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Working Together to See Lasting Change

Updated: May 2, 2023

James Kang, Country Leader, Vietnam

I often get this question: “In Vietnam, REI has been partnering with various medical and business partners for over 20 years. Do the short-term teams make an impact both professionally and personally, seeing lives transformed in Vietnam?” The answer is a resounding yes!

We have combined both elements of professional development and relational, heartfelt connections with the Vietnamese, our staff and the volunteers for long-term growth and partnerships on both sides.

Here are some of the stories.

Dr. Rick Kopke (fourth from the right), REI volunteer leading a short-term medical team, with our partners in Vietnam

One of our doctor volunteers and his team have developed a deep bond and relationship with doctors at one of the major Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) hospitals, the largest teaching, training, and patient care hospital in Vietnam. This hospital has over 2,000 inpatients and 3,000 outpatients daily, with 4,000 staff. The volunteer doctor and his team will develop a cochlear implant training center at this major hospital for the next three years to train its doctors in prescreening, surgery, and post-surgery in cochlear implants.

Lien looking on at the signing of an MOU between Hough Ear Institute (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) and one of the major ENT hospitals in Vietnam

After the doctors left Vietnam to return home, Lien, a Vietnamese woman who is the director of our office in Hanoi, wrote this: “Although you said goodbye to us this weekend, your lectures, professional advice, and especially the close love you have given us are precious. We remember and cherish you every day. Media channels in Vietnam have praised your help too. Therefore, the president of the Vietnam Otolaryngology Association, hosting the ASEAN Otolaryngology Conference in Hanoi in October this year, is very pleased to send three of you invitation letters to attend the conference.”

Our REI friend Loren Lancaster, who has multiple patents, including flash technology that runs USB drives, started his own business in Vietnam. His company is called "Noble Network" and he connects US-based and Vietnam companies for businesses, which has been growing significantly in the last few years. I asked him why his company has been growing so well even with the Covid lockdowns in Vietnam, and he said it's because of the REI-trained students. He explained that 90% of his staff are trained by REI short-term business teams, and he has primarily hired these students because they understand how to work well with the US-based companies.

MJ (left) and her Vietnamese friend

REI business team volunteer MelindaJoy (MJ) met a Vietnamese woman 14 years ago as a college student at one of the universities where MJ taught. MJ has regularly connected with her online all these years and has developed a close relationship. MJ's friend asked her mother-in-law to watch her two children and took a flight from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), a distance of over 1,000 miles, arriving in the afternoon and flying home that night, to spend just a few hours with MJ.

These are just a few of many stories highlighting our work in Vietnam. We are grateful to Lien and to our short-term and resident teams for all their work in helping Vietnam. We want to develop people professionally and, most importantly, lay deep transformational roots that last forever, and we can only do it together.

Lien showing off her bike helmet

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