Editor’s note: This is a guest post written by Olivia Collins Boyce, a student in Anthropology and Social Entrepreneurship Studies at Wake Forest University. Olivia volunteers with Children of Vietnam and will be leading a COV volunteer service project this summer. Olivia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the evening of February 17, 2011 – 50 students, faculty and community members gathered at Wake Forest University to hear from four experts on the current efforts to address the toxic impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Charles Bailey, director of the Ford Foundation’s Special Initiative on Agent Orange, opened the event by showing a news clip and detailing the recent efforts being made to combat the legacy of dioxin.
Following Mr. Bailey, Tam Nguyen, a VIET2010 fellow with a background in social work, gave an enthusiastic presentation on her four months spent working with Children of Vietnam – a humanitarian charity that works with disabled children in Vietnam. She spoke of her personal experiences with clients and case workers, and in particular Children of Vietnam’s Hope System of Care, and left the audience inspired and hopeful that something can and is being done about Agent Orange.
After Nguyen, Duke University Professor of Psychiatry Dr. Dannia Southerland discussed the needs assessments and research she did to create an implementation plan for Hope System of Care – a program that provides comprehensive services such as health care, education and microloans to disabled children and their families.
Lastly, award winning National Geographic photojournalist Catherine Karnow narrated a picture slideshow depicting the stories of two families battling disabilities related to the legacy of Agent Orange. The audience, like Karnow, fell in love with the three children photographed – particularly the energetic 9-year old Ly.
After the more formal presentations, audience members posed questions to the panel. Many questions focused on relations between the Vietnamese government, the U.S. government and the non-governmental organizations working to address Agent Orange in Vietnam. Students and attendees left with a far greater understanding of the impact and solutions to Agent Orange.
Junior Wake Forest student Gary Pasqualicchio commented after the event: “I learned a lot from the panel and really enjoyed discussing the issue with experts”.
Another student, Ashton Astbury added: “I honestly, didn’t know much about Agent Orange before this event, but after listening to the speakers and seeing the effects of Agent Orange on the kids depicted, I want to get more involved.”