(Xin Chao) Hello, From Dong Hoi, Vietnam! Welcome to my blogging corner of the Advocacy Project website.
My name is Mia Coward, a current Graduate student at the University of Maryland, obtaining my master’s in Public Policy with focuses on education policy, social policy, and non-profit management. This summer I am please to work with the Association of Empowerment for Persons with Disabilities (AEPD). I am very excited about the work I that will be doing here to help create a prosperous and sustainable plan for both AP and AEPD. I am happy to report that I made it to Dong Hoi on June 10th. It is beautiful here, and although there is much going on around me with motor bikes and honking horns, and the fast paced hustle and bustle, there is still a sense of calmness and focus here. Everyone seems enriched with a sense of family and culture. My initial encounter with the team at AEPD occurred on the very first night after I arrived in Dong Hoi, but before I talk about that, I think it would help to start from the beginning.
I began my journey on a late Saturday evening leaving from the Dulles, Virginia Airport in the United States. Nervous and excited, I took my backpack and checked my bag. After nearly 30 hours of traveling, I made it to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The Ho Chi Minh City airport is one of the largest airports that I have ever seen. My luggage was lost for a moment when transferring, but since I was about 7 hours early for my next flight, I waited in the airport trying to coordinate with the local Vietnamese attendants to find it. Thankfully, it was not long before I was able to track my luggage down and head off to the next flight. After arriving in Dong Hoi, I got off the plane and ride with the AEPD driver to the office where I meet the team.
Everyone was so friendly and showed real excitement that I was there. On my first night, I stayed with Ms. Nguyen Thi Phuong Hao (AEPD program manager) and her family. Her house is a beautiful two-story Egyptian blue color with a big garden surrounding the property. While I waited for what the next day would bring, Ms. Hao and I connected over our both being dog-owners and the exhaustion that flights can bring. While I continue waiting for my work visa, I’m able to soak up the essence of Dong Hoi and hit the ground running by conducting research to help AEPD and hopefully more families.
As a Peace Fellow, I serve as the liaison between the Advocacy Project and AEPD working on the Agent Orange Campaign. AEPD manages a broad range of programs such as self-help groups for landmine survivors, a youth development program that trains persons with disabilities in mechanics and other vocational programs, projects for women with disabilities, microfinance endeavors, and, lastly, the AP-AEPD Agent Orange Campaign. The Campaign has successfully funded about 11 Agent Orange-affected families. You can read more about their stories here.
I am excited and grateful to help this Campaign progress. I look forward to sharing my successes, goals, and experiences with you. Check back here weekly to see more of the work that AEPD and I will accomplish. Thank you for joining me on this journey.
If you would like to see more of the work that AP and AEPD have done, click here to view the Campaign Page.
Posted By Mia Coward (Vietnam)
Posted Jun 13th, 2019