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Published: March 12th 2006
Chuck Theusch founder and executive director of Library of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia Project gives a ride to an admirer.
In 1992 I went on a “Save the Cranes Expedition” to Vietnam. It was a life-changing event for me. Our mission was to help with the research on the viability of setting up a nature reserve to save the tallest flying bird in the world, the Eastern Sarus Crane. This six foot tall bird was thought to be extinct but had shown up in what was left of the Plain of Reeds near the Cambodian border.
I say life changing because here I was twenty five years after I had fought in the war, seventeen years after the war ended, working alongside Viet Cong and even an old Viet Cong General named Muoi Nhe I learned how easy it was working with them and how appreciative they were of our help. To make a long story short, through our work a plan was written to create the nature reserve called Tram Chim and within one year it was approved by the Vietnamese Government and it is functioning today helping save this bird species from extinction.
Part of our responsibilities was to visit area schools to teach the children about the crane, how to live with them, how the crane
Chuck addresses the crowed at the Quang Tri Town High School Library dedication.
doesn’t eat rice and so on. We must have visited a hundred schools and that is when I realized how short on books the Vietnamese schools were. Most students only had one book. What they did all-day was practice math on the chalkboard. Maybe that is why most Vietnamese are good in Math, but the rest of their education is limited.
By 2002 I chaired an effort to build a library in Vietnam. It is called the Unification Library and it is found in Tan Hiep, Canal B Kien Giang Province of Vietnam.
I tell this story because in 1999 another Vietnam Veteran returned to Vietnam. He went on his own but when he got there he hired a guide named Tran Dinh Song. His name is Francis “Chuck” Theusch. When Chuck visited some schools he saw the same thing I did, few books. However, he didn’t wait ten years to do anything about it. He was on a round the world trip so he cashed in the balance of his trip and used the 30 thousand dollars to build the first library in what he calls the “Library of Vietnam Project.” Since then, Chuck has built libraries
Vietnamese school kids.
in Lao, Cambodia and other parts of Vietnam. He has been gracious enough to include the Unification library in his “system” of libraries. Much like the Kansas Library System.
Song, his guide on that trip, is now the in country representive for the Library of Vietnam Project. He has done this work for seven years and has never taken a dime for his efforts.
Part of my trip to Vietnam was going on a fifteen day trip to visit all the libraries Chuck and his board, with the help of mostly Vietnam Veterans, Rotary Clubs and other interested parties have built. We took along my Special Daughter of Vietnam Ngat Dao who recently graduated from the university of Ho Chi Minh City as a special executive assistant to help with interpretation and other duties. The library of Vietnam Project Board are all Vietnam Veterans. We also took along Gerry Cullen and Larry Goldsmith who wanted to make a video and story of the project. It was a fast moving trip that was made so acceptable by this group. They were easy to get along with, never complained and made the most of everything they experienced.
Beside libraries we
Tran Thi Anh Thu enjoys a moment with Chuck at the Army Museum in Hanoi.
saw the killing fields of Cambodia, Hanoi Hilton and a few other notable things. We ended going to Ngat Dao’s grandmother’s village where we gave her a birthday party to celebrate her 100 years. I believe all 1000 members of the village turned out to eat and drink and wish Grandma a Happy Birthday. The local Peoples Committee gave her a certificate that noted she was the first person in the village to live to be 100.
The group encountered and gave goodwill wherever they went. The library of Vietnam Project is now in Lao and Cambodia. Ross Worley a board member is planning on building The Library of Afghanistan. That is, "The" library of Afghanistan. The National Library. Ross, as well as all the members of this project are a story in themselves.
For more information on the Library Projects contact the founder and Executive Director Chuck:
Francis J. (Chuck) Theusch
Chairman Library of Vietnam*Laos*Cambodia
1800 South 44th Street
West Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA 53214
WEBSITES: libraryofvietnam.org, libraryoflaos.org, libraryofcambodia.org
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