Monday, June 29, 2009

An update about the school building project in Vietnam

Dear Friends,
I'm way overdue in sending this update about the project of building the elementary school in northern Vietnam that many of you have so generously contributed to. We have made great progress toward raising the amount needed for basic construction, and hope to have secured all the necessary permissions in order to build in November.

I'm pasting below an excerpt from a letter that Phil (Deering, my Minneapolis-based partner in the project) wrote. But first, an update to the update: I will be in the village of Bac Ha, the market town closest to the school, for the month of July, working with local contacts and writing about the process, the people, and the region. I'll be posting updates on my facebook page (be my friend, if we aren't already) as well as on my (now moribund, but soon to be lively) blog (

Here's what Phil wrote:

We want to update you on progress (and some minor setbacks), so that you'll know that your money is being put to good use.

When we returned from Vietnam last June, we had our mission clear: to build a new school in the village of Tong Thoung. Here's what we've accomplished:

1. We've raised over $23,000 dollars – enough to build the two-room school as planned.

2. We have a complete architectural building plan, which has been reviewed and approved our friends at Sunflower Mission.

3. We have strong support from the local community

And here are the setbacks:

1. Phil was laid off from his job this winter. With tight personal finances,he wasn't able to go to Vietnam. As a result, we have to put the actual building off until November, 2009.

2. We've had consistent problems with the bureaucracy in Hanoi, and getting official Vietnamese Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) status for Sunflower Mission (our sponsoring US non-profit). This prevents us from some advantages that we would get from oversight by the federal government, but is really a minor inconvenience, since we are well positioned at the local level.

The plan is for Phil and Elisabeth to go to Vietnam in November of this year and work with a local company to build the school.

The children of Tong Thoung still need your help. Especially, help from young people in the US. Here's some things that would be really great:

1. If you or your school, religious group, or other group like Girl or Boy Scout troop would like to take on Tong Thoung school as a service project, please let us know. We have lots of support material to share and can promise an interesting and rewarding project.

2. If you want to make another donation that we will use to buy school materials or add to the basic plan to further improve the school with electrical generators, better hygiene facilities, etc. please make a check to: Sunflower Mission – BacHa School Project, and send it to Phil or Elisabeth (just ask for mailing address).

And now a final word from me (Elisabeth)...
Thank you for your interest and your support -- financial and otherwise. One of the greatest joys of this project for Bruce and me is witnessing the flowering of generosity from so many extraordinary friends, relatives, and colleagues. For more pictures and some video see

Elisabeth and Bruce (who won't be able to go to Vietnam, but whose love and support make it possible for me to go)
Our friend and translator Thanh talking with a student at the school
Children in class

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