Agent Orange Champions

There are people around the world who have devoted their time and energy to understanding the legacy of Agent Orange and coming up with solutions to address this problem. These champions come from all different backgrounds and levels of expertise, but all are true humanitarians that are helping make Agent Orange history.

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Dannia Southerland, Children of Vietnam


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Dannia Southerland works with a disabled boy in Da Nang who is part of the Hope System of Care.

When Dr. Dannia Southerland first heard from Children of Vietnam, she had no idea what was in store for her. Given her post doctoral research in health and clinical services at Duke University, she had been contacted by the organization to advise on case management for children with disabilities in Vietnam.

Intrigued by what she learned from Children of Vietnam regarding the dire circumstances for Vietnam’s most vulnerable victims of Agent Orange – children with disabilities – Southerland signed on to help design the organization’s Hope System of Care, a “wrap-around” system that integrates social services, rehabilitation, education and other supports to help meet the needs of disabled children in Vietnam. Southerland laughs as she reflects on her first meeting with a board member from Children of Vietnam: “I went for coffee in Chapel Hill,” Southerland says, “and wound up in Vietnam 30 days later.”

Shortly after arriving in Vietnam, Southerland realized the challenges of implementing a comprehensive and decidedly western model in a country where social services infrastructure is not yet fully developed.

“Without a social services infrastructure, there is no way to develop sustainable services,” Southerland says, “You can pour a lot of money into orthopedic surgeries and maybe impact the incidence of club foot…but to have real lasting impact, to provide services to help these children improve their life chances, that’s what we’ve been focused on.”

Southerland consulted local health professionals and case workers in Da Nang – the pilot city for program – who evaluated Hope System of Care and offered suggestions on which services would work and which would not be practical. She then got to work developing partnerships with the city of Da Nang and the Vietnamese government.

Today, the Hope System of Care serves children in two districts in Da Nang, and every child who has ever enrolled in the program continues to receive support. Southerland remains a committed advocate for sustainable social services throughout Vietnam and hopes to expand the program in the near future.

“The legacy of Agent Orange is the legacy of a bad time,” Southerland says, “but an opportunity for people to come together and build bridges across cultures and continents… It’s an exciting ideal, making Agent Orange history.”


Charles Bailey, Aspen Institute


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A grantmaker with over 30 years of experience supporting humanitarian efforts worldwide, Charles Bailey has devoted his life to helping people in need. After spending a decade in Hanoi as the director of the Ford Foundation’s Vietnam office, he became acutely aware of the long-term effects of Agent Orange/dioxin and has since become committed to ending the legacy.

In 2007, Bailey helped establish Ford’s Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin in Vietnam, a philanthropic initiative which seeks to transform dioxin-contaminated “hotspots” into clean, safe environments and to serve families facing related health issues. Through support of NGOs in the U.S. and Vietnam, Bailey has played a significant role in reducing the public health impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam and fostering dialogue and awareness worldwide.

In May 2011 Charles and the Ford Foundation’s landmark work on Agent Orange transitioned to the Aspen Institute.  Over just a few months with the Aspen Institute, Bailey has developed a new public-private partnership among local government, the Rockefeller Foundation, Hyatt Hotels, Children of Vietnam, and other partners to provide improved services to children with disabilities—regardless of cause—near one of the Agent Orange hotspots in Da Nang. The new partnership is already receiving accolades and was heralded at the 2011 Clinton Global Initiative meetings.


Hatfield Consultants


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For over 20 years, Hatfield Consultants has been a global leader in the assessment and monitoring of ultra-trace levels of Agent Orange/dioxin in the environment. Hatfield has worked collaboratively on the Agent Orange/dioxin issue since the early 1990s, in association with partner organizations in Vietnam and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

In 2000, Hatfield received the Mark Drake Award Recognizing Excellence in Communicating International Cooperation Issues for the company’s contribution to the Agent Orange/dioxin issue in Vietnam. In recognition of Hatfield’s contribution to the field of international development, the company also received the Nexen Award for Excellence in Corporate Social and Ethical Responsibility in 2007.

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Hatfield Consultants educates residents of the Aluoi District about the risks posed by landmines and Agent Orange/dioxin.

Since 1994, Hatfield has worked on a number of Agent Orange/dioxin assessment and mitigation programs in Vietnam. Earlier work focused on investigations of the scale of the dioxin issue in several provinces of Vietnam, particularly in Aluoi District, Thanh Tien Hue Province.  Following this research, Hatfield and our Vietnamese partners played a key role in identification of known dioxin hotspots near former US military installations in southern Vietnam.  Between 2006 and 2009, Hatfield successfully implemented a complex assessment and mitigation program entitled Assessment of Dioxin Contamination in the Environment and Human Population in the Vicinity of the Da Nang Airbase, which is recognized as the most comprehensive dioxin assessment conducted in Vietnam to date. Elevated levels of dioxin were recorded in both the environment and human population at Da Nang Airport, and interim mitigation measures were implemented with funding from Ford Foundation.

Hatfield is currently working with CDM International (with funding through USAID) to design a comprehensive dioxin remediation program at Da Nang Airport. Hatfield is also presently (2010-2011) working with Ford Foundation to conduct an assessment of dioxin at the Bien Hoa Airbase, to determine potential environmental and human exposure at this key dioxin hotspot site.


Son Michael Pham, Kids Without Borders




Son Michael Pham acting like a kid again during his most recent HumaniTour at the Thanh Xuan Peace Village in Hanoi.

Son Michael Pham left Vietnam on the very last day of the war in April of 1975. Even in those early, challenging days – on the boat to the U.S., at the refugee camp in the Philippines and as a new resident of Chicago – Son Michael volunteered helping his fellow refugees.

35 years later, he is a successful Seattle businessman who leads two companies while seeming to work nonstop helping disabled children affected by Agent Orange. He is a very active member of Rotary International and founder of Kids Without Borders – an international nongovernmental organization working with disabled children in Vietnam.

Son Michael describes himself as having an “all kids, one world” vision, and he is certainly committed to that ideal. Throughout his life he has been a champion for children, especially those affected by Agent Orange.

Every year since 2001 he has lead a special HumaniTour to Vietnam. “Travel with a purpose” as Son Michael describes it, the HumaniTour allows him to share the “then and now” of his country and its people.

Steve Mariotti, a participant of HumaniTour, sums it up:

“I don’t know where Son gets the energy to do all he does for these kids in the orphanages, plus raising money to build schools, purchase wheelchairs and keep a lookout for some of the children needing extra help and attention. GOD BLESS HIM!!”

Learn more about Son Michael Pham by reading our special interview with this tireless champion for his community, his country(s) and his world.


Dr. Vo Quy, U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group


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Dr. Vo Quy (far left) with members of the US-Vietnam Dialogue Group and Vietnamese American business owners.

Dr. Vo Quy is considered the father of Vietnam’s environmental movement. The 78-year old Vietnamese Zoologist, professor and member of the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group has been helping address some of Vietnam’s biggest environmental challenges for over fifty years.

Among his long list of accomplishments, including creating the country’s first national park and its first environmental research center, Dr. Quy was one of the first to understand the danger posed by Agent Orange. He began studying the effects of the toxic herbicide while it was still being sprayed during the war and has been a a passionate advocate for clean up and remediation ever since.

In 2008, Dr. Quy was selected as one of Time Magazine’s “Heroes of the Environment”. “I am quite old,” Quy told Time, “but I will not stop because I have a lot more work to do.”


Michael Livingston, National Council of Churches




When Michael Livingston went to Vietnam last spring, he didn’t quite know what was in store. The former executive director of the International Council of Community Churches and the current director of National Council of Church’s Poverty Initiative joined a delegation of faith leaders who went to Vietnam in May 2010 to learn about the legacy of Agent Orange/dioxin in Vietnam. Deeply moved by his interactions with children affected by the poison, and heartened by the humanitarian work being done to help them, Livingston returned to the U.S. with a new found drive to generate support for the afflicted. He has since endorsed the Plan of Action and continues to write and speak extensively about his experience in country.

For a more detailed account of the trip, read Reverend Livingston’s blog.


Susan Hammond, War Legacies Project




As the executive director of War Legacies Project, Susan Hammond is one of the leading experts on Agent Orange/dioxin in the United States. A true humanitarian, Hammond has devoted much of her career to raising awareness about the legacy of Agent Orange and providing aid and resources to Vietnamese families who have been affected. Through her organization, she identifies some of the families most in need — especially those in rural areas who have less access to healthcare and services — and helps improve their lives through early prevention services, education, home construction, healthcare and donation of basic household goods. War Legacies Project has just launched a comprehensive website on Agent Orange called Agent Orange Record.

To learn more about how you can support the efforts of War Legacies Project, click here.


Victor Hsu, Interfaith Delegation on Agent Orange in Vietnam


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In May 2010, Victor Hsu, former Director for Korea for World Vision International and former Director of the UN Office of the World Council of Churches, joined a delegation of interfaith leaders who took a trip to Vietnam to learn about the legacy of Agent Orange. As a leader in global issues and humanitarian work, Hsu was deeply moved by what he witnessed in Vietnam: severely disabled children and people hard at work to provide health and rehabilitation services. As a result of his trip, Hsu has now become a supporter of Agent Orange relief work by formally endorsing the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group’s Declaration and Plan of Action and introducing this issue to influential colleagues.


The U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group


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The U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue and Exchange Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin is an initiative of prominent private citizens, scientists and policy-makers on both sides, working on issues that the two governments have found difficult to address. Specifically, its role has been to call attention to the need for five key actions to address the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam, undertaken in a humanitarian spirit:

  1. to establish treatment and education centers for Vietnamese with disabilities;
  2. cooperate with the U.S. and Vietnamese governments to contain and clean up dioxin, beginning at three priority airport “hot spots”;
  3. set up a modern dioxin testing laboratory in Vietnam;
  4. foster programs for training of trainers in restoration and management of damaged landscapes;
  5. and educate the U.S. public on the issues.

Since its founding in 2007, the Dialogue Group has made significant headway in addressing these issues, and recently released a Declaration and Plan of Action with a 10-year plan to end the legacy. This recent progress has created a window of opportunity for the U.S. to intensify its effort in a shared commitment to reduce the public health impact in Vietnam.

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