I-THRIVE Project – Workshop to Develop Outlines for a 12-month Course in Speech and Language Therapy, and Physiotherapy

On August 22, 2019 in Da Nang city, the Medical Committee Netherlands – Vietnam (MCNV) and Da Nang University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy organized successfully the workshop “Developing Outlines for a 12-months Course in Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) and Physiotherapy (PT)”. The workshop was attended by nearly 40 delegates representing the Medical Service Administration, Ministry of Health; Vietnam Rehabilitation Association; the Center for Creative Initiatives in Health and Population (CCIHP); Health Departments of Quang Nam and Thua Thien Hue Provinces; Hue University of Medicine and Pharmacy, Hai Duong Medical Technical University, Da Nang University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy, Ho Chi Minh University of Medicine and Pharmacy; Thua Thien Hue Rehabilitation Hospital and a number of NGOs that have implemented training projects on Rehabilitation.

The Project “Interdisciplinary rehabilitation services supporting children with intellectual and developmental disabilities to thrive” (I-THRIVE) is a 3-year project, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), with project owner is CCIHP and MCNV is the co-implementing unit.

The project has 3 specific objectives, in which MCNV is in charge of the objective “To enhance the capacity of rehabilitation professionals, focusing on district level, with 3 specialties of Physiotherapy (PT), Occupational Therapy (OT) and Speech and Language Therapy (SALT)”, implementing with a number of international and national universities. The development of outlines for a 12-months course in SALT and PT is an activity that helps achieve this important objective.

Dr. Le Thi Thuy, Vice Headmaster of the Da Nang University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy stated to commence the workshop.

According to the need assessment conducted by MCNV and CCIHP, Vietnam is now facing a big gap in providing rehabilitation services, especially SALT and OT services. The demand for rehabilitation of people is big while services of health facilities, especially at the district level are still limited. Technical rehabilitation services focus only on PT while there have been no technical services for SALT and OT. Rehabilitation services for children are currently in serious shortage. Rehabilitation services for children only focus on PT for children with cerebral palsy and support a few autistic children with speech and communication disorders. Other challenges that Vietnam faces relate to the lack of well-trained human resource for rehabilitation, especially in the areas of SALT and OT; the equipment for the supply of rehabilitation services is also very modest. That is why CCIHP and MCNV proposed the project “Interdisciplinary rehabilitation services supporting children with intellectual and developmental disabilities to thrive” and approved by USAID.

Dr. Pham Dung, MCNV Vietnam Country Director sharing about the I-THRIVE project.

Coming to the workshop, MSc. MD. Le Tuan Dong, Head of the Rehabilitation and Inspection Department, Medical Service Administration, Ministry of Health expressed his confidence, believing that trainees after taking a 12-months course in SALT and PT would be able to provide rehabilitation services in community, help narrow the gap between needs of SALT and PT in practice. At the same time, MSc. MD. Le Tuan Dong also showed his expectation that the outlines for a 12-months course in SALT and PT would be completed and replicated in other places in the country, not just in two project provinces Quang Nam and Thua Thien Hue.

MSc. MD. Le Tuan Dong, Head of the Rehabilitation and Inspection Department, Medical Service Administration, Ministry of Health giving a speech at the workshop.

At the workshop, delegates had the opportunity to discuss about the outlines of the 12-months course in SALT and PT. The overall objectives of the two programs are to train technical rehabilitation technicians specialized in SALT and PT with ethical ethics, knowledge and skills on SALT and PT; help future staff members to be able to work in team work, be creative, give the best services to patients, contribute to the protection, care and improvement of health and well-being of the target groups, and help create positive changes for these groups.

Group discussion about the outlines of the 12-months course in Speech and Language Therapy and Physiotherapy.

It is expected that after finishing the course, the trainees will be awarded with certificates of the 12-month course in SALT and PT along with detailed transcripts. The number of credits and training time will be under the current regulations of the nation.

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Vietnam has the first batch of bachelors in occupational therapy

This is the significant result of a 5 – year project (2016 – 2020) on Development of Occupational Therapy Education in Vietnam funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through Humanity & Inclusion (HI) and the Medical Committee of Netherlands-Vietnam (MCNV).

