Vietnam Volunteer Experience
by Brenda Lazarus

(published in the February 2014 issue of Annuntiatus)

A fortuitous meeting with three Vietnamese colleagues at the Biennial Conference of IASE in Vancouver, British Columbia, in July 2014 led to a volunteer experience at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Pedagogy. The invitation was to work with faculty on an understanding of specific learning disabilities (LD). I flew to Ho Chi Minh City and conducted workshops in January 2014 for faculty of special education, primary education and psychology, as well as for invited colleagues from the district special education office.


It was a challenging task, given my lack of speaking Vietnamese, but the young faculty members who had studied in the UK/USA provided translation of my presentations. Mary Gale Budzisz was my able co-presenter and we were treated wonderfully by Dean Ha and her faculty. Mary Gale brought lots of teaching aids, courtesy of the IASE GIVING Fund, for their assessment center; rolls of Velcro got the biggest squeals from the faculty. While in Ho Chi Minh City, we also visited the Santa Maria Clinic (another IASE volunteer site) and met with Dr. Giang and five psychologists. We discussed how they could adapt the Brigance Inventory of Early Development for their clients. The Brigance was given to them in March of 2013 by IASE and they translated the entire protocol. We also visited the Blue School, a new school that is in the process of becoming an IASE site. It is directed by IASE member, Sharon (Roni) Chavez, and is designed for children with autism and other developmental challenges. We presented to parents and were able to involve them in sharing of ideas.


After the university workshops, we flew north to Hoi An to visit another IASE site, The Dien Ban Day Centre. Once again, Mary Gale delivered manipulatives for the school and rolls of Velcro for communication books. We discussed the intake assessment tool they developed from the Brigance Inventory of Early Development with the expert help from Peng Eng, an Australian volunteer. Then we took one of the young staff members to Danang with a “wish list” to shop at the local economy rate. It was a treat to see the excitement of the staff when we returned with a van full of supplies and teaching materials.


As with any volunteer experience, I learned so much myself and hopefully, the recipients of our volunteer time learned some things as well. It was a fast-paced eight day volunteer experience, but one that I will not forget. It was a great chance to see the work of the IASE in action helping people who were truly appreciative of the assistance we were able to provide.