Meet Rotary District 5690 Meet East Meets West

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March 16th 2008
Published: March 16th 2008
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A Vietnamese boyA Vietnamese boyA Vietnamese boy

The benefits of clean water will weigh heavy on the life of this boy
Meet Rotary District 5690 meet East Meets West


“The ability to meet current needs without compromising future generations”
East Meets West Foundation

At the District Conference in Hutchinson Kansas in 2006 our Rotary District was asked to participate in a village water project in Vietnam. Our fund rising was not completed until the next District Conference in Ulysses one year later.

This was a partnership of several Rotary Districts with East Meets West Foundation. EMW is a foundation that has worked in Vietnam since 1988 and certainly one of the largest Non-profit organizations working in Vietnam.

In 2006 EMW programs totaled 13.1 Million dollars and served over 1, 1 million people. Their main interest is safe water and literacy. That is exactly the two main priorities of Rotary International.

East Meets West has two divisions: One Grassroots Programs, which focus on Community Development, Health and Well - Being and Disadvantaged Families, primarily in rural areas. The other division is a Large Construction Company that you will hear more on in a later blog.

Rotary has a history of partnering with other organizations that can show the need and skill to carry out a mission. Rotary does not however just write checks and forget the mission. Some accountability has to take place. In EMW we have that accountability in an audited statement that EMW publishes that shows 92 cents out of every donated dollar goes directly too the programs. That is an incredibly high percentage.

The Rotary Foundation likes to say that every penny donated is used on the projects but that is only after the money is held for three years. At five percent interest a year that adds up to 15 percent so we can really only say we spend around 85 percent on the projects and meet the four-way-test in my opinion.

If a project is done right there will be administrative costs. All organizations have administrative cost.

On top of every Rotary project is the cost of the promoters of the project to inspect and verify the project to the members back home. That is where I fit in on this project. Since I was the one promoting it, I felt I needed to verify what it was to the members back in my district, Rotary District 5690 Kansas and Oklahoma. Rotarians that do this do it at their own expense. I have spent most of my time in Vietnam traveling at my own expense to verify the programs that Rotary has invested in.

Verifying a project with EMW was the easiest and most rewarding time I have spent in Vietnam. They are a truly professional group of people that know what they are doing. I visited with EMW staffers; a water project being considered by a Village, one under construction and one completed village water project.

We rode a van to the East Central part of Quang Nam Province, rode motorbikes and walked to get to the projects. One part I got to drive the motorbike and my passenger Ms Tam said I was a good motorbike driver. “Do you ride motorbikes back in the USA?” No I said, but “I have plenty of experience on a bicycle.”

Every phase of their operation was interesting. They are totally professional and have the experience to make every project successful.

Their key word in all projects is “sustainable.” Sustainable development as their Executive Director John Anner puts it:
“We care deeply about the long-term success of project and the ability of local communities to
Water tower under constructionWater tower under constructionWater tower under construction

Houses all the treatment equipment on the bottom floor.
keep things going after we finish a project. We strive to avoid common pitfalls often seen in the developing world; a program being abandoned for lack of funding, a project falling apart surprisingly soon after being built, innovative ideas failing when faced with harsh realities of life in a rural village.”

I can testify to this. I have seen good projects, well intended by their promoters because of the lack of sustainability, lack of accountability and lack of knowledge of the situation by the providers, although well intended, fail.

The key to EMW success is their professional staff. None could be better than Hoang Thi Hang Tam, Vice County Director and Nguyen Quy Senior Site Supervisor. They are in country people who have the technical skills but also the knowledge of experience to what makes the project successful. I also worked with Luong Thi Khanh Ly and administrator Officer of Clean Water and Sanitation Program and Long Huyen Ton Nu To Hanh and Adminstrator and Sanitation Program on Officer of Clean Water. They are all bilingual skilled professionals.