The project is piloted at Hai Duong Medical Technical University (HMTU) and the Ho Chi Minh City Medicine and Pharmacy University (UMP) with aims at addressing the big gap of occupational therapy human resource in Vietnam through create enabling conditions to establish education of OT professions in Vietnam, including provision of OT educators, and development of a standard competency-based curriculum that can be recognized in the region, as well as training materials and strengthened Government policy on OT.

Representatives of USAID, MCNV, HI, Hai Duong Medical Technical University and 36 OT Bachelors in a group photo.

It has received huge support from Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Training, Vietnam Rehabilitation Association (VINAREHA) and experts from large rehabilitation centers and hospitals. Furthermore, the project is implemented with technical support from Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India who has over 50-year experience in OT training and development.

Addressing at the event, Mr. Anthony Kolb, Acting Director of Environment and Social Development, USAID expressed his delight to witness the graduation of the first Occupational Therapists in Vietnam and said that the result marked a milestone on the development of OT profession in Vietnam.

“Assisting persons with disabilities has long been one of the top priorities for the USAID in Vietnam. Since 1989, with the establishment of the Leahy War Victims Fund, USAID has worked to increase to a variety of programs benefiting people with disabilities in conflict – affected countries”, he said.

The U.S Government has contributed more than USD100 million toward improving the quality of life of persons with disabilities, by addressing medical and social needs, improving disabilities policies and reducing physical and social barriers. Over 30.000 people with disabilities have received support from USAID. Beside the direct support, USAID is working with other stakeholders to improve the quality of services for people with disabilities in Vietnam.

Mr Anthony Kolb, Acting Director of Environment and Social Development, USAID, giving the Bachelor’s Degrees to OT students.

In the world, the OT profession has been evolved over the last 100 years to become an essential part of comprehensive rehabilitation services. Being aware of its crucial role, the Vietnamese Ministry of Health vision 2030 strategy recognizes OT as one of the required, specialized fields in rehabilitation. As such, the Ministry has made it obligatory to establish OT Department in Rehabilitation Hospitals and teams of OT in Rehabilitation Department of Provincial General Hospitals.

However, before the aforementioned course was established, OT educational programs in Vietnam did not exist. Therefore, to help address this need, USAID provided a five-year grant (2016-2020) to HI and MCNV to support development of the OT professions in Vietnam.

Dr. Le Tuan Dong, Head of the Rehabilitation and Medical Examination Bureau, sent his sincere thanks to International organizations such as USAID, HI and MCNV for assisting the Vietnam healthcare system through providing educational program on OT at bachelor level as well as the development of this new profession.

“This educational program has helped students understanding basic concepts of OT and achieving new knowledge then later on will be applied in our daily works at hospitals. In some hospitals, OT labs have been set up recently. It brings more opportunities for us in clinical practices and placement right after graduating the course” said Nguyen Phu Sy – one of the new graduates.

Nguyen Phu Sy on behalf of new OT bachelors giving a speech at the graduation ceremony.

According to MCNV Country Director Dr. Pham Dung, besides providing technical supports for OT education, in the time to come, MCNV also focus on vocational consultancy, policy development… to ensure Vietnam’s manpower sustainability in both quality and quantity.

During the project life, 05 selected lecturers UMP and HMTU have been sent to Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India to enroll in the Bachelor programme in OT.  Since March 2017, a total number of 57 students have enrolled in the OT courses at bachelor level at HMTU and UMP. Two (02) OT labs also have been set up in those two universities to support for practices and clinical placements during the courses.

The Vietnam National TV – VTV4 came and reported the event, please see the programme here.The news about the OT Graduation Ceremony is from minute 10’54 to 14’04.

The original link, please see here.

By: Phi Yen – Van Nguyen

Vietnam Times

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Magazine 2019-2

Magazine in Dutch
Magazine 2019-2

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“Versatile approach takes time, but it really works”

Interview with Marijke and Pieter

“Versatile approach takes time, but it really works”

By Saskia Stevens

Marijke Postma-Rustenhoven and Pieter van den Hombergh, chairman and vice-chairman of the Supervisory Board of MCNV, visited Laos and Vietnam in November because of the 50th anniversary. A great opportunity to see with your own eyes how MCNV works and to listen to the findings of colleagues on the spot. Back in the Netherlands, they face some tough issues: which approach do we want to take in the coming years in cooperation with Vietnam and Laos? What is the best way to continue to use half a century of knowledge and experience gained in Vietnam for the people who need it so badly? And also: is it still necessary? Marijke and Pieter share their personal thoughts.

