Pictures speak: A creative way of communication in maternal healthcare

Story and photos by Ms.Huyen Hoang, MCNV Board of Director, captured from a field mission in Sepone district, Lao PDR in early September 2023.

Ms. Chung is a 32-year-old woman living in Stuak Nai village, Sepone district, Laos PDR. She has 5 children (4 girls and one boy) and is at her 5th month pregnancy with her 6th baby.

I came to visit her on 4th September 2023 while she was being checked up by one village health worker.

After briefing Ms.Chung about the visit, the village health worker proceeded with weighing the mother and recording the information.

She later asked Ms.Chung to lay down for the fetal position check and fundal (belly) height measurement using her hands. A small doppler was used to detect the baby’s heart rate.

Ms. Chung later shared with me that she was very happy to hear her child’s heartbeat.

After the check-up, the village health worker showed Ms.Chung a set of picture cards to discuss on maternal health. The cards are made double sides, one side featuring picture that the mother can see and know what it is. The other side was a key message of a topic that the village health worker wants to deliver.

The set of cards that were being used to communicate with Ms. Chung is for women at 4-6 months pregnancy. They contained the information on what the women should do and should avoid, also including what support the husband and other family members can provide to her.

Looking at a card with a picture of a husband carrying heavy stuff for the wife when she is pregnant, Ms. Chung laughed while shaking her head to signal the opposite. What she meant was: women in the area often do this kind of work (carrying heavy things) and there is no different even if they are pregnant.

The picture cards made the discussion become more cheerful and interactive.

In the conversation, I asked Ms. Chung about what she did with her previous pregnancies. She said that for each pregnancy, she would go for one time check-up at the health centre (about 14 km away) when she was about 6–7-month pregnant. In her case, her husband accompanied her to the health centre. All of her 5 children were delivered at home and with the support from her husband, who held her from the back. All other things, including cutting of the umbilical cord was done by the woman herself. With this 6th pregnancy, the village health worker came to her house to do the check-up. This village-based service is available thanks to the project ‘Together in action for mother and child health‘ funded by AFAS Foundation and implemented by MCNV in coordination with Sepon district health authority./.


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Living in the embrace of forests

Writen by: FSC International

Photo by: Phan Tan Lam

Forests are an essential part of people’s lives in Chenh Venh village and Ho village, located near the rainforest-covered Viet Nam–Laos border in Quang Tri Province, central Viet Nam. Their inhabitants belong to an ethnic minority group called Van Kieu, and they have been living in and around these forests for decades. The residents of Chenh Venh village belong to the Huong Phung commune, while those in Ho village are a part of the Huong Son commune.

In November 2021, 1,561 hectares of these forests received FSC® certification, becoming Viet Nam’s first smallholder group to become FSC certified for community natural forests. In addition, three species of bamboo are certified for sustainable harvesting and product manufacturing. Harvesting any other species of timber from these forests is strictly forbidden.

Both villages belong to a group dedicated to sustainable forest management: the Association of Smallholder Forest Certification Groups of Quang Tri Province (SFCG Association). Most households are members of the village-level forest protection committees, thereby giving every member of the village a sense of belonging and involvement in matters related to the forests.

Ensuring the well-being of the forests was an integral part of their lives long before they even heard about FSC; the communities protect the forests and all life living in it from poachers, illegal loggers, and anyone who threatens the peaceful balance of nature. Why do the inhabitants of Chenh Venh and Ho villages invest time and effort in protecting and caring for the forests?

The value of forests

The culture and traditions of the Van Kieu people hold forests in high regard; they believe that once a person dies, their final resting place is in the forest. They have demarcated specific areas in the forests where they put their dead to rest. These areas are highly sacred, and no one is allowed to enter and disturb this resting place. Another cultural practice involving the forests is seen during the autumn festival. The people make offerings of food and incense to the deities residing in the forests, and ask for their blessings and protection from natural calamities.

These forests act as a watershed area for this region and sustain the stream that runs through the forest. For the inhabitants of Chenh Venh village, this source of water is very important. Paddy cultivation is their primary source of income and the water required for their crops flows through the forest. The forests also ensure that the region receives high volumes of rain to keep the river from drying up.

