Category Archives: Fundraising

In Memoriam: David Rocovits

David Rocovits, a long-time board member of VFVP-USA, a.k.a. the U.S. Committee, passed away suddenly on January 5, 2013, of difficulties related to a blood clot. He was a good friend to the Viet Nam Friendship Village—a frequent visitor and one of its most dedicated supporters. He will be greatly missed.

David’s brother Dan has resided in Hanoi for many years, and after being introduced to the VFV on a visit to the city in the early 2000s, David made a point of visiting every time he came to Viet Nam, usually every year or two. He was invited to join VFVP-USA’s Board of Directors in 2007, and in 2010 he attended the biennial international meeting at the Friendship Village as the U.S. Committee’s official representative. Over the years, David documented life at the village with his photographs, many of which have been published in our newsletters and on our website. He was a creative fundraiser and brought in a large share of the contributions raised in the USA. Here is the bio Dave submitted several years ago for our Board of Directors web page:

David Rocovits received a BS in Civil Engineering in 1963 from Case Institute of Technology and has been a practicing engineer in Nevada since 1973. He was drafted into the army and served from 1964 to 1966 as a research engineer in nuclear weapons effects. Between 1968 and 1972 he backpacked throughout much of the remote region of Asia from Turkey to Taiwan, and developed a love and respect for the Asian people and their culture. He worked for the California Division of Highways and several consulting firms before going into business for himself, acquiring and restoring residential buildings and managing them as rental properties. Dave and his wife Amy, a native of Taiwan, have a daughter who is an attorney in Reno and a son who is a college student. Dave’s hobbies include photography, pistol shooting, and restoration of Borgward automobiles. Dave has visited the Friendship Village multiple times and enlisted many of his friends, family members and associates in his efforts to raise financial support for the project.

The Rocovits family asks that memorial donations be made to the Viet Nam Friendship Village. Checks should be made to “Vietnam Friendship Village Project USA” and mailed to P.O. Box 599, Arcata, CA 95518-0599.

NOTE: Below is a small gallery of photographs of David Rocovits, taken (with his camera) at the Friendship Village in 2008, 2010, and 2011. The solo pic is from 2010 when he represented our committee at the international meeting, as is the photo of him and Paul Wicker sitting on the bench that was arranged by Dave to memorialize Don Flaxman, a VFVP-USA board member who passed away earlier that year. Dave preferred eating alongside the children in their dining hall rather than in the guesthouse dining room. Of all our board members, Dave was the least “political” in terms of identifying as a “peace activist” or working for peace or against war in any organized way, but he really understood the importance of reconciliation. He always made a point of visiting with groups of veterans who happened to be at the village during the times he was there (with the help of an interpreter). I think part of his motivation was simply cultural exchange. He probably brought along the small photo album of his travels—the same one he shared with me when we were getting to know each other. But he undoubtedly also meant to create more positive perceptions of Americans in the minds of a number of these Vietnamese veterans, and in that I have no doubt he succeeded.

Come Sit at Our Table

US Committee table at Friendship Village

VFVP-USA members Paul Wicker, Becky Luening and Don Blackburn enjoy a meal at the Friendship Village.

As we get ready to turn the calendar page from 2012 to 2013, I want to thank all of our friends in the USA and elsewhere who have helped support the Viet Nam Friendship Village with a donation this year—whether $10 or $1,000 or more. Inflation continues to drive up the cost of food and other basic supplies around the world, including Viet Nam, so every dollar is appreciated.

If you have not yet given, I invite you to do so. Become part of our international community…come sit at our table. Make a donation to the Friendship Village today.

Whether it is time, labor or funds we donate to this project, we are all volunteers, but once in a while our contribution to the Friendship Village is rewarded. I felt like the recipient of a gift when I picked up this email message on Christmas Eve from our friend Long, who works in the computer classroom at VFV [edited slightly for readability]:

Dear Becky,

The kids and I  like to thank the international committee for your assistance and the pleasure you have brought to our lives. For us who were unlucky enough to be born with a disability, it helps to know there are people out there who understand and care about us. The gift you give us is not just a meal, but the great gift of the spirit, of sharing.

