OneHeart Newsletter Issue 2 – March 2010

Dear members & friends,

Blum…Blum…Blum…The Beats of OneHeart.

This is my pleasure to welcome you to our 2nd OneHeart newsletter.

Our OneHeart will serve as the artery that links member organizations together into a larger body where everyone can share the best practices, tips in pursuing our common goal as well as to share and lighten the many frustrations and burdens encountered on our journey.

OneHeart will inform you of the activities that our member organizations are undertaking each month or the collaborations among members that are taking place. Success stories, inspirational stories, motivational stories are also needed to give us the boost in the spirit and focus toward our common goal.

St. Exupery once said, “To be a person is to be responsible. It is to feel shame at the sight of what seems to be unmerited misery. It is to take pride in a victory won by one’s comrades. It is to feel, when setting one’s stone, that one is contributing to the building of the world.”

Keep our OneHeart beating by sharing your activities and contributing our stories.

Truong Nong

Connect, Cooperate, and Collaborate

Why VA NGO Network’s ‘capacity building’?

The VA NGO Network is an alliance of Vietnamese American Non-Governmental Organizations with humanitarian programs in Viet Nam. Its mission is to strengthen its members’ abilities to have a broad impact in humanitarian and development work by:

  • building a united voice on issues of common interest, and
  • delivering practical benefits to our members through technical and capacity-building assistance.

The VA NGO conferences from 2004-2007 brought many VA NGOs in the U.S. together and created opportunities for collaboration and community development. In order to realize its mission, the Network carries out a number of activities, among which are capacity-building workshops in Việt Nam and in the U.S. for staff and local partners of Network members.

What does VA NGO Network’s ‘capacity building’ mean?

In the context of VA NGO, capacity building refers to activities/workshops promoting the awareness of person-centered ways of working, improving knowledge and skills through training and experience. In relation to VA NGO’s work, skills, capacity and resilience to work are being developed through a variety of activities and interactions: projects, workshops and events and volunteering. One of these channels is a series of structured workshops, initially aimed at VA NGOs’ staff/volunteers. This has been formalized into VA NGO Network’s two core objectives: (a) to build the capacity and skills of VA NGOs’ staff/volunteers and its partners; and (b) to focus on human resources and experiences when developing strategy and implementation plans.

How is the Capacity Building Workshop being developed?

VA NGO Network’s Capacity Building Workshop is being developed as collaboratively as possible, identifying ‘experts’ from the voluntary community, public, private sector and universities on different focus areas. The Program Team working together with them to inform the content, structure and learning outcomes for each training. Each workshop is designed to be flexible and interactive with practical exercises that can be related to real projects. Our priorities are on supporting our staff/volunteers in leadership skills, and integrating the areas of focus. To accomplish this we focus on building strategic leadership competencies-applied knowledge, skills, abilities through andragogy (e.g. adult learning), rather than a focus on imparting knowledge through lecture and testing. We want to ensure that workshops feature existing activity and to enhance communications channels by sharing information across diverse audiences from many provinces in Vietnam. Member organizations, through sharing both resources and activities designed to enhance an organization’s ability to deliver programs, would be able to adapt, expand and innovate. It is our belief that this approach can equip our staff/volunteers to execute, manage and lead in a manner that creates value in the organizations they serve.

What workshops have already been offered?

During 2007-2009, the Program Team facilitated or designed workshops and presentations in Vietnamese with the collaboration of a variety of groups including representation from members of eight VA NGOs and several lecturers from universities in Vietnam. Over 600 participants from 16 VA NGOs, and 34 institutions/agencies from Thái Nguyên, Hà Nội Huế, Quảng, Bình, Quảng Trị, Quảng Nam, Sài Gòn, Cần Thơ, Vĩnh Long, An Giang participated in the VANGO Capacity Building Workshops since March 2007. In collaboration with Trung Tâm Giáo dục Nhân đạo Huế, Trung tâm Sao Mai Hà Nội and Sở Lao động Thương Binh Xã hội, we have been successfully hosting these workshops for the last three years in Huế, Hà Nội, Quảng Nam, HCMC and Vĩnh Long. The CBW provides both presenters and the Vietnamese participants a unique opportunity to interact professionally, get to know the needs to exchange techniques and effective communication skills. The workshops cover the following themes: Communication, Managing Personal Resources, Personal Health, Nutrition, Community health and well-being, Civic Education, Building Self-Esteem, Language & Literacy, Social Work, Time Management and Understanding Others. Workshop plans are straightforward and participant-centered. The workshops include topics, activities, examples, discussion prompts, and scenarios that are simple to follow, yet challenging for participants. Suggestions for grouping participants and step-by-step instructions for setting up and facilitating activities are included in every session.

