Guest blogger, William Horan, Smile Train’s Vice President, Principal and Planned Giving talks about his recent trip to Vietnam to see our local in-country medical partners and programs in action.
I recently traveled to Vietnam with my 28-year-old son Sean, who is an avid traveler and who has faced many challenges in his life. I wanted him to see what kids with clefts experience on the other side of the world.
My son and I were also joined by Smile Train’s Country Manager, Vietnam Nguyễn Trí Dũng, who we call Dzung. Dzung coordinated our partner visits and helped make us feel comfortable and welcome after our long journey. He also shared some personal insights into Vietnam’s often-difficult past, which made the trip a terrific learning experience even beyond Smile Train.
We visited two very contrasting partner hospitals, the National Hospital of Odonto and Stomatology in Hanoi and the Da Nang Hospital for Women and Children in Da Nang. We toured both hospitals and met the local surgeons, nurses, speech therapists and patients. What was evident at both hospitals was a genuine and heartfelt gratitude for the Smile Train partnership. Both teams spoke glowingly of how our support has made a difference in their ability to treat children with clefts. Both hospitals embrace our partnership model.
The highlight of the trip was no doubt visiting twin brothers Don and Dai (their names translate to “Big Time” and “Rumor”) at their school and meeting their family. The boys were born with very severe clefts, but now at four-years-old you could hardly tell. They both look great, are adorable and happy, and were probably wondering what all the fuss was about!
After visiting the boys’ school, we went to visit their home. The boys live three hours from Hanoi up in very picturesque hills, amidst rice patties and water buffalo. It was incredibly serene and peaceful there. As Sean and I walked on a dike above the rice patties, we were relaxed and fulfilled, and it was at that moment that I really understood the meaning of Smile Train.