Pieter: “For me, a project like LEARN * in Laos is a good example of the type of activity that MCNV could focus on in the near future. We bring together students, doctors and scientists from our network to investigate health issues together. With the results thereof we are helping the Laos government, which is really desperate for this type of information, so that they can make better decisions to help the population.”

Marijke: “LEARN combines three spearheads of our work. What we do has scientific value for the longer term and we enable the government to develop substantiated policies based on advice. And people get practical solutions for their health and nutrition. That is an extension of the traditional “charitas” idea. Helping people becomes more interesting if you know how to translate your method into training and education, and to a better government policy.”

Pieter: “Take the project of the teenage girls in Vietnam who too often get pregnant too early and therefor have to leave school. The project was set up with limited resources and it is now ready for the next step, making the results visible and measurable: a good project evaluation is desirable. But we need extra money for that. I think the MCNV donors still want to support that. Based on fifty years of experience, MCNV has a well-considered approach, with the result that the government regularly follows our advice. Practical experience combined with research and well-founded advice thus offer a coherent approach that is also interesting for other organizations.

Solidarity forever

Marijke: ”Of course, our donors nowadays care for other topics than they did 50 years ago. Emergency aid is no longer needed, but there are vulnerable groups, particularly in rural areas, that are in danger of lagging behind. Solidarity with these groups, the basic idea we had in the sixties, still has not changed. Our colleagues in Vietnam tell us what is happening within these vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups and the government listens to our policy advice. MCNV really has something to offer in that.”

Pieter: “To visit an MCNV project is a must for all donors who have not yet been to Vietnam. It was a pleasant sensation for me to see that we experience the same concerns and compassion as our Vietnamese colleagues and partners. Vietnam has developed strongly in a materialistic sense. It is also great to see that there is so much compassion among the population with people who have less.”

Continue independently in Vietnam?

Marijke: “We are still thinking about MCNV becoming independent in Vietnam. In principle, the identification of problems and thinking up solutions can be done entirely in Vietnam and Laos, that goes without saying. The question is if and how we can support that. MCNV is now an International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO), but in order to develop ties with the population and to find a sufficient number of donors among the Vietnamese population and the Vietnamese business community, it is necessary to set up a local NGO in Vietnam. You simply cannot raise funds in Vietnam from the office in Amsterdam. There will mainly be moral support from the Dutch office when setting up a local NGO, because the projects are continuing and funding from the Netherlands remains needed. The Dutch donors are indispensable, they are still the backbone of MCNV.”

Pieter: “We could think of good new themes for our work in Vietnam, but the basis is improving health, well-being and living conditions. Ultimately, that is a very broad range, because climate change and the promotion of entrepreneurship also influence people’s well-being. I don’t think our approach should change in the coming period.”

Why continue to invest in MCNV projects?

Marijke: “MCNV is very good at Community Based Development, the development of people from within the villages and communities themselves. And I want to emphasize that in this organization nothing sticks to the fingers, which is a very important issue among donors, and rightly so!

Pieter: “MCNV has its roots in the communities, our projects are based on solidarity and they are concrete, appealing projects. The commitment of the fellow workers in Vietnam and Laos is fantastic.”

* In Laos the five-year LEARN program (Lao Equity through policy Analysis and Research Networks), is largely funded by the European Commission, and aims to improve the capacity of health institutions and health policies both within Laos and in the wider Mekong region.


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Dreams become deeds

Staying healthy, finishing school, finding a job. When you are 15 years old and you grow up in a remote, poor village in Central Vietnam, some basic conditions for a ‘normal’ life seem to be lacking. MCNV started a project in Huong Hoa in which we look beyond the health of teenage girls. 

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“We now think differently about disabled people”

Ngoc Lan, staff member of MCNV for 20 years

“We now think differently about disabled people”

As soon as we meet each other in the lobby of the hotel in Dong Ha, Nguyen Ngoc Lan spreads her arms and walks towards me with a smile. A cordial and inviting gesture that, according to all of MCNV colleagues, is characteristic of Ngoc Lan. She is a doctor, worked as a project manager at MCNV in Quang Tri for almost 20 years and left the organization at the end of 2018. While enjoying a cool glass of fruit juice I ask her to look back on the many projects in which she participated. Does she see improvements in the lives of the people she has supported?