Ms. Tam also talked about sanitation and hygiene. EMW also has a hygienic toilet program. The main part of the program she promotes for EMW is some everyday hygienic habits the villagers should adopt like washing their hands with soap more often, especially when caring for babies, going to the toilet etc. It has been proven that sickness can be cut 40 % just by employing some of these simple skills

You remember your Mother asking before meals: “Have you washed your hands?” In the Vietnam News recently they had a story that said only 12% of the Vietnamese do that task. That is some of the basic hygienic skills EMW tries to teach.

This is a program that EMW should be invited into every library. It is part of the eleven steps to a successful library that I am pushing. This would be under health forums. This would be easy to do if the people building libraries would turn over the contact information to EMW, they could contact the libraries and schedule a health forum. This would bring people in to the libraries and they would learn what is available to them.

Ms. Tam is a Vietnamese, has over 14 years experience with EMW. She is married to an EMW staffer, an American, but does
Formed Concrete SpacersFormed Concrete SpacersFormed Concrete Spacers

Everything is made right on location
not plan on United States citizenship. She intends to work and die in Vietnam. She not only has the knowledge and technical skills but the passion for these projects.

It was fun watching her conduct the meeting with the overflowing crowd at Bình Phù Village. After giving a program which went over every phase of the operation she opened the program for questions. She handled every question with ease and professionalism. I missed taking a photo of it but when they voted to participate it looked like close to 100 percent of the villagers raised their hands.

I inspected a completed water system at Bình Chành. This was identified as a Rotary Project and our District Name should have been on the plaque but we didn’t get our contribution in soon enough so we will be on another village water system.

At Bình Chành I learned another thing about EMW. They are not afraid to change. They, like any good professional outfit will learn how to do things better. The water tower in this instance has several improvements over the first tower they built.

In this village I got to see the finished product. Good, clean water supplied right to every house. What an improvement over walking in some cases miles to get dirty water.

This rural water system brings water to each household for 2500 dong a cubic meter compared to 3,524 dong in the city. The villagers cost covers the operation, repairs and funds to sustain the system for the foreseeable future. It also covers the salary for the water supervisor, who takes care of the system, tests the water and collects the water fees.

EMW guarantees the system for one year and trains the personnel involved on how to run it. They also conduct water manager meetings every year to update the water manager’s technical knowledge.

EMW does not hire a contractor to build these systems. The local people are required to do certain tasks: provide a warehouse, deliver pipe, dig trenches and build the water tower. All of this is done under the supervision of EMW.

EMW found that they could reduce fraud by buying the supplies themselves. They also buy in large quantities and they say that for every ten systems installed they save enough money to put in another system without donations.

At Quế Phú Village I got to see a system under construction. It is an unusual system in that they have no good ground water under the village. They do have a river within a few hundred meters. Using the river as a source of water they developed an ingenious system of water collections from tanks buried under a sandbar. The water is able to settle in the barrels before it is pumped to the tower where it is aerated, filtered, chemically treated in the process of becoming clean water.

Danang Vietnam is one of the most modern looking cities in Vietnam. Wide paved streets, wide sidewalks, new stores and many impressive buildings. Many multimillion dollar resorts and other structures are being built. Go where I went with EMS, not far from the city, less than an hour drive and take away the motorbike, cell phone and TV and you are back in time of 1000 years. The average family of five makes a hundred dollars a month. But, they live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Ms. Tam knows this; she is just trying to make it better.

Note: East Meets West is celebrating its 20th
Construction TentConstruction TentConstruction Tent

A construction worker sleeps here during the whole process to guard the tools and supplies.
anniversary of service in Vietnam. It was started by Le Ly Hayslip of “When Heaven and Earth Change Places” fame. She also wrote another book: “A Vietnamese Women’s Journey from War to Peace.” Her first book was made into one of my favorite movies of all time: “Heaven and Earth” in 1993 by Oliver Stone.

You might be interested in how to support this great organization. Their web page has all the information you need:
Write: POB 29292
Oakland Ca.

Additional photos below
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Trench being dugTrench being dug
Trench being dug

Not deep enough yet!!!

23rd March 2008

Water project
Amazing! Happy Easter, dear friend!

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