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From Scraps to Scale: A Week of Service at the East Meets West Foundation

From Scraps to Scale: A Week of Service at the East Meets West Foundation

In my last post, I talked about the efforts of one individual whose dedication to helping people with disabilities provided for those with the least in society.  However meaningful and impactful his work might have been, it certainly has yet to lead to the kind of game-changing outcomes that higher-capacity organizations can achieve.  In this piece, I discuss my experience with an organization where I spent the last week working (as part of my VIET Fellows service week) and who is helping to reshape the way educational, health, and social services for the needy are delivered in Vietnam: the East Meets West Foundation.

Placed inside the organization’s Support Network for People with Disabilities (SN-PWD), a program of 3 staffers primarily funded by USAID that seeks to immediately and directly help people with disabilities and improve the long-term capacity of the health care system to support these communities, my partner Janet and I would come to intimately learn about EMW’s and its efforts to help people with disabilities throughout Vietnam.  We learned that as one of first American NGO’s to operate in Vietnam, EMW has built itself into a $26 million a year operation serving thousands of poor and underprivileged Vietnamese.  We also met the people who were directly helped by its programs, including Thuy (pictured above), a nine year old girl with a leg disability that left her nearly immobile until the SN-PWD program provided her with enough financial support to receive the surgery that now enables her to run and play like any other kid.

Our time at EMW would also expose us to the possibilities of how the individual efforts of people (not unlike Thay Chau’s in the St. Francis Shelter) can be modeled, replicated, and scaled up to achieve systemic and sustainable change.  Since launching the SN-PWD program only a year and half ago, EMW’s has already helped thousands of Da Nang residents living with disabilities.  In my one week at EMW, I could not help but take away an immense sense of encouragement that a small group of dedicated individuals have been able to plant the seeds of real change toward improving the livelihoods of people of disabilities.


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