Ms. Ngoc Lan, staff member of MCNV for 20 years

Compared to the past I certainly see improvements in the lives of the disabled,” says Ngoc Lan. “Soon after I started at MCNV in 1999, I went to see a poor family with four disabled children. Try to imagine that, four seriously ill children in one family, who received no help or support whatsoever. Imagine the struggle of the parents to improve the situation. After the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a guideline on the inclusion of disabled people, MCNV, together with partners, devised a comprehensive approach to tackle the problems of disabled people. Good results have emerged from this.

” Having a disability, getting married was once unthinkable”

People with disabilities were dicriminated in the past, but when they stood up and started working, they got respect from the people around them. For the first time their lives moved upwards instead of spiraling downwards. People with disabilities who are getting married, for example, this was previously unthinkable in Vietnam. Most disabled people can now develop better physically because they can use guidance and physiotherapy at a young age. They have more self-confidence and can participate better, they learn that in the organization for the disabled. But that did not happen overnight. It takes a lot of time, we have been busy improving the living conditions of the disabled for 20 years. And we could only achieve that together with our very valuable partners and donors. The motto of the disability organization is: we learn, adapt and change. We learn, adapt and change, that also applies to MCNV.

“I am proud of what MCNV has done and I believe that much more can still be achieved, together with partners and donors.”

Already ten years later much more support was available for people with physical disabilities. But there was nothing at all for people with epilepsy or schizophrenia, for example. They were given some form of medication and nothing else. The medical staff was not trained to help these people in their daily activities or to improve their lives. Thanks to subsidies from the TEA (Transition in the East Alliance) program, from 2011 onwards, MCNV could implement a number of Mental Health projects. The changes we saw there were not so many in quantity, but essential in the quality of the lives of these people. Their family members were taught more about the illness of their loved ones and how to deal with their problems. We also trained the medical staff to better tailor the medication to suit the patient and the disease. There has been lot of progress, at relatively little cost, and MCNV can be proud of that.”

Support for school project

Ngoc Lan: “Another important project is waiting for support from MCNV. Two years ago a study showed that high school students suffer from depression, behavioral disorders and stress. More than 20% of 12- to 20-year old students have trouble in their lives. The rise of social media in Vietnam plays a role in that, because young people experience pressure to always deliver and be popular. Teachers can see these problems, but generally do not know how to support their students and, in serious cases, guide them towards professional caregivers. MCNV made a training plan for this, but we’re now waiting to implement it because unfortunately there is no money available. I hope that in the near future there will be money made available for this project still.”

By Saskia Stevens

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Biogas in the memory of a donor

Tom Fluitsma is an MCNV donor and has been an active volunteer from 1999 onwards, as an editor of MCNV Magazine and as a tour leader of donor travels. He has often traveled in Vietnam, with and without donors. This year he writes columns about special memories of the times he was there.

Mr. Tom Fluitsma, MCNV’s donor


November 1999. My first visit to Vietnam. Of course, we also visit the Mekong Delta for a few days. Our travel guide takes us to tourist sights. Sometimes he adds a small surprise to our program. For example, we visit a small farming village in the delta. We walk into the yard of a family and are warmly welcomed in their wooden house. There are a few large pigs in a pen next to the house. We exchange some courtesies and the guide translates: ‘You are welcome in our house. Take some of the fruit on the table’, ‘Thank you so much, kind of you to receive us’. In the meantime, I can’t keep my eyes off a giant plastic bag hanging under the roof of the house.

Pigs. In the Netherlands we like pork chops or bacon. We keep a lot of pigs for that, about 12.5 million. The manure of all these pigs is useful in agriculture, but it also produces a lot of greenhouse gases. We can hardly use that with global warming going on. No surprise, therefore, that this topic gets attention in the draft climate agreement. One of the many documents associated with this agreement contains the following proposal: ‘Processing and valorization of all fresh pig manure in closed regional clusters into green energy, substitutes for fossil fertilizer and valuable fertilizers’.

Biogas. In Vietnam there are 4 million pig farmers. There are differences between Vietnam and the Netherlands, but one thing is the same: Vietnamese pigs also produce manure and that manure also produces a lot of greenhouse gases. In November 2018, an interesting article was published in our NRC newspaper about a study into the extent to which countries succeed in offering their population a good standard of living, without exceeding ecological limits. Vietnam does relatively well in that study. Nice detail: almost 10% of pig farmers have a biogas installation. The article reminds me of my visit to Vietnam in 1999.

