Friendship Foundation of American Vietnamese

Another Wonderful Project

By Luong Thi Gia Hoa Ryan
Executive Director

"How will this year's Project turn out?"

That is always the question that repeats itself over and over in my mind during the months leading up to our annual Children's Volunteer Projects in Vietnam.

This year was no exception. We worry so much about every one of our volunteers. We worry about their health and safety. We worry about their flights. We worry if they will find the right hotel. We worry if all their baggage will show up in Vietnam.

This year, our Foundation sponsored one of the largest group of volunteers that we have ever had for one project. Sometimes it is hard for a large group of people, all with their very different and enthusiastic personalities, to work together. But we were blessed this year with an outstanding coordinator, Lisa Boden, who was very ably assisted by Nick Wilson, our Assistant Coordinator. Lisa was our "Military Commander" because of her Army background, and Nick, of course, was our "Father Confessor" because he said he was still thinking about a priestly vocation. They made an excellent leadership team that inspired us all.

We were doubly blessed by all the hard-working and dedicated volunteers who gave up their holiday season to join this year's Project. I remember our very first night together when all of our volunteers, despite feeling tired after their long work weeks and long plane rides, spent many hours putting together the food and supply packets for our humanitarian activities. It was not only that our volunteers worked hard, but also they laughed and smiled as they made new friendships and renewed old ones.

This is a journey that every human being on Planet Earth should make.

I do want to thank especially Scott Carmichael who joined us for a second time on our Projects and who oversaw all the supply activities as our Supply Coordinator. He knew all the different supplies and donations we had, as well as how much we had and where everything was stored. Because of such efficiency, in military terms, he was an excellent G-4.

We conducted many wonderful activities this year. We sponsored two major Health Fair Days, one in Long An Province and the other in Khanh Hoa Province. For the first one, we teamed up with the wonderful doctors of Nguyen Tri Phuong Hospital, and the Women's Union of HCMC. We owe special thanks to St. Louis Businessman Thomas Seeger whose warm generosity provided for the medicines and helped make this Health Fair Day a success. For the second Health Fair Day, we worked with doctors from the Khan Hoa Provincial Hospital. These collaborative efforts bring together so many people and groups. Truly these are international efforts at building bridges of friendship. We also began new efforts this year at helping the people of Indochina. For the first time, we went to Cambodia, also known as Kampuchea. Of course, we saw the breath-taking temples and palaces of Angkor Wat. This is a journey that every human being on Planet Earth should make.

We also began two new efforts. The first is a scholarship program for needy students at Bak Touk School in Phnom Penh. We also are assisting a Cambodian psychiatrist who treats many poor people including those who suffer terribly from the memories and cruelties of the Pol Pot Regime. Also we continue to work with Star Kampuchea which is a very dedicated Cambodian Charity organization.

I must thank those who made this issue of the Friendship News into a reality of well-edited articles and professional layout. Our Editor in Chief, who did so much to gather the articles from everyone with his persistent encouragements and meticulous editing, deserves our congratulations. Thank-you Editor-in-Chief Phillip Alma. He was very ably assisted by three had-working Editors: Keri Damen, Liz Xavier, and Michelle Sand. We owe much gratitude to Peter Nguyen, an outstanding artist and lay-out expert, who has put together these three beautiful installments of the Friendship News Journal. We also cannot forget to thank his wife Susan who graces the front page of the First Installment sitting in the middle of all the Vietnamese students she met.

I also want to thank Judy Peters, the CEO of Bridgeway. This is the community mental health organization that welcomed my dream of beginning the Asian Community Mental Health Project and provided a home for this. Judy is a very dear friend and supporter of our Foundation work. She also gave up her holidays with her family and friends in order to volunteer for this project. A nurse, a confidante, an adviser, a willing listener, our medical consultant, a contributor, a " big sister and mother," Judy was these and more for this Project. We owe many of our accomplishments to her efforts.

"So how did this year's project turn out?" "A smashing success," as our British volunteers would say. All of you, and I repeat, all of you devoted your time and resources, your hearts and soul to bring help and happiness to people in Vietnam. I know they are grateful for what you did and I am grateful. Looking back, there was no need for me to worry. So now I shall have to begin to worry about next year's Children's and Education Project. Say some prayers for this next Project.

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Meet foundation Vice Director Joe Meissner.