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Visit to Laos and Vietnam

Pieter van den Hombergh is a member of MCNV’s Supervisory Board, since 2016. After a brief flirtation with MCNV as a student in 1968, he became a tropical doctor and worked in Tanzania and Kenya. Later, as a family doctor in Almere city, he also remained active for Africa. At the end of 2018 he visited Vietnam and Laos on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of MCNV.

“I had not been in Vietnam since 1995, when there were still mainly bicycles in Hanoi. MCNV’s 50th anniversary was a great opportunity to visit Laos and Vietnam and I decided to take a holiday trip there together with my wife and some relatives. We cycled from the old Laotian capital Luang Prabang all the way to Vientiane and from there we took a plane to Vietnam. Laos had always been a mysterious distant land for me. It is a poor country but it is rich in culture. A country with very charming people and in the MCNV office that was no different. LEARN and Canteen are the MCNV projects in Laos, LEARN conducts research into nutrition and mother & child care. The Laos government is eager for health data in order to develop better policies, and the first LEARN reports have been greatly appreciated. A very nice project that leads to many contacts back and forth with VU and Wageningen and to exchanging of students.

Heart-warming event

The 50th anniversary ceremony of MCNV in Hanoi was a big success. For the fourth time already, MCNV received the Medal of Friendship from the president of Vietnam, presented by Mr. Don Tuan Phong of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations. We were moved by the many large flower bouquets and congratulation gifts, including carvings made by handicapped people in the various MCNV projects. An emotional and beautiful film was shown with archive footage and reports of current projects, that showed 50 years of MCNV pass in a nutshell. The film featured Ad Spijkers and Ron Marchand, former MCNV staff members. The event was very well organized by local MCNV staff. One staff member – Hieu – had arranged for everyone in Laos and the Netherlands to be able to watch it live on Facebook. The ambassador of the Netherlands spoke, the Vietnamese TV broadcasted a summary and it hit the front page of the Vietnam Times. Everything that makes MCNV so special became clearly visible: the quality for everyone, but especially the less fortunate and people with disabilities, to engage in inspiring activities, in progress. So beautiful and heart-warming. Many were clearly emotional during the event and I felt that lump in my throat too. The event concluded with a stand-up buffet and beautiful music.

To experience the added value of projects

That Sunday we went to see a Microfinance project that was once started by MCNV. The chairwoman together with 20 other women received us and offered us tea with guava and pomelos. A number of women told us frankly and in detail how they had used the loans, often only a few hundred dollars, and how it had helped them to regain spirit and also some more purchasing power. They invited us in their homes and we could see how one woman had invested in wood, to make alternative medicine, another woman had bought pomelo trees and showed us her orchard, and a third woman showed us a fish pond, where unfortunately all fish had been washed out during a recent flood. They all mentioned how the cooperative had united them. The resulting bond was also an important added value of this project. For me it was not only a special and useful journey but also a journey in which I understood what the MCNV feeling is. After experiencing how honest and heart-warming all the projects are and feeling the dedication of the staff, you understand what drives them.”

Pieter van den Hombergh, vice-chairman of the Supervisory Board

*Photo: Mr. Pieter van den Hombergh (second from left) on behalf of MCNV to receive the fourth Medal of Friendship from the Vietnamese Government.

 

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Working together, out of poverty together!

As soon as we cross the bridge over the Mekong River, the landscape changes. We enter the southern coastal province of Ben Tre, on our way to Binh Dai district. The many waterways make it impossible here to grow crops or to raise livestock on a large scale. The water is brackish and that makes the soil unsuitable for almost all crops. On pieces of land we see coconut palms and some houses. Along the main road there is more activity, a workshop, coffee shop and a few small shops have survived with minimal resources. The people in Binh Dai are poor, you can see that immediately. Many families are even extremely poor, and for them MCNV has started Micro credit projects ten years ago.

In 2009, the Women’s Union asked MCNV for support to provide loans to women in the poorest villages of Binh Dai, so that they could buy a cow, a goat or a couple of ducks to supplement their income. In the beginning the women struggled to repay the borrowed money. Some groups now succeed in providing loans using the paid back money. They save a little together and help each other out if they have trouble paying back, for example because a goat dies. They absorb setbacks in the group, thus creating a social safety net. The MCNV project staff supervise the credit groups, giving practical advice and organizing simple training courses on how to handle, borrow and save money. For these women, MCNV’s supervision is indispensable for now, as they are not yet fully confident.

After ten years, aren’t we done yet?

No, we are not there yet. Our experiences with other projects teach us that it takes longer to structurally improve the living conditions of the poorest people. We devised a plan to let more women and their families benefit from the positive effect of the credit groups. By working together in a cooperative production group, such as a mushroom farm or a fish drying facility, the women together can borrow a larger sum of money and thus earn a more stable income. The first groups started in Binh Dai in 2016 and we hope to be able to start another 22 together with our partners until 2020.

What do we know about mushrooms?

Nguyen Thi Anh Tho (37, son of 11), leader of the oyster mushroom group in An Phu, at first thought it would be impossible to grow mushrooms. “We had to come up with something to make money, because the vegetable and fruit harvest often failed because of the brackish water here. The Women’s Union told us: why don’t you grow oyster mushrooms, that is a good product to sell. But what did we know about that? We started in 2016 with 20 women and a loan of 186 million Dong (approx. 7000 Euro) and we received an explanation from a man who knew everything about oyster mushrooms. By working very hard, we have managed to earn a steady income. Our group now has 27 women. We are very proud of that!”

Phan Ngoc Minh is 36 and has 2 children aged 10 and 14. She enjoys working here. She used to be a tailor but there was not much demand for her work, she also works in rice growing. “Working in a group is good for me, I use the extra money for food and school expenses. I can now buy more for my children. I work here 8 hours a day. What is the best part? Harvesting the mushrooms!”

More work for more women

Along the road, in My Chanh village, we visit the new cooking group of leader Hong Van. She says: “Almost everyone works here during the day and there are many large gatherings such as weddings and funerals. It takes the villagers a lot of time to cook for all those people. We offer to cook at people’s homes or we prepare the food at home in my kitchen and then take it away.” By working together, the women will soon be able to cook for large groups of up to 600 guests, they calculated. Because most women work in the fields or keep a cow, and have no experience cooking for groups, they started following a cooking course together. Hong Van: “With the money loan, we will soon be able to buy cooking utensils, bowls, chopsticks, and even a refrigerator. And if all goes well, also a motorbike with a trailer to be able to deliver the food faster.” These women are enthusiastic and have plenty of plans, and when they leave they proudly offer their self-made calling card from the Hong Van Cooking Group.

Our request from you

We request your (extra) contribution this spring so that MCNV staff can continue to supervise the credit groups in Ben Tre. It is not easy to find extra money for these costs, the project money is only meant to give loans to the women. That is why we ask for your help! With an amount of € 20,000 the MCNV staff in Ben Tre can continue their advisory and support work until the summer of 2020. Only with your support can we continue to help the poorest women!

By Saskia Stevens

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MCNV celebrates 50 Years in Amsterdam

Some 175 guests attended the 50th anniversary of MCNV in Amsterdam. Donors from the very first days of MCNV, Mr. Pham Toan Thang and Mr. Nguyen Hai Tinh from the Embassy of Vietnam, staff from Vietnam, Lao PDR and Amsterdam, Supervisory Board members, ex-staff, ex-board members, Ms Mette Gonggrijp from the Dutch Ministery of Foreign Affairs, project partners and friends joined in the celebration in Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam.

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50 years MCNV: untold stories

Another article about MCNV on the occasion of the 50th anniversary is posted on the Vietnam Times of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations. Information and stories about MCNV’s former advisor Ron Marchand and loyal donor Suus van Hekken are lively shared in this article. Here is the link to the article.

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Improving the communication on sexual and reproductive health for high school students in Dien Bien

On July 30 2018 at the Meeting Hall of the Dien Bien Department of Education and Training, a workshop was conducted to expand the project on “Improving the communication on sexual and reproductive health for high school students in the mountainous areas of Dien Bien province” in 2018.

Participating in the workshop were Mr. Pham Dung, MCNV’s Vietnam Country Director, Mr. Mai Van Tien, Head of the International Cooperation Unit, Department of External Relations, Dien Bien province, Mr. Nguyen Manh Quan, Deputy Director of Dien Bien Department of Education and Training, and representatives of the High School Department, Head Masters and Youth Union’s Secretaries of two boarding schools for ethnic minority students in Dien Bien city and Eastern Dien Bien district.

Mr. Pham Dung, MCNV’s Vietnam Country Director and Mr. Nguyen Manh Quan, Deputy Director of Dien Bien Department of Education and Training were signing into the contract to expand the project.

Mr. Pham Dung, MCNV’s Vietnam Country Director and Mr. Nguyen Manh Quan, Deputy Director of Dien Bien Department of Education and Training were signing into the contract to expand the project.

As in the plan to expand the project, MCNV will support the two boarding schools for ethnic minority students in Dien Bien city and Eastern Dien Bien district with EUR 7,000 to improve the communication on sexual and reproductive health for high school students in the mountainous areas of Dien Bien province in 2018, between July 2018 and October 2018.

The main purpose of the expansion is after the project ends, about 900 students at ages 15 to 19 will be equipped with better knowledge, awareness and behaviors about sexual and reproductive health. At least 60 high school teachers will have better knowledge and skills to communicate and teach their students about this issue.

Mr. Quoc Anh, MCNV’s Program Coordinator explained about the expansion of the project.

(Dien Bien Department of Education and Training)

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PACCOM issues Working License to MCNV Vietnam

On August 6, 2018, at the Vietnam People’s Aid Coordinating Committee (PACCOM), PACCOM’s representatives awarded the working license to MCNV Vietnam. The license will be valid until February 4, 2023.

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departure of general director Guus Paardekooper

Last week, after a period of extensive discussions, the Supervisory Board of MCNV and Guus Paardekooper, General Director, have decided to end their collaboration. A difference of opinion on the MCNV policy for the coming years and more specific on its strategy and timing are at the root of this decision.

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Developing Bachelor’s curriculum of Rehabilitation Techniques with Specialization in Speech and Language therapy

Since October 2017, MCNV has started to implement the project “Development of Speech and Language Therapy Education in Vietnam”, for 5 years from October 2017 to September 2022. This is a component project under the DISTINCT Project by VietHealth, with fund from USAID. The goal of the Project is to establish a solid foundation for development of an official education system of Speech and Language Therapy (SALT) profession in Vietnam.

The University of Medicine and Pharmacy at Ho Chi Minh city (UMP) and Da Nang University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy (DUMTP) participate in this project as implementing partners to MCNV.  Trinh Foundation Australia (TFA) participates in this Project to coordinate participation of Australian SALT lecturers from different Australian universities as a technical consultation partner to MCNV.

In two days of October 2nd and 3rd 2018 in Da Nang, MCNV and Da Nang UMTP co-organized the Workshop “Developing curriculum for a Bachelor of Rehabilitation Techniques with Specialization in Speech and Language Therapy” with technical consultancy from Sydney University from Australia. This is the first activity of cooperation between MCNV and Da Nang UMTP to aim at developing a training curriculum and implementing a regular training course in Bachelor of Rehabilitation with specialization in speech and language therapy.

Participants of the Workshop were national and international specialists, educators, managers from health care education universities and the Ministry of Health.

The objective of the Workshop was to develop a Vietnamese contextualized curriculum for a Bachelor of Rehabilitation Techniques with Specialization in Speech and Language Therapy..

In the Workshop,  a draft of a training framework and curriculum for speech and language therapist at bachelor level was developed and commented. After this Workshop, MCNV and related counterparts will continue working together to finalize the documents and make them available and ready for application in the coming 2019 – 2020 school year in Da Nang UMTP.

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Celebration of the MCNV’s 50th anniversary

On November 16th 2018, the celebration of the MCNV’s 50th anniversary took place at the International Convention Center, Hanoi. Participating in the event were about 150 guests representing a wide range of Vietnamese institutions and partners.

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MCNV anniversary event in Amsterdam – livestream

1968 – 2018 marks 50 years of MCNV

Founded in Amsterdam in November 1968 as one of many Dutch solidarity movements, MCNV managed to change with the times, turn into an international NGO and remain relevant to the Dutch-Vietnamese relations and cooperations and of importance for the Vietnamese and Laotian people. Read more for a link to the livestream.

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