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Honor from Vietnam

Updated: Feb 14, 2020

Brian and Ginny Teel

Vietnam has long been a country which expresses its appreciation for services rendered. On December 26 of last year, Brian Teel, former Director of REI-Vietnam, was awarded the highest award given by Vietnam in the International NGO world—the “For Peace and Friendship Among Peoples” medal, presented by the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations (VUFO).

The "For Peace and Friendship Among Peoples” Award

A well-deserved award. It was actually authorized in October, 2018, but the Teels were not able to travel at that time. The award ceremony was postponed until Brian and Ginny could be in Hanoi together.

The Teels served Vietnam through REI for 20 years (and continue to work with REI, albeit in a different role). Brian’s love for Vietnam and the Vietnamese people is legendary. Shortly after stepping out of his directorship role at the end of 2018, Brian and Ginny discussed what they would do after their sabbatical (a period of rest and realignment). Ginny expressed a desire to travel to Europe. “Why would I want to do that?” Brian wondered. “I just want to be in Vietnam!”

The constraints of this article do not allow us to enumerate all that the Teels have done to help build the people of Vietnam to build their nation. But very briefly, Brian and Ginny—

  • developed the short-term volunteer programs which had been launched prior to the Teels’ tenure. As you may remember, REI works with various volunteer specialists who come to Vietnam for a week, 2 weeks or even longer, to share their expertise with their Vietnamese counterparts and learn from them in return. These programs began in agriculture, and soon expanded to medicine, education, business and social work.

  • developed the Vietnam resident team, whose members worked from 2 to 10 years or more in the universities and hospitals of Hanoi. This involved recruiting, orientation, placement and on-site care. Ginny in particular devoted herself to the well-being of the resident staff, meeting with them when she was in-country and spending many, many hours on the phone, listening, debriefing, counseling.

  • developed the Hanoi office, which serves our resident staff, our short-term professional teams, our visiting Vietnamese fellows to the US, works diligently as our contact point with the Vietnamese government and partnering institutions, and much much more..

  • made dozens if not hundreds of Vietnamese friends, relating to them not only professionally, but personally, caring for them deeply as individuals.

  • communicated monthly with REI-Vietnam’s friends and constituents, that they might be kept up to date with what was happening in the country.

  • engaged in corporate fundraising, that REI might have the necessary resources to accomplish its task.

  • wrote and responded to tens of thousands of emails ...and so much more!

At the award ceremony itself, Brian and Ginny were accompanied by their children, as the entire Teel family (almost) was in Vietnam for the Christmas holiday. It was a special moment for them, and for all who attended. Well done, Brian!

We also want to give a special shout-out to Ginny, who has served equally well, but whose name seldom appears on the awards certificates that Brian has received over the years. In recognition of this, the REI resident staff presented her with her VERY OWN award, which says, “In deep appreciation to Virginia Teel, for her years of dedicated service to REI-Vietnam.” Ginny told the resident staff that she intends to use it as a chocolate dish, which seems way more practical than anything Brian can do with his medal!

Congratulations, Brian. Congratulations, Ginny. You have served long and well, and you will be deeply missed.

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