Charles Bailey leads the Aspen Institute Agent Orange in Vietnam Program. He has done more than perhaps any individual to address the long-term impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Please watch this short video of Charles explaining his faith, belief in social justice and why he is passionate about ending the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
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During remarks delivered this past Memorial Day at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., President Obama drew attention to the remaining problems associated with the Agent Orange legacy of the war in Vietnam.
Reflecting on the ravages that remain long after the end of a war, President Obama remarked: “Let’s resolve to take care of our veterans as well as they’ve taken care of us — not just talk, but actions. Not just in the first five years after a war, but the first five decades. For our Vietnam veterans, this means the disability benefits for diseases connected to Agent Orange. It means job opportunities and mental health care to help you stand tall again. It means ending the tragedy of veterans’ homelessness, so that every veteran who has fought for America has a home in America. You shouldn’t have to fight for a roof over your heads when you fought on behalf of the country that you love.” (Read full transcript here.)
President Obama’s remarks come at a time when, after decades of inconclusive debate about liability and causality concerning the complicated issue of Agent Orange, the needs of those affected by Agent Orange in both the U.S. and in Vietnam are being addressed more comprehensively than ever before.
While we are moving forward, much more remains to be done. Take a look around the Make Agent Orange History website and Get Involved section for ways you can contribute to the movement to make Agent Orange history.
On May 16, The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it is developing a “comprehensive, multi-year plan for Agent Orange-related activities in Vietnam.” USAID is inviting all interested parties to submit their recommendations, ideas and comments about how best to end the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
Last year the U.S. government became the largest single foreign donor on the issue of Agent Orange in Vietnam. The USAID request for comment is a unique opportunity for individuals and organizations to contribute their experience and ideas to influencing the approach the U.S. government will follow over the next few years to address this remaining legacy of the war in Vietnam.
The U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin has submitted a three-page statement of its recommendations. These recommendations include cleaning up dioxin at all remaining dioxin “hot spots“, upgrading social services for people with disabilities, advancing disabilities rights, augmenting professional and managerial skills of local partners and encouraging new funding mechanisms.The Dialogue Group’s recommendations to USAID are supported by analyses in its Second Year Report (released May 31st, 2012).
In October 2010, Charles Bailey paid a visit to the Spark M. Matsunaga Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution. Bailey led a two part program dedicated to exploring an innovative approach to addressing the long-term impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam: Track II diplomacy.
Students at the Matsunaga Institute simulated the first meeting of the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group on Agent Orange/Dioxin. Each student was assigned a member of the Dialogue Group to represent and the group discussed critical elements of neutrality, trust-building and framing issues important to working on the long-term impact of Agent Orange in Vietnam.
The simulation lasted for two hours and all who participated asked to continue the dialogue over the following week.Out of that inspired program came a new approach to teaching Track II diplomacy. The Matsunaga Institute worked with the Aspen Institute and Active Voice to develop the Make Agent Orange History Track II Diplomacy Instructor Module and Simulation.
Through a simulation with a series of lessons and exercises, students learn the essential elements of Track II diplomacy such as active listening, decision making and the ability to understand and embody differences.
“Track II diplomacy is unofficial meetings between parties who are not acting on behalf of a government,” says Anne Marie Smoke of the Matsunaga Institute. “This approach is especially useful in circumstances where governments or official organizations are at an impasse due to protocol or political concerns.”
The Aspen Institute established the Agent Orange in Vietnam Fund to gather and deploy resources from public and private donors to address the disability issues that remains as a legacy of the war in Vietnam. One of the first projects of this fund is an innovative and sustainable “Public-Private Partnership” in Da Nang.
The Public-Private Partnership is a partnership between the Aspen Institute, Children of Vietnam, the Cam Le District People’s Committee and many associated agencies and hospitals. It will bring 265 children and young people living with disabilities into Children of Vietnam’s Hope System of Care. (Hope System of Care, developed by Agent Orange Champion Dannia Southerland, provides comprehensive wraparound services such as training, education and rehabilitation services to children and youth living with disabilities in Vietnam.)
According to Charles Bailey, director of the Aspen Institute Agent Orange in Vietnam Program, what makes the Public-Private Partnership unique is its sustainable funding structure. The initial start-up funding needed to purchase equipment, train staff and bring new children into the program is being provided by private donors, notably the Rockefeller Foundation, Hyatt Hotels and HSBC Vietnam. After three years, the Cam Le District People’s Committee expects to take over funding of direct services.
“Thanks to the generosity of the Rockefeller Foundation, Hyatt Hotels, HSBC Bank, the Cam Le People’s Committee and other donors, we will be able to enroll hundreds of children and youth in this program and vastly improve their lives,” Bailey says. “We hope this partnership will serve as a model for other parts of Vietnam.”
The Cam Le District of Da Nang lies adjacent to the airport which during the 1960s was a major hub for the spraying of Agent Orange and similar herbicides. High levels of dioxin, a toxic contaminant in Agent Orange, are still found at several dioxin “hot spots,” around Vietnam. One of them is at the Da Nang airport. The U.S. and Vietnam launched a project to clean up of the dioxin at the Da Nang airport earlier this year.
