by Trịnh Công Vũ
MCC Vietnam Field-Based Project Coordinator, 2018-2020
I was born and raised in Quảng Ngãi, a poor province in central Việt Nam. My home area has often been hit by wars throughout history, and was very hard-hit during the American War (1954-1975). Quảng Ngãi is home to the My Lai/Sơn Mỹ massacre site, and it also has many victims of Agent Orange, particularly children with disabilities.
At the end of 2018, by chance, a friend informed me that MCC was recruiting a staff person to work with projects for the victims of Agent Orange, especially children with disabilities. I applied for the job and was accepted for an interview. In the interview, I talked about a lot of things in my life and about my experience from 16 years of working for NGOs with community development projects.
After I talked for a bit, I stopped talking, afraid the interviewers would fall asleep while I was speaking my special English.
One week later, Mrs. Lợi—MCC Việt Nam Project Manager—informed me that MCC was very impressed with my interview, and that I was hired to begin serving with MCC as a field-based project coordinator. I was to replace a Mr. Vũ who used to work in this position, which was a funny surprise since my name is also Vũ.
Before coming to MCC, I worked for five non-governmental organizations and projects. When I began working for MCC, it was amazing and impressive to know that in MCC couples often work together, sharing a role in the organization. This is a very humane and rare model. Working for MCC, I feel very warm, it feels like I am working for a big family that is doing charity for peace and development.
Since I joined MCC, the MCC Việt Nam Co-Representatives are Eva and Nikolai Mazharenko. They are a couple that is very much in love! Everyone says that Eva is very lucky to have Nikolai by her side; he is a caring, considerate person who always supports his wife. I am fortunate that this couple inspires me a lot in my work and helps me with my meals, accommodation, relaxation, and so on during my business trips to Hà Nội and the Northern provinces.
Another MCC couple I worked with are the Co-Connecting Peoples Coordinators for Việt Nam, Beth and Josh Kvernen. They are kind, careful, well-organized people. I loved working together with this couple. We mutually supported the implementation of learning tours and staff visits from Hà Nội to Quảng Ngãi with very good results.
From May 2-4, 2019, I was delighted to help host a group of MCC constituents from Manitoba, Canada, visiting MCC Việt Nam as part of a learning tour. The group had 12 people, including both college students from Canadian Mennonite University and MCC supporters of a variety of ages. In July, 2019, we again hosted a group from Canada and Laos. These learning tours offered an opportunity to engage with MCC’s partners in Việt Nam about the history, context, and ongoing legacy of the American War in Việt Nam. Participants had a chance to talk with and visit partners and families in Quảng Ngãi Province. Through their experiences in Việt Nam, participants were able to learn about how, though the American war finished over 40 years ago, the spraying of Agent Orange in Quảng Ngãi continues to affect people and communities there.
I am also very impressed and had many memories with a SALT participant who later became MCC Việt Nam’s History Project Coordinator, Mr. Caleb Schrock-Hurst. He only spent about two years living and working in Việt Nam, but he can speak Vietnamese with people from Hà Nội very well. He understands Hà Nội much better than me, and when I visited Hà Nội, although he was my friend, he would also work as my tour guide.
I feel that working for MCC is very meaningful; especially, it has given me a lot of love and compassion for people with disabilities. The projects I’ve worked on—a Cow-bank program to increase the income of families affected by Agent Orange and Occupational Therapy/rehabilitation for people with disabilities—have brought many benefits to the poor, especially Agent Orange victims.
MCC Việt Nam has also supported people with disabilities in Quảng Ngãi via the special assistance of Esther and Paul Bucher. Mrs. Esther worked as Occupational Therapist, and Mr. Paul as a Consultant. The success of Esther’s therapy work has been recognized by the local authorities, the Vietnamese national media, and MCC’s global network.
I have also worked on two MCC projects in northern Việt Nam. The “Food Security and Sustainable Livelihood” project in Tân Sơn District, Phú Thọ Province, works to improve the living conditions of ethnic minority communities there, and I’ve enjoyed visiting a few times. The “Building a Cooperative Community to Prevent and Respond to Domestic Violence” project has been very meaningful for the community of Tân Lạc District, Hoà Bình Province.
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought a lot of suffering to people all over the world. Very close to home for me has been the pandemic’s direct impact on MCC Việt Nam. MCC decided to close its program in Việt Nam by March 2021, with a reduced budget leading up to that time. Currently, I am the only Vietnamese national staff working for MCC Việt Nam; perhaps I will be the last Vietnamese MCC staff. The program closure makes me very sad—MCC has a 65-year history of supporting Việt Nam, doing so many good projects in that time. I don’t know what else to say when the vulnerable Vietnamese community will have to say goodbye to MCC in the near future.
I want to thank MCC for giving me the opportunity to help my people. There are still so many vulnerable people here in Việt Nam who need support from MCC, and hopefully in the future, somehow, MCC will continue to support our community.