Back to the Mekong Delta, November 1999. I’m still looking at that giant plastic bag hanging under the roof. Our guide notices. That was exactly his intention, he didn’t take us to this family for nothing. He no longer leaves me in suspense: “This farmer has a few pigs. He collects the manure in the sealed container that you see there. He leads the biogases that are released upwards into the big bag in that thick plastic hose. At the back of the bag a black tube goes to the gas burner in the kitchen. This is how this family cooks, on free gas’. A special place of interest, off the beaten tourist paths. That was in 1999. Now, twenty years later, there are 350.000 pig farmers in Vietnam with an installation like that. As far as I know, Vietnam does not have a climate agreement, but the pig farmers there are well on their way to ‘processing and upgrading all fresh pig manure in closed region clusters into green energy’.


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New project on the realization of land use rights for ethnic minority people with disabilities (PWD)

On June 28 2019, at the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Hanoi, the Embassy and MCNV signed the official contract on the “Realization of land use rights for ethnic minority people with disabilities (PWD) in Dakrong and Huong Hoa districts, Quang Tri province”. This project is under the Accountability Fund supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

The project will be implemented in 18 months, focusing on the issue of land use rights for PWD in two poor mountainous districts of Quang Tri province – Dakrong and Huong Hoa. The main objectives of the projects are: 1/ to facilitate stakeholders in certifying land use right certification and providing lands for housing and production for PWD in Huong Hoa and Dakrong districts; 2/ to include PWD into the provincial policy No. 10/2018 on supporting lands and land use right certification for the ethnic minority poor and the poor living in extremely disadvantaged areas; 3/ to increase awareness of PWD on land use rights, related policies, services and procedures to access these rights; and 4/ to improve organizational capacity for Quang Tri Disabled People Organization (DPO) in advocacy and land use right for PWD in the province.

Through this project, MCNV expects to support local partners to make efforts in lobbying and advocacy to improve the situation of the land use right. The key partner of MCNV in this project is the Quang Tri DPO, which includes the Association of PWD, Agent Orange Victims, and Sponsorship for PWD and Child Rights Protection of Quang Tri Province.

Represented in the contract signing were Ms. Anouk Baron, Second Secretary on Political, Press and Cultural Affairs of the Embassy of the Netherlands, and Mr. Pham Dung, MCNV Vietnam Country Director.

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Huyen Hoang appointed Board of Director

The Supervisory Board of MCNV is pleased to inform you that as of July 1, 2019, Ms Huyen Thi Hoang is appointed as Board of Director of MCNV and as of that date the Board of Director and the staff of the Amsterdam office will be fully operational again.
Together with the other members of the Management Team (country director Lao PDR Rebecca Derry and country director Viet Nam Pham Dung), she will be responsible for the organization.
With this appointment the transition period will come to an end by the first of July 2019 and the Supervisory Board will resume its responsibilities. We are looking forward to a prosperous cooperation.

Ms Marijke Postma – Rustenhoven
Chair of the Supervisory Board


Huyen Thi Hoang

I studied my bachelor degrees in Hanoi, Vietnam (English and Law) and a Master degree (applied anthropology) in London, UK. Between 1993 and 2013, I worked with several international NGOs in Vietnam through which I gained extensive experience in management, in research, and in program implementation concerning health, education, protection and social inclusion involving vulnerable groups of people including children, street youth, ethnic minority people, women, drug users, sex workers, MSM, transgender and others.

In 2013, my (Dutch) husband and I decided to relocate to the Netherland for our now teenage children’s further education. During the period 2013 – 2018, I served as co-founder, management board member and part-time research investigator for the Center for Applied Research on Men and Health (CARMAH), a Vietnamese NGO that implements and evaluates evidence-based health interventions for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community in Vietnam. In 2016, I started to work as volunteer with MCNV in the Amsterdam office for 2 days a week. Since 2017, I have worked 3 days a week with MCNV as senior program advisor, focusing on institutional acquisition and program management.

I’m looking forward to working closely with MCNV’s management team members and other colleagues in Amsterdam, Vietnam and Laos to bring forward continuity and achievement of MCNV’s strategy.


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