The communities share a symbiotic relationship with the forests – while they protect and care for the flora and fauna, the forests provide them with a rich variety of non-timber forest products. Sustainably harvested bamboo is slowly becoming a lucrative source of income in Chenh Venh. The communities have set up entire processing units to produce eco-friendly and biodegradable drinking straws made from a species of bamboo called Le Xanh. The stem of this type of bamboo is hollow and narrow. The stems are cut, boiled, dried, and then shaped into straws. Most bamboo products such as these drinking straws along with glasses, bowls, and small boxes are channelled through a cooperative called Nhien Thao, a Vietnamese handicraft organization that sells these items through stores such as Hoi An Roastery, its own store in Dong Ha, and online.

The region has been growing tung trees, and the oil extracted from their seeds is popular for using as a wood varnish that protects wood from insect infestation, and strengthens it. The villagers collect tung seeds and sell them to a company in Ho Chi Minh City that processes them into varnish. They also collect lime, lemongrass, and other leaves and seeds that are used in unexpected ways. For instance, the black locust seeds are used as a natural shampoo, and betel leaf extract is used for treating tooth and skin problems. Soap nuts, which are also collected from these forests, are a naturally occurring soap for bathing and hand washing. The forests are also a rich source of spices such as cinnamon, and various herbal and medicinal plants.

“We have discovered valuable resources that are abundantly available in the forests. We get food, medicines, and materials for making our houses. We don’t need to go to a pharmacy for stomach aches and soap – we get natural products directly from the forests,” said Ho Thi Xang, giggling, a young mother of two children and member of a patrol team.

Partnering to protect natural forests

Throughout our visit, we saw time and time again that protecting the forests is taken very seriously by the Van Kieu people. Both villages have established their own well-planned schedules for patrol teams, which visit the forests three to four times a month to check on the well-being of the forests. These teams usually comprise five members, all of whom voluntarily sign up for this job even though it does not bring any immediate income. Both men and women sign up for the patrol teams.

“Forest patrols don’t seem like work to us. We feel very connected to these forests,” said Ho Xa Lang during an informal chat over tea. He is a member of a patrol team from Ho village.

Medical Committee Netherlands – Viet Nam (MCNV), an NGO working in these regions for many years, helped the villagers undergo the process of becoming certified. It started with obtaining membership of SFCG and progressed to understanding the value and benefits of FSC certification. MCNV has been working with Chenh Venh and Ho villagers to develop better and more sustainable forest management practices. These include an innovative mobile application for forest management that enables the patrol teams to upload important data about flora and fauna, in real time.

Since receiving FSC certification, the patrols have been intensified to meet the certification requirements. They have also improved data collection methods, so that audit requirements are met. The mobile application for forest management is helping them in many ways to better protect the forests. In addition, MCNV has been instrumental in providing capacity-building training to the villagers, exposing the villagers to global best practices in sustainable harvesting and forest management. Using this information, the villagers are adapting their management and harvesting practices to improve the health of their forests. MCNV has also helped the villagers to identify the economic benefits of non-timber forest products that have been procured and used for generations. With the help of internationally funded projects, MCNV is creating market links for these products.

It’s evident that the local communities cared deeply about taking care of their forests long before becoming certified. But with certification, they can access new resources to improve the practices they have already employed for generations.

“Forests give us food, medicines, and material for building our houses. They also protect the stream that provides us with water for our paddy fields and for the people in the villages. They maintain the balance in the weather and protect against landslides. And now, with FSC certification, we can make bamboo products using sustainably harvested bamboo; there is a lot of demand for such products,” said Ho Van Chien, the head of the Chenh Venh Commune Forest Protection Committee.

Future aspirations

The inhabitants of Chenh Venh and Ho villages, with the help of MCNV and funding from the European Union, are beginning to realize the tremendous value in the work they are doing and the resources they are protecting. The forests hold great significance not only for them, but for the entire world.

They are now seeking to obtain Chain of Custody Certification from FSC for all the non-timber-based products that they are learning to make – bamboo straws and other products such as penholders and glasses. FSC certification will enable them to access better markets and prices for their products. They are also hoping to achieve FSC’s ecosystem services certification, which will enable them to benefit from carbon capture and biodiversity.

The certification of these forests has thrown a spotlight on the forest management practices of the Huong Phung and Huong Son communes. Several communities from other parts of Vietnam and the region are interested in learning from them. This will potentially lead to more forest areas becoming FSC certified, thereby ensuring their sustainable management.

These forests are a great example of the power of local communities joining forces with FSC to ensure their beloved forests remain healthy and resilient, for generations to come./.