In January 2010, VA NGO Network Program Team has continued to develop workshops working with the Consultation teams of lecturers, social workers and directors of VA NGOs. The overall objective of VA NGO is to build the capacity of members and associate members of VA NGO Network through human resource development in the use of information and communication. Towards meeting this objective, the VA NGO Network organizes two CBW series annually entitled: “Seeds of Change: In the Best Interest of the Child.” The 2010 Spring series will take place on 2-3 April in Huế and April 5-6 in Gò Vấp, HCMC, in conjunction with the second Social work training ” to be held on March 29-31, 2010 in Huế.

The curriculum of the Capacity Building Workshop is still in its development phase, with some modules currently still in enhancement for fine tuning. If you would like to be part of the Program Team or if you are interested in attending the VA NGO Network Capacity Building Workshop, please get in touch:

Remarks from workshop participants

“This was one of the best experiences I ever took part in. Things are organized (and) true to ecology…” – Trần Thị Hoa, Staff at Trung tâm Bảo trợ Trẻ em Thị Nghè, HCMC, July 2009.

“The capacity workshop is very useful and motivating. We are interested in participatory activities such as working in groups, discussing, making a decision together, finding a way to present a new idea or finding ways to help children grow. We are taught to be more creative and flexible. In addition, the idea of humanistic philosophy is so wonderful as it makes us think differently about how we treat children, help children build their self-esteem, respect children as individuals with unique temperaments and characteristics. The lessons learned in the capacity workshop have changed our ways of thinking and treating children.” Phạm Thị Tánh, Principal, Phong Điền, Huế, March 2009.

“Before coming here, we didn’t know what to expect. However, at the end of the meeting, I discover something new in your presentation. It opens my minds and it will help me with my work. I am looking forward to attend the next Capacity Building Workshop from VANGO Network. Thank you for sharing!” Lâm Thị Hằng, Teacher, Trung tâm Giáo dục Dạy nghề Thiếu Niên, HCMC, July 2009.

2010 Capacity Building Workshop’s Sponsoring Organizations

AmerAsian Voice, Compassion Flower, Children of Peace International, Friends of Hue Foundation, Institute of Civic Education Vietnam, Kids Without Borders, Our1World, Pacific Links Foundation, Project Vietnam and VANGO Network.

Trần Kim Ánh

Program Committee

The Strength of Many

Collaborative efforts are not a new idea for VA-NGO members. In fact the organization was, in many ways, established to bring organizations together for collaborative work. Many of you are working collaboratively on projects already, from efforts as small as one organization supporting another’s fundraising efforts, donating materials to another organization’s efforts or helping with transport or onsite assistance to efforts as large as water or school projects. I have heard from many of you the desire to increase these efforts over the coming year with bigger projects and larger teams, in order to meet the massive needs in healthcare, education, and other critical areas.

The concept of synergy, the idea that the efforts of a team produce results that are more than the sum of each individual’s contribution is not a new one, but it is one that has gotten a lot of attention over the last two decades. The term synergy has, in fact been so overused in business and academics that it has, in many senses, lost its meaning. That has not however, diminished the basic concept that partners, working together, can achieve goals far in excess of what they could each achieve on their own.

The various organizations and people that make up the VA-NGO Network each bring their own strengths and experiences. Working together not only allows each organization to supplement skills in areas where they are weak, but it provides the opportunity to bring new perspective to areas of strength as well. Both groups have the ability to learn from each other in all areas, be it through experience, or the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that a new set of eyes can bring.

The flip side of teamwork is the often derided committee. “Committees” at least in the term’s derogatory sense, have a reputation for making decisions that are worse than any of the individual committee members would have made on their own, they turn relatively short processes into long, drawn-out affairs, and they leave each of their members unsatisfied with the results.

So how do we foster a process that ensures we’re getting the most out of our collaborative efforts and not just creating more hurdles and work? Here are a few ideas:

  • Ensure a strong common goal – It’s best to write up some specifics about the expected outcome of the collaboration. Be specific about what the organizations want to achieve. That way there’s no confusion and all the team members are working towards the same ends. It also provides a framework to settle any disagreements about were and how to spend resources.
  • Define tasks and assign to each organization – One of the primary issues in keeping a team running efficiently is to ensure that all the necessary tasks are covered, and that multiple members are not doing the same work. The best way to do this is to establish, upfront, what tasks are required, and assign to the specific organizations or individuals who will have responsibility for each area. While it’s often difficult to foresee all of the tasks that might be necessary, it’s easier to start with a plan and modify it to meet changing circumstances that to begin without at least a tentative roadmap towards the team’s goals.
  • Communicate – Communication is the single most important key to a successful outcome. Depending on the urgency of the goal and the size of the team, a daily, weekly or bi-weekly conference call should be scheduled where progress toward goals can be reviewed and each of the team members has a chance to raise any issues that are impeding their progress.
  • Put someone in charge – Generally speaking, collaborative efforts in the non-profit world are an association of equals. That is, