Chairman of Danish Vietnamese Association pleads with Scandinavians in Vietnam to support local NGOs in the promotion of equal opportunities, education and healthcare.
This June, 2016, the Danish Vietnamese Association (DVA) was awarded with The Friendship Order of Vietnam by President Quang.
With the order the Vietnamese government acknowledges DVA’s 40 years of work in Vietnam’s health and social sectors. A work carried out on a voluntary basis by Danes with a firm belief that such work is in the end in everybody’s interest.
And today we see the results: we can all rejoice in the general rise in the living conditions of the Vietnamese. And we, Scandinavians, rejoice in the new business opportunities the growing wealth offers. Many of which derives from goodwill and friendships nurtured by decades of support from our governments and the efforts of Scandinavian NGOs.
But as a side effect of the economic growth, less fortunate Vietnamese are at the risk of being left behind, as international donors leave the country. This is the case with marginalized people such as ethnic minorities, farmers living in secluded areas, migrants, women, street kids, handicapped and people with illnesses.
Local NGOs have shown a great ability as drivers of change for those people. One recent example is the remarkable change in attitudes towards homosexuals – driven by the push from local NGOs.
But the decline in donor funding is leaving the local NGOs moneyless and the results are already starting to show.
Let me use our own partners as examples: our Shelter Collection is supporting Little Rose Warm Shelter in Ho Chi Minh City – a shelter for sexually abused girls aged 9-18. With the support LRWS has been able to deliver security, schooling and life skills training to 22 girls at a time. But now more beds are left empty. The few donations they receive can no longer cover the costs.
Likewise, our partner in our Children’s Rights project, Ho Chi Minh City Child Welfare Association (HCWA), is presently finalizing a report based on a survey on the living conditions of 100 street kids. The survey shows that the street kids lacks basic healthcare and access to education. Many of them are exposed to drugs and to financial and/or sexual abuse.
When our project terminates in less than two years HCWA will no longer be able to advocate these children’s rights to the authorities, nor will they be able to provide them with healthcare or help them get away from the streets. Unless new donors show up, they will be left to their fates in the streets.
With the growing wealth, the Vietnamese should themselves take responsibility for their less fortunate countrymen. But such a responsibility does not come overnight. And this is where, I plead with you, Scandinavians, to be ’frontrunners’ and show the Vietnamese how the support to Scandinavian values that paved the way for yourselves – such as equal opportunities and universal education and healthcare – is not a charity but an investment in future potential and human resources.
I know many of you are already involved in charitable work. But I ask you to take it a little further – to support existing local NGOs on a regular basis so their knowledge and experience is not lost – and for those of you in executive positions to commit your companies to support and cooperate with local NGOs – and not least, to advocate this kind of responsibility to your local business partners.
We cannot and should not enforce our Scandinavian values on the Vietnamese society, but we can show the Vietnamese that taking care of marginalized people is an investment rather than a charity. An investment to the mutual benefit of us all.
Little Rose Warm Shelter is a refuge for young girls who are survivors of sexual abuse in South Vietnam. In the past 20 years, LRWS helped more than 800 girls escape sexual exploitation. Little Rose offers a wealth of resources to victims, including outreach, psychological rehabilitation, healthcare and vocational training programs.
The Shelter Collection supports the operation and activities of LRWS.
Read more at www.sheltercollection.org
Ho Chi Minh City Child Welfare Association is a Vietnamese NGO founded in 1988. HCWA has the mission to protect, care and educate children in difficult circumstances in Ho Chi Minh City.
During 18 years of operation, HCWA has helped more than 500,000 children and adolescents in difficult circumstances directly or indirectly through 65 programs, community based projects and warm shelters.
Read more at www.hcwf.org.vn
Danish Vietnamese Association is a Danish NGO promoting friendship and organizing cross-cultural activities for Vietnamese and Danes. DVA was established in 1976. It runs two charities, The Shelter Collection and Hospital Equipment for Vietnam, and carries out development projects in the health and social sectors. In Denmark DVA organizes cultural events and publishes the quarterly magazine VietNam Ajour.
Read more at www.davifo.dk
By Jonas WS Andersen, Chairman of the Danish Vietnamese Association