Two inaugural GEI delegations in Vietnam

by Waleed Fatth (Global Programs Manager)
One day I’ll touch your soil
One day I’ll finally know my soul
One day I’ll come to you
To say hello .. Vietnam

I found myself humming with this song which was sung by Vietnamese–Belgian singer Quynh Anh while waiting for my plane to get back to Europe after spending 4 unforgettable weeks of my life in Vietnam. I was thinking of the great experience getting to know Vietnam as a country and as a nation. This was the kind of experience which will stay with me forever and years later I will still smile at the fond memories. I got to meet a lot of inspiring people and wonderful personalities from Vietnam and the rest of the world. It was amazing to again be part of an international team to exchange and learn about the world from different perspectives. This whole trip kept my heart warm, not because of the hot weather, but because of the wonderful Vietnamese hospitality and their welcoming friendly smiles.

I try to never lose track of how lucky I was to be part of both inaugural delegations of Women and Leadership and Engage for Healthy Newborns in the country. Both delegations introduced me to extraordinary locations, experiences and people. We had great success in both delegations and it made me happy to witness the positive effect of these programs on the international and local participants. It is one thing to read about a program and a delegation, but it is another feeling to be part of it and to get this wonderful sense of contributing in something bigger to make a change on the global level.


I had the pleasure to work with Patty Kelly, our HBB (Helping Babies Breathe) Master Trainer and the delegation leader of Engage for Healthy Newborns in Vietnam. It was a privilege to attend her training sessions in different districts in Vietnam. She managed with a rather small delegation of international participants to train around 88 professional Vietnamese how to resuscitate newborn babies using the evidence-based technique of HBB curriculum. I had my concerns at the beginning because of the language barrier, but Patty proved again with her team that teaching does not just depend solely on language, but it also depends on how one interacts on a personal level with the participants and connect with them. English words were translated through different Vietnamese interpreters, but the technique was taught through doing and repetition. I enjoyed the moments when I would see a local participant practicing the new technique using the HBB training kit with the help of an international participants forgetting about the language barrier and finding their way to communicate. Such moments remind me always why I love this job.

The Women and Leadership delegation was a wonderful way for me to change the mode of teaching something in Vietnam to learning something from Vietnam. I had heard a lot about the amazing work of  Prof. Shirley Randell and I was thrilled to meet her in person. The delegation was a great combination of international participants from different countries and backgrounds that enriched the experience and added different interesting dimensions to our discussions with the various women unions and organizations in Vietnam. It was very inspiring to learn about the different efforts in Vietnam to overcome gender issues and to learn about the cultural and political background of the country. One of the questions that kept me busy during this delegation though was what would be the impact of this delegation on Vietnamese women. This question was answered in the last day of the delegation when we had our first conference in Vietnam for Women and Leadership. I was amazed by how many professional and non-professional Vietnamese women attended the conference in order to be part of this platform. As an international group we witnessed a very inspiring discussion and exchanges among Vietnamese women in different fields. All of them had the chance to learn and say something. I was thinking at that moment that the impact doesn’t have to be something that you teach. Sometimes the impact can happen by just giving the chance and the platform for someone to say something and to be heard.

It’s really difficult to try to summarize everything that I have seen in Vietnam in this blog entry, but I just wanted to share a glimpse of how inspiring and wonderful it was to be there. It was an honor to get to know a lot of wonderful people. I made a lot of new friends who I will cherish and I know that I will see them again in the near future. I learned new words in a new language and many stories to tell. The good thing that all our delegates are sharing the same feeling with me and they are happy to write different blog entries to share their experience. So starting from next week, we will be sharing more details about the daily activities we had in each delegation. Please stay tuned and share our stories with your circles, and remember that you might one day touch its soil, finally know your soul and come to say hello… Vietnam!