At its September 2011 meeting, the Clinton Global Initiative recognized the program as an official “CGI Commitment” and the Aspen Institute is seeking an additional $200,000 from corporate partners and donors to bring another 100 young people into the program.
Each partner’s conscientious concern and meaningful contribution will be highlighted in a most positive way in Vietnam and by the international aid community. If you are interested in contributing to the project, please email email@example.com.
Every year since 2005, the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations (UNAVSA) has organized the Collective Philanthropy Project, a collaborative fundraising effort to raise money for a charitable cause chosen by the members of UNAVSA. In past years the Collective Philanthropy Project has raised substantial sums ranging from $32,000 to $60,000.
This year, the beneficiary of UNAVSA’s fundraising efforts will be Children of Vietnam’s Hope System of Care, a fantastic program which provides individualized wraparound services – ranging from health care to scholarships to economic support – to help children and young people with disabilities.
According to Nancy Letteri, Executive Director of Children of Vietnam, more than 200 children have enrolled in Hope System of Care since the program’s inception in 2007. They are in the process of enrolling another 165 and Ms. Letteri hopes to find funding to support an additional 100 young people.
“The efforts of UNASVA will make a huge difference to the lives of some very precious children whose potential and quality of life is shackled by poverty and lack of access to much needed resources,” says Letteri. “We are honored to have UNSAVA members’ support. They are incredibly dedicated and committed to giving back to their community.”
To learn more about the Collective Philanthropy Project or to donate, click here.
For the fortunate few, access to safe water is a given. We don’t worry about toxic chemicals lingering in our water supply, and we don’t develop serious health problems due to contaminated water.
But for nearly 1300 residents of the Dong Son commune of the A Luoi District in the Thua-Thien-Hue Province of Vietnam, this nonchalance is a dream. Their community borders one of Vietnam’s 28 toxic ‘hot spots’ where Agent Orange/dioxin was stored or sprayed during the war.
Fortunately, thanks to the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group and the Rotary Foundation, the people of Dong Son will soon rest easier. Construction is nearly complete on a piped water system that will bring filtered and safe water from two small dams to the west of the village into the Dong Son commune. The project is designed, built and soon to be operated by the Thua-Thien-Hue Water Company. It will cost $70,000.
The A Luoi Water Project is now fully funded, but there are many more communities in need. Many ‘hot spots’ in Vietnam remain in urgent need of attention. If you are interested in donating money to help those living in these areas, please contact Mr. Nguyen Tien Thinh, a staff representative of the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Vietnam continue to be affected by the long-term impact of Agent Orange. In 2010, Thuy Vu of CBS5 News traveled to Vietnam, her homeland, to investigate this tragic legacy of a war that ended nearly four decades ago.
[Editor’s Note: The following is a guest post by Tramy Evelyn Huyn. Tramy is a graduate of Seton Hall University who organized a discussion amongst members of the New York City Vietnamese Meetup Group and Ambassador Ngo Quang Xuan.]
For about a month, I worked on organizing a discussion on Agent Orange that occurred on the 5th of November 2011. Little did I know how much I would learn from this discussion and the people who attended.
We had the pleasure of having Ambassador Ngo Quang Xuan as our guest speaker along with his daughter, Lan. Ambassador Xuan and his daughter are passionate about helping those that have been affected by Agent Orange and discussed the U.S.-Vietnam Dialogue Group Plan of Action. I was glad to hear that there is a dialogue between the U.S. and Vietnam and a well thought out plan developed by both sides.
I think about Agent Orange and at times it seems so big, where does one start? I am glad the Dialogue Group has been working on a Plan of Action and the attendees were great in terms of contributing their experiences related to Agent Orange.
One attendee shared that he is sponsoring a child in Vietnam who is living with the affects of Agent Orange. He receives updates on how the child is doing. I was as moved by his story as everyone who attended the discussion.
Another person recounted visiting an orphanage for children living with the effects of Agent Orange. The more people participated in the discussion, the more I felt the love in the room for those that are living with the effects of Agent Orange.
I had no idea how much generosity; kindness and love would be expressed for the children, parents and families living with the effects of Agent Orange. I now have a deep desire to build public awareness of Agent Orange and the people living with its effects. It is the least I can do.
We cannot underestimate how much love others will give to those living with the effects of Agent Orange. It is love that will help us clean up Agent Orange.
The “Leaves Keep Falling,” a short film by Vietnam Reporting Project fellows Ed Kashi and Catherine Karnow, has been selected as one of twelve short films featured in the Media That Matters Film Festival, a premier showcase for short films on the most important topics of the day, local and global. The film received the Human Rights Award at the festival.
“The Leaves Keep Falling” is an intimate portrait of two Vietnamese families whose children’s disabilities are believed to be associated with their parents’ exposure to Agent Orange. Watch below: