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Update: The VVAW Thanh Binh School Library Project
By Chuck Theusch
March 23, 2020
We have made progress on the Binh Thanh Library, in spite of internal political tensions and the global consequences of the Coronavirus.
The original site has been approved after some efforts by another community to have it built at their school. Poverty and need being what it is in this part of Vietnam, the tensions between local Districts is understandable, if not a good thing from the perspective of sponsors such as our Library Project and VVAW.
In a series of phone discussions, email exchanges, and video conferences, Tran Thi Bich Khoi, Chuck's Executive advisor (and wife) from Quy Nhon and the headmaster of Binh Thanh, Mr. Hao, worked with the People's Committee Vice-Chairman of Giong Trom Tre District. Mr. Hao literally took the Vice-Chairman of the People's Committee to the ill-equipped reading room this school now has to see its size, poor condition, and severely limited resources. This is what resulted in the go-ahead.
While it is now temporarily on hold due to the impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we are moving forward with plans for commencement as soon as possible upon the re-opening of the school. Binh Thanh, like all the schools throughout Vietnam, has been closed since March 1 and will remain so until April 30, 2020, according to the current government directives.
Chuck's Mission #53, originally set for March 4-30, 2020, was postponed due to the travel limitations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan was to have met two times with the local leaders to kick off this project. It will advance as we will prepare a separate commitment document via the wonders of the internet rather than waiting until we can get to Ben Tre in person. The project may then commence work as local government restrictions on activities will allow.
Our Mission #53 trip is now scheduled for May 28, 2020. No matter what, life goes on, this small but meaningful project being an inspiration in its support thanks to VVAW and its timing, given the fates.
Axiomatic among humanitarian organizations across the globe is the fact that once someone identifies and begins a project in a geographical locale and human field of great need, it will inspire more support among other missions. And so it is with the VVAW's Mission in Giong Trom Village's Binh Thanh School.
The Swim Strong Foundation of New York has developed a program for swimming safety and fun for kids of all ages. Its mission is the safe, yet fun, use of water and a healthy respect for its risks for kids as well as adults.
The connection? Because VVAW is sponsoring the Library at Binh Thanh, it led to the Headmaster bringing to our attention a risk that kids face throughout Vietnam, in particular areas such as the Mekong River Delta where this Project is located: the many drowning deaths of children. Indeed there is a mandatory swimming class at the school because of the frequency of injuries and deaths because of the low water table, and kids' access to "swimming holes." There have been, as is all too frequent, several drownings in the last year of kids from the school.
Whether or not we get a "Swimming Hole" funded, we will be presenting the copyrighted Swim Strong teaching programs, translated into Vietnamese, to address this deep local concern at the VVAW Library. Coupled with English Language supplemental instruction and computers, the Library will be a major development in Giong Trom's educational infrastructure and "eyes on the world" features.
The universal nature of this library's impact in this community cannot be overstated. It is "Why We Build."
The local authorities are hardworking and dead set on getting this Library and associated programs up and running. Mr. Hao has passed on higher positions in the District education administration notwithstanding several chances to "move up." He prefers working in the trenches with the teachers and kids rather than from the skies with the high-end administrators.
Ms. Thao, English educated in London, returned to her village where she was born, a case of coming home to help the people of her home town rather than moving to a major city or abroad for greater opportunity. That is the same personal story of the architect retained to build the VVAW Project. This is EXACTLY what we look for in our local people who will make the project a success.
Many thanks to VVAW for this major sponsorship of the kids of Giong Trom. We will keep you advised of the timeline for the groundbreaking, construction, dedication, and handover. When the global issues settle down we will be able to provide a timeline for travel to VVAW members, families and friends.
After that, we kick in our long term commitment—"We Always Come Back." The dedication is the beginning of the VVAW Project, not the end of the Project. It is truly a commencement of a new day in this war-torn region of old South Vietnam. Vietnam and America traveling into the future hand in hand.
Chuck Theusch is a Vietnam Veteran of the US Army, 4/3 Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, Vietnam 1969-70.
He is the founder/CEO of the Library of Vietnam Project.
Future VVAW library.