I believe in kindness and change
Duong Phuong Hanh
Director of Center for Research and Education of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (CED)
Secretary-General The International Federation of Hard of Hearing People (IFHOH)
President of Asia Pacific Federation of the Hard of Hearing and Deafened (APFHD)
I am a volunteer with many impressive titles as shown above, however regardless of titles I am most proud of being able to serve as a volunteer. I love being a volunteer, serving the needs of others, sharing my abilities, learning, and helping overcome cultural, religious and educational segregation barriers.
In my opinion, helping to staff an organization or providing charitable assistance to individuals is simply providing your time and ability to help those less fortunate in our society. I remember one time I was asked if I could help the parents of a deaf child send their child to the school for deaf children in Binh Duong province. I sent an e-mail explaining how to get there including what bus to take, how much it costs, where to find the bus and also how much a motorbike taxi will cost. A social worker called to thank me for providing the assistance to the parents. I was surprised that just a few minutes of my time made a big difference to someone who needed help.
Another time I was asked to translate a training program “Early Intervention” for teachers and parents developed by an American organization. The translation involved 70 slides. I received the information at 9 PM and was asked if I could get it done by the next day so it could be sent to teachers. I was still working on it at 2 AM when I received a message saying I could stop translating because the teachers no longer needed it. I am a very committed person and despite the late hour, I decided to finish the translation because it might be of benefit to someone else in the future. Sometimes volunteering can be a bit perplexing.
I usually provide my consultation on-line, teaching parents and teachers all over Vietnam how to teach their deaf children. I spend almost half of each day providing assistance, but I am very happy and satisfied knowing I have helped so many children grow and thrive despite their disability. This work makes me very happy, especially when someone calls to say, “My child can now say mommy and daddy. It makes me want to cry because I am so happy. I thank you!”
Recently I met a deaf couple with three children. The couple is very poor and the mother is in the hospital with serious health conditions. The youngest child is in the tenth grade and is trying to find money so she can pay for her tuition to continue in school. What little money the parents have is being committed to their oldest son who is in his third year at the University of Technology but they cannot pay his tuition. I was able to find a source of funds to help his sister pay for her tuition and also helped the son to receive a CED scholarship so he could finish his studies. The son brought his sister to see me so that I could teach her sign language which she can then teach her parents. The son is very grateful for the assistance provided to his family. He is a very caring and responsible individual and I believe he will make significant contributions in the future to improve our society.
When people ask me what I get from the volunteer work, I answer that it makes my life more meaningful and it makes me happy to be helping others. My time is a small price to pay!