Lac Son, April 2002
Team XVII. After four days of sightseeing in Hanoi, Team XVII of the VVRP traveled to Do Luong, Nghe An Province, in April 2002. Of the eight members on the team, six were Viêt Nam veterans. This was the third VVRP team to work at this center. Our team assisted with the construction of a three-story building to be used as classrooms at the Humanitarian Vocational Training Center in Do Luong. Mr. Thuc (director of the center) started the center three years ago to help disadvantaged children of Nghe An Province obtain marketable skills, such as carpentry, sewing and motorbike repair. In Viêt Nam, parents must pay for their children to attend school; many poor families cannot afford to send their children to school. As Nghe An is one of the three poorest provinces in Viêt Nam, Mr.Thuc recognized the need and opened the center. Some of the beneficiaries of this school are teenagers and young adults who are either orphans, suffer from learning disabilities, or have birth defects from agent orange. With the training they obtain, they will be able to earn an income in spite of their disabilities. Kindergarten classes are also conducted at the center.
When we arrived at the work site, the second floor of the building had been poured, and work was beginning on the exterior walls of the second floor. By the time we left (nine days later), the exterior walls were completed and preparations were underway to pour the third floor. Additionally, the plastering of the first floor interior walls commenced during our stay. The VVRP and East Meets West each have provided $8,000 toward funding this building. More funding is needed for the completion of the building. Mr. Thuc is hopeful the provincial Dept of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs will also contribute funding for the completion of this building, but that was not determined during our stay. It is crucial to raise the needed money by the time Team IXX travels to Do Luong in April 2003, because the integrity of the building can only withstand one monsoon season exposed to the elements. So far, the center can accommodate 100 to 250 students. Mr. Thuc’s goal is to be able to increase the capacity of the center to 700 to 1,000 students. He also wants to start a toilet paper factory on the property so the center can be self-sustaining. Mr. Thuc attended meetings with provincial officials regarding this factory during our stay.
Team XVII members made some spontaneous donations during our stay. Jim spearheaded a donation to purchase a machine shop tool for the carpentry class. A donation was initiated by Barbara and Mary that purchased five new sewing machines and a finishing machine for the sewing class. Bob and Joan made a donation to purchase an electronic keyboard for the kindergarten class. Material for new uniforms for the kindergarten class was also purchased, and the newly sewn uniforms were worn by the kindergartners during our closing ceremony!
The Vietnamese at the Humanitarian Vocational Training Center offered us warm hospitality and great food, thus new friendships were forged. A Memorandum of Friendship was signed by Mr. Thuc and Jim Truitt, president of the VVRP, at the closing ceremony. All of us were quite impressed with the fact that the Vietnamese want to put the past behind them and move on. It was extremely rewarding to see the vets toasting “Hoa Binh” (peace) with their new Vietnamese friends. The Humanitarian Vocational Training Center of Do Lu’o'ng serves an important function, and everyone on Team XVII was very happy to be part of such a worthwhile endeavor.
Joan Casey, Team XVII, April 2002
Note: In March, 2003, following the postponement of Team XIX, the VVRP provided the Do Luong Vocational Training Centre for Children $8,000, which was matched by a grant of $8,000 from East Meets West. These funds were used to complete the construction of the three story classroom building, a project that was to be undertaken by Team XIX.