Sustainable Programs: Investing at Grassroots for Change
A NOTE TO COLLEAGUES AND SUPPORTERS
There is a common theme that runs though the reports in this edition of our newsletter. That theme is how our programs are not simple “give aways” but rather an attempt to promote sustained change and improvements. The oft repeated saying, “give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he will eat for life” best reflects the VNAH/HealthEd approach.
Let me give you some examples:
The Vietnamese National Coordinating Council on Disability (NCCD) was inspired and fully supported in its early days by VNAH. It has become a key entity within the Government of Vietnam as well as for the international donor and non-government communities for coordinating policies and programs for people with disabilities. In fact, other countries in Southeast Asia are looking at the NCCD as a model in their own efforts to better coordinate and promote policies and programs for people with disabilities. With the support from the United Stated National Council on Disability, VNAH is working with the leadership of NCCD to improve its strategic planning and coordination. With a focus on empowering its council members and increasing the role of the people with disabilities, I believe that this, in turn, will help to generate additional local and international support for the work of the NCCD.
Working with private sector manufactures, VNAH has designed a low cost, high quality wheelchair built specifically for conditions in Vietnam. The wheelchairs that are now being produced are prized by their recipients. In fact, the two privately-own factories, at Kien Tuong and Duc Cuong in Ho Chi Minh City are expanding their capacity, hiring more people, including three workers with disabilities, to keep pace with the demand for these chairs. Clearly the small initial investment by VNAH has had a major payoff and produced a sustainable venture directly benefiting thousands of people with disabilities.
Our small grants program has directly contributed to the ability of groups representing the community of people with disabilities to present their views to government policy makers and to generate income and support from other donors. These efforts, in turn will, lead to the development of an expanded civil society in Vietnam.
Then there are the many individuals who now lead independent self-sustaining lives because of small investments by VNAH. They include a disabled veteran in Danang who received a wheelchair from the Freeman Foundation, enabling him to attend a skill training class under the Nippon Foundation-supported project. He is now able to better feed and house his family. Or the paralyzed teen in Quang Ngai province who, with a wheelchair provided by the Freeman Foundation, can now attend school with his peers and thus gain the knowledge and tools necessary to lead a productive and independent life.
Our efforts and programs have contributed to sustainable developments in Vietnam both directly in the lives of many thousands of individuals and in improved government policies at the national level – policies which affect positively the lives of millions. I hope we can count on your continued support for these worthwhile programs.