam, a position she continues to hold today.
Using his relational networks, Roderick began partnering with REI’s Vietnam Director Doug Sparks. Experts were recruited in agriculture, English education, and medicine to launch training programs. But it took another six years until he could personally return to Vietnam to see the contributions REI had made since that first trip.
As life often has it, one development led to another.
In 2000, Roderick joined REI’s Board of Directors. In 2006, he led a REI delegation to Laos and met with Prof. Dr. Phonmek, Minister of Health, opening the door to REI’s work in that country.
Laos became a special place to Roderick and Connie, and while she consulted using her expertise in laboratory science, Roderick designed twenty-one modules for “Executive Leadership and Management Training.” This latter program began with one hospital and concluded with nine.
Roderick and Connie with the Chief Justice of the Lao Supreme Court (who received training in the U.S. through REI), his son, and a Lao physician
In 2009, he became REI’s President and CEO, a position he held for the nine years. His priority goal in that role was to unify REI’s vision and calling across our various nations. To accomplish this, REI began hosting triannual global staff gatherings in 2011, an event that now has become biannual.
How does Roderick view his three decades of investing in the work of REI? “I absolutely believe in this vision of using one’s professional skills to build people who will build their nation. I’m indebted to REI as it is an organization that has allowed me to fulfill my passion.”
Strengthening REI’s works in Southeast Asia (Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam), launching our efforts in Djibouti and Egypt, and setting the stage for REI’s return to Central Asia were confirming marks of Roderick’s effective leadership.
Roderick and (l-r) Ms. Phonesavanh, Patsy Kent (REI staff), Ms. Alina and Alex Baca (Lao medical school English curriculum team members)
Current plans for the Beidlers are to move near Sacramento, CA to be near son Ryan and his family. But the work of REI will not be far away. Once borders open, Roderick and Connie plan to return to Laos and Nepal to assist in finalizing REI’s official papers in both countries, and lead teams of professional medical volunteers.
Thank you, Roderick. Thank you, Connie. We prize you both and wish you a fulfilling and refreshing retirement.