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Global Forum 2020: The View from Vietnam, and Ngà’s Journey

Updated: Sep 10, 2020

REI staff from around the world at the Global Forum last month.

You can read more about the Global Forum here.

Every two years Resource Exchange International hosts a gathering for all its far-flung staff, as you may have read on our website. (Let us encourage you to go to our website at for more on the Global Forum, as well as for current news about all our international work in building people to build nations, currently in seven countries). This year’s Global Forum was more of a challenge, given the current COVID-19 epidemic. Our resident staff in Vietnam (and elsewhere) were not able to attend, nor were our Hanoi office staff members, due to border closures.

Alyssa Meyer, one of our apprentices in Hanoi, did send a short video to greet those of us gathered in Colorado, and she, along with staff colleague Chris Sayles, joined our meetings via Zoom. Good in its way, but sort of like bumping elbows instead of a handshake and a hug... Still, even our overseas staff being able to participate virtually was greatly appreciated. And especially for those present, the 2020 Global Forum was a huge success!

Of our Vietnam team, only Craig and Kris Slater and Randy and Jill Vernon were able to attend. But we also enjoyed the presence of Nguyen Thi Ngà, who worked in the REI-Vietnam Hanoi office for six years, leaving the fall of 2018 in order to begin a Master’s program at Azusa Pacific University (APU) in the Los Angeles area. Many of our REI friends know Ngà, particularly those who have served with us in Vietnam on a short-term team. If you have met Ngà, you know her as a quick, bright spirit with a heart to serve others.

Nga (left) at the Global Forum along with other Vietnam team members (from left to right): Craig Slater, Kris Slater, Jill Vernon, and Randy Vernon. REI friends were excited to get to know Nga!

Ngà comes by her servant heart naturally, but as she will attest, she was greatly impacted by working alongside our own Mrs. Lien, who has served the people of Vietnam through REI for many years, as well as by the many volunteers who have come to Vietnam with REI to serve on their own time and at their own expense. Ngà was motivated to pursue a similar life of service. So in 2018 she began to explore the possibility of studying Public Health in the USA in order to better contribute to the health needs of her country. Dr. Elaine Goehner, who led our Mixed Medical Team for many years, suggested that Ngà apply to APU, where Elaine has taught and has deep roots. Ngà did so, and was accepted into their program! She arrived in California in time for the spring semester of 2019.

However, there were some initial snags. APU was just launching the inclusion of international students to their Master’s of Public Health program and for various reasons felt it best to push off that launch for a year. So Ngà, after working on her English for a semester, at her counselor’s recommendation, began a Master’s program on Leadership in the fall of 2019. She is close to finishing that degree, but recently learned that APU will begin welcoming international students to their Public Health program this fall. The doors opened quickly: Ngà applied to the program, was accepted, received the necessary financial aid for the next two years, and is now ready to go! She should also finish her Master’s degree in Leadership before all is said and done. In the future, possibly after getting some work experience in the US and seeing first-hand some of the applications in Public Health here, particularly in Health Policy and Administration, she will head back to Vietnam to serve the Vietnamese people in this strategic area.

Nga at the Global Forum. Her desire to pursue Master's degrees at Azusa Pacific University stems from her love of her country, Vietnam.

We are excited to see REI values embodied in this dear Vietnamese friend. She is an example (one of many) of what we hope to see: nationals, whether Vietnamese, Laotian, Djiboutian, Egyptian or whoever, not only growing professionally and personally, but having a desire, in their turn, to invest in their own people. Ultimately, that is what REI is all about —building people to build nations.

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