You are like the Santa Claus of the Vietnam Friendship Village.

I hope you will convey to your heartfelt charity my cordial words and wishes for good health as you continue your work in the new year.

Happy MerryChristMas from Long in computer classroom at the VietNam Friendship Village

Group photo in computer classroom

Members of the International Committee pose for a picture with computer class instructors and students. (Long is first person on left in front row.)

A Building We Can be Proud Of

US Committee members who attended this year’s International Meeting at the Viet Nam Friendship Village came home with a clear assignment: Raise $22,573 to pay for the second-story addition to the school building. The reason we happily accepted this responsibility (and more—proceeding to set a lofty goal of raising $50,000 within the fiscal year, Oct. 1, 2012 to Sept. 30, 2013) is because when the original one-story, four-classroom building was constructed in 2004-05, we were proud to say it was funded by US donations (split 50-50 between our committee and the Vietnam Children’s Fund), and we want to continue to say that. And the addition is already completed, which is how we know exactly how much is owed for the project. [Click here if you’d like to chip in!]

Blame it on jetlag: despite our committee’s close ties with this beautiful school building, I failed to bring home one photograph of the outside of the building taken from a distance, although I did take a couple shots of one of the upstairs classrooms, which has been nicely outfitted to be able to teach life skills to the children. So last week I asked our Vietnamese partners to take some pictures for me, and suggested they include some of the school children, waving from the balcony—and lo and behold, the next day, several beautiful shots arrived in my email box, along with wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Cyber Tuesday

Once again I feel I’m being pulled screaming and kicking into the holiday season. For me, today, that meant joining other  nonprofits around the world in making a “Cyber Tuesday” pitch via the World Wide Web, hoping to capture the attention of  folks who are in the giving mood this time of year. Writing an appeal is never easy for me, and is usually preceded by weeks of creative procrastination… But since I’d been thinking about possible messages during those weeks, when I suddenly decided early this afternoon that today was the day (Cyber Tuesday!), I hit the ground running. And by the time I put it all together I was feeling pretty good. Good enough to hit SEND!

Star of the MomentAlthough it took up the better half of an afternoon, one reason today’s task was enjoyable is that it gave me a chance to relive a happy evening of entertainment at the village. There were many amazing moments wrapped up in this one event. For instance, an inspiring solo performance of the Mariah Carey song, “When You Believe”… If you had asked me earlier today, I couldn’t have told you the name of the song or the original artist. But I was able to track down those details online after tapping into my memory of this young wheelchair-bound singer, whose voice wasn’t polished by any means, but who managed to find pockets of perfect, emotionally charged delivery throughout her performance. I remember at the climax, the young Frenchwoman sitting next to me thrusting her hands in the air and crying, “Yes!”

Obviously, this young “disabled” woman possesses great courage and passion (not to mention talent) to be able to solo like that in front of a large audience. It’s great to see that the Friendship Village provides a supportive environment for these young people to pursue some of their passions as well as providing general assistance for developing physically, mentally and socially to the best of their abilities.

In case you’re not already on our email list, you may access today’s message here. Please feel free to share the link… and, by the way, Happy Holidays!

Village Updates – Spring 2012

Eighteen children returned to their families in early 2012 after receiving medical and/or physical therapy, plus education, at the Friendship Village. As of mid-April, eight new children had been admitted; most of them third-generation Agent Orange victims.

Heart surgery recipient, Giang

One success story features Nguyen Thi Giang, a 17-year-old from Bac Giang Province, a current resident of the Friendship Village who was born with a severe intellectual disability. On a recent weekend visit home, over the course of one day her skin suddenly turned dark purple and her parents rushed her to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with both a blood infection and congenital heart disease. The Friendship Village’s doctor arranged for Giang to be treated at Army Hospital 103. A month later, after the blood infection was cured, the hospital’s doctors performed heart surgery for Giang, and she is now doing very well. (Treatment costs were donated by the hospital.)

Visitor Tally: Between January and March 2012, the  Friendship Village attracted 172 visitors, plus 22 groups of volunteers  from 13 different nations. Volunteers provide assistance in special education classes, the physical rehab room, and the garden.

Friendship Village Performers

Congratulations! A troupe of Friendship Village children won Second Prize among 22 groups in a singing and dancing competition organized for disadvantaged children living in Hanoi. These performances bring much joy to those lucky enough to watch them, and the creative activity is a healing force in the children’s lives.

Facility Upgrades: Three of the new residential houses built to replace those damaged in 2008 flooding feature solar-powered hot water systems. Surrounding courtyard and roads have been raised to prevent flooding during heavy rains. A new wastewater system directs water away from the residences and dining hall to a pond outside village walls.

Road construction underway at Village

In Gratitude: VFVP-USA wired a contribution of $8,000 to our Vietnamese partners on March 28, 2012, designated for general operating expenses. We thank each and every one of our supporters, whose donations, large and small, make our ongoing support of the Friendship Village possible!

2011 Holiday Greetings

Today is Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, marking the return of the light as days begin lengthening again. I hope this message finds its readers relaxing in a comfortable shelter, with access to yummy and nutritious food, in good spirits, possibly also being nourished by the love of friends and family.

Sewing student sweeps floorOur U.S. Committee (VFVP-USA) just sent our quarterly contribution ($5,000 this time) to the Vietnam Friendship Village for operating expenses. We thank our supporters for making this possible. We are glad to know our dollars will help provide additional comfort, nutritious meals, and whatever special services may be needed to enhance the future for the individuals who come to the Friendship Village for assistance, whether it is medicine, corrective surgery, physical therapy or vocational training.

ONE EXAMPLE IN PHOTO ABOVE: A malformed rib cage, curved spine and poly-arthritis make walking difficult but 21-year-old Bui Thi Hoa perseveres. Her dream is to become an excellent tailor.

A few weeks from now, children will be preparing to go home to their loved ones to celebrate Tet (Vietnamese Lunar New Year), which falls on January 23rd in 2012. By then we will have received many returns from our 2011 Appeal Letter, and will be well on our way to raising our next bundle of support for the village. Your participation is welcome! (Choose “Be a Financial Supporter” under “Get Involved” at right.)

—Becky Luening

Thank You, Austrian Friends!

On November 12, 2010, the Austrian Embassy in Vietnam hosted a Viennese Charity Ball in the Grand Ballroom of the Melia Hotel in Hanoi complete with a live orchestra from Vienna which played lots of beautiful Johann Strauss tunes. The ball was Austria’s contribution to the 1,000-year birthday of Thang Long (Hanoi) and a “first” in the city and in Vietnam. The Embassy  created a special website for the occasion.

The International Committee of the Vietnam Friendship Village (of which VFVP-USA is a member) was very excited to receive the news in early October that the Austrian Ambassador had chosen Vietnam Friendship Village Van Canh as beneficiary of the charity. In addition, delegates who attended our international meeting were treated to a fabulous dinner at the home of the ambassador on October 29.

Dinner attendees

International Committee members from Germany, Japan, France, Canada, USA and Vietnam attended the dinner hosted by Austrian Ambassador Dr. & Mrs. Heindl

We just received word that the ball raised a total of 38,485 Euro, which is equivalent to $52,406! Thank you, Austrian friends! Wouldn’t it be great if the American Embassy followed suit?!

The photo gallery below contains two pictures showing dancers getting fitted several weeks before the event and two of couples lined up on the ballroom floor on the night of the ball.

Happy Holidays from VFVP-USA

Winter solstice greetings to all of our friends and supporters with wishes for a beautiful winter season and happy holidays, wherever you happen to be, however you choose to celebrate. Our Friendship Village USA newsletter — due out in January 2011 — will feature a report from our Oct. 2010 international meeting in Hanoi and a photo spread with all the latest updates, including a brief financial report.

If you want to make a year-end donation to the Vietnam Friendship Village, you may do that through this website (see donate button at lower right) or simply send a check or money order to: VFVP-USA, P.O. Box 599, Arcata, CA 95518. As always, every bit of support is greatly appreciated. Happy New Year!