Carol Sherman, former Country Director.
I had the privilege of serving as the Country Director for CARE in Vietnam between 2003 to 2007. Not having visited the country before, I will never forget the first night I arrived. Met by a small group of CARE Vietnam staff, I was showered with an abundance of flowers, beautiful smiles and words of welcome. In the following weeks I quickly became immersed in discovering the extent of the diverse work that the team had already embarked upon. Getting to know about ‘social evils’ and the stigma around HIV/Aids was a first lesson I had to understand. It was both inspiring and heartwarming to see the team programming and mentoring small community-based self-help groups of former intravenous drug users and watching them grow into free-standing agencies able to reach out to help so many people living with HIV/Aids. Working together they would tirelessly find ways to break down the negative connotations around the disease. CARE staff worked in partnerships with the Women’s Union and so many others to provide new and positive messaging so people would begin to change their attitudes ensuring that life could be lived with dignity, and support would be provided.
Another truly memorable time with the team came with the early days of the outbreak of Avian Influenza. With great foresight of the former emergency manager and others, we were one of only two INGOs able to attend the Second International Conference on AI in Ho Chi Minh City. Wondering at first how CARE could help in this looming crisis, it soon became obvious that while we were surrounded by politicians, academics and health experts, very few knew how to reach the communities around the country with types of messaging that would easily be understood and appropriate. In those highly worrying days when focus was on a possible pandemic, CARE Vietnam was able to help shape and join in the fight against the outbreak with relevant and effective community interventions.
We were also fortunate in the time I was with the team to win two relatively long-term projects designed to bring water and sanitation interventions as well as resilience programming to thousands of families across districts in the south. The team were truly amazing in pulling together a suite of practical low-cost ideas with the participation of many of the communities. New offices, new staff, partners and communities saw the organization moving into yet another chapter, making sure it was carrying out its vision and mission.
So many stories to remember. So many wonderful dedicated and fun-loving people who made up the extended CARE family in Vietnam. I will always be grateful for having been part of the team. Wonderful to hear that the team powers on! Congratulations.