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Occupational Therapy Conference 2023: A new milestone

The Occupational Therapy Conference 2023 was organized by the University of Medicine and Pharmacy (UMP) at HCM City in collaboration with MCNV on July 17th, 2023.

The conference brought together 500 participants, including 200 in-person and 300 virtual participants. The participants were representatives of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Training, National Action Center for Toxic Chemical and Environmental Treatment (NACCET), USAID; representatives of Vietnam Rehabilitation Association, rehabilitation health facilities, medical universities.

Samantha Shann, MSc., WFOT President, member of the Steering Committee of the World Rehabilitation Alliance (WRA), World Health Organization, delivers her speech on “WFOT; Promoting the value of OT

With the participation of the President of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) and accredited OT experts from Australia, India and Vietnam, the conference aims to provide a platform for Occupational Therapists and interested health professionals to exchange knowledge and experience, improve their expertise and expand their network.

Induction of the OT Network in Vietnam

At the conference, the OT Network in Vietnam was officially introduced to the public for the first time.
This Conference is organized as part of the “Development of Occupational Therapy Education in Vietnam” project implemented by MCNV under the ADMIRE project sponsored by USAID via Humanity and Inclusion (HI)./.

Photos of the event:

OT Conference keynote speakers, MCNV Country Director and members of the OT Network in Vietnam

Assoc.Prof.Ngo Quoc Dat, Vice President of UMP, speaks at the conference.

Indian stories of indigenous splints and adaptive device‘ presented by Assoc.Prof.Shovan Saha (President of Indian Hand Therapy Society, lecturer at Manipal Academy of Higher Education) Assoc.Prof.Shovan Saha was the recipient of several awards by the All India Occupational Therapists’ Association (AIOTA) and also the inventor of four patents.

OT Neuro rehabilitation for stroke survivors” presented by Prof.Anne Cusick (Chair in OT, University of Sydney). Prof.Anne Cusick has 40 years of experience in holding academic teaching/research appointments and higher education academic governance leadership roles.

OT – one of the great ideas for the 21st century presented by Prof.Lynette Mackenzie, Vice President, Asia-Pacific, WFOT. Prof. Lynette Mackenzie is the author of the well-known HOMEFAST toolkit, which is used to assess the risk factors for falls at home for the elderly.

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[Vacancy] Field Staff in Quang Nam

Send your CV to or (Ms.Nhung)
For Job description, please refer to the file attached below:


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[Registration Open]: Occupational Therapy Conference 2023

The Occupational Therapy Conference 2023 will be held on July 17th, 2023 in HCM City with the participation of the President of the World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) andOT experts from Australia, India and Vietnam. The conferenceaims to provide a platform for Occupational Therapists and interested health professionals to exchange knowledge and experience, improve their expertise and expand their network. At the conference, the OT Network in Vietnam will be officially introduced to the public for the first time.

This Conference is organized as part of the “Development of Occupational Therapy Education in Vietnam” project implemented by MCNV under the ADMIRE project sponsored by USAID via Humanity and Inclusion (HI). MCNV is honored to collaborate with the University of Medicine and Pharmacy at Ho Chi Minh  City to organize this special event. ,

-Time: July 17, 2023.

– Venue: UMP Grand Auditorium, No.217 Hong Bang Strt, Dist.5

-Language: English & Vietnamese

*In -person and virtual participation available.

Register via QR code on the poster or via link:

Registration deadline: July 6th, 2023

For more details, please refer to the attached poster and agenda.

*Conference agenda

We look forward to receiving you at the event!


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Vacancy: Program Officer & Field Staff

MCNV is a Dutch-based NGO, with an international network working in the fields of health development, social inclusion, livelihood development in responding to climate change, and value chain. Currently, MCNV has run 12 projects in 17 provinces of Vietnam. During the last 20 years, support for people with disabilities (PWD) has become a main program with high priority of MCNV in Vietnam. MCNV is going to implement the USAID-funded Inclusion 1 Project, which focuses on rehabilitation services and medical care for PWD in Quang Tri, Thua Thien Hue, and Quang Nam provinces. 

We are looking for two positions for the Project as follows:
– Program Officer: 1
– Field staff in Quang Nam: 1

For more details of the tasks for this position please refer to the Job Announcement attached.

If you are interested in this job opportunity, please email your application letter and CV to and, quoting the position title in the email’s subject line.

The application deadline is 17:00, June 29th, 2023.



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