Category Archives: Staff Profiles

Kim Anh Nguyen Thi feeling the love at the Friendship Village.

Supporter Spotlight: Kim Anh Nguyen Thi

Kim Anh Nguyen Thi was being oriented to the Vietnam Friendship Village four years ago by four outgoing young residents.  While being lead around the peace garden and the playground they came upon an argument.  Two residents were arguing over a favorite toy, and one of the children was crying.  This wasn’t Kim’s first visit to the village, but it was the moment she saw and understood what the friendship village is really about.  The six children were able to quickly address and solve the argument verbally, and soon were all laughing and playing again.

“That moment, I understood that they are real human beings no matter what kind of disabilities they have. They live in a family with their siblings, they also argue, tease, play, cry, and laugh together as we do, but upon all of those things, they do know how to care and love others. I want to be a part of their love, too”

Kim’s position with Vietnam International Volunteer Placement Service (VIVPS) kept her visiting each week, translating for foreign volunteers, visiting with the children, and enjoying the love of the friendship village and its residents.  She now works with the international NGO, Plan International, where she works with some of the most marginalized and vulnerable children in Vietnam on projects ranging from early childhood care and education to disaster relief.

Although Kim’s visits to the Friendship Village in her native Hanoi only come once a year now she is still touched by the energy of reconciliation present there and still wants to support the residents how she can.

“I found the residents of the VFV have been well looked after and they do live in a healthy environment. What I concern about is besides getting material supports at Vietnam Friendship Village how the VFV’s residents will be supported further after graduating or leaving VFV to live on their own.”

To that end, Kim has made a generous holiday donation to the George Mizo Fund!  This special scholarship fund has been established by the international committees to support older residents in goal setting for their personal independence and to have the means to start the journey.  Funds have already been raised to help one resident pursue a tailoring internship outside of the Friendship Village!

Donating is easy, just visit our donation page and designate your donation to the George Mizo Fund.  VFVP-USA depends on volunteers to help with our fundraising efforts.  We hope Kim’s  story will inspire other Friendship Village supporters to consider what they can do in the life of a resident this holiday season.

The Owl Famliy Band gets everyone hootin' an' hollerin'

Vietnam Friendship Village benefit concert in Yosemite!

One of the things that struck me about life in the Friendship Village, was the abundance of music and dance on a regular basis. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that a place aptly named “Friendship Village” would be a place of celebration and gathering…

On May 29h and 30st atop a hillside in Yosemite National Park, a group of musicians, DJ’s, rock climbers, National Park scientists, and yes, even fire dancers paid tribute to the celebratory spirit of the Friendship Village. In some cases the musicians were scientists, as was the case with Greg Stock, Yosemite National Park geologist, and with the ornithological crew comprising the Owl Family Band.

This community of Sierra mountain people converged on the Flying Spur to celebrate my friend Kylie Chapell’s 29th birthday, and to benefit The Vietnam Friendship Village. Kylie, Outdoor Programs Manager for the Yosemite Conservancy, was generous enough to share her birthday with the Friendship Village, and her home with about 200 Spur Fest revelers. Lagunitas Brewery was generous enough to donate the kegs and raffle items!

A fired up Party go-er.

A fired up Party go-er.

Lagunitas t-shirt raffle winner!

Lagunitas t-shirt raffle winner!

Most of the folks that came up to the event had never heard of the Vietnam Friendship Village, but as I worked my way through the crowd selling raffle tickets on Friday and gave a presentation to kick off the festivities on Saturday night, I was able to share the story of my friends in Vietnam and how their story of chemical legacy connects to us today in 2015.  The ignorance turned to interest, and then to full on rejoicing that we were able to have such fun event FOR a good cause.  People gladly purchased raffle tickets, beers, pizza, and by the end just shoved 10’s and 20’s in my hands like we were at an Italian wedding- all to support the Friendship Village and the George Mizo Scholarship Fund!

By the time DJ PT had dropped his last beat on Saturday night, and the sun rose over El Capitan, (No, really I’m not making this up) The Spur Fest family had had one heck of a time and managed to pool together $800 of their pocket change for the Village!

If you missed out on the music and dancing in Yosemite, there are a few things you can still do to share in the experience!

  1. Put up a picture of Half Dome and dance!
  2. Have a delicious pint of Lagunitas and eat wood fired pizza.
  3. Donate to our Spur Fest Yosemite! fund drive and help us reach our goal of $5,000 for the Vietnam Friendship Village and the George Mizo Fund! (Even small donations can make a BIG difference!)

Here’s how: www.crowdrise.com/vietnamfriendshipfund

The Clangers pulling at the crowds heartstrings...

The Clangers pulling at the crowds heartstrings…

Wood Fired Pizza.

Wood Fired Pizza.

DJ PT's late night closing set.

DJ PT’s late night closing set.

Lighting up the night!

Lighting up the night!

 

Meet “Little Long,” VFV’s IT Instructor

Little Long headshotThey call him “Little Long” because he is short, but if you saw a picture of him with nothing to compare his height with, you would see a normal 26-year-old man, perfect in all aspects, not dwarfed. He is just little. Long was born to a poor veteran family and has a sibling who is also very short. He could not go to school because the prevailing attitude was that it was a waste of money educating someone who was so “different.” When Little Long came to the village he met Suel Jones, a veteran of the American war (as it is called in Viet Nam) who volunteered for many years at the village. People who knew Long at that time will tell you that at first he could not even look people in the eye when talking because of his low self-esteem. He was not used to talking to anyone and would break into nervous giggles when asked even a simple question. One got the impression that he was mentally disabled. But after getting to know him, Suel realized that Little Long was in fact quite smart. In subsequent conversations, Long confided to Suel that his big dream was to study IT (Information Technology) so that he could do what every other young man does—make money, help his family, find a girlfriend, start a family of his own. To do these things he needed a profession. Eventually Suel organized a group of his expat friends to raise the money to send Little Long to school to study IT. This is how Little Long started out as a resident at the village and is now a teacher. Thanks to his own efforts and the help of many friends at VFV and abroad, Long can now look you in the eye and tell you what he thinks.

VFV Staff Profile #1

Ms. Pham Thi LongMeet Ms. Pham Thi Long, Housemother at Friendship Village. During Ms. Long’s 10 years at VFV, she has seen many children come and go. Some came in wheelchairs and left walking. She thinks that simply the improved sanitation and nutrition of the village makes a big difference in the students’ health. Many, of course, come from quite poor families where a disabled child cannot get much attention because parents are busy working. Many spent all day (and night) in one spot with little stimulation or interaction with others. At VFV they have friends/roommates who understand people living with disabilities because they themselves live with disabilities. Ms. Long has much work to do looking after so many of “her children,” but receives lots of help from the less limited-functioning housemates. She says that she just does not know what she would do if the residents did not help each other. It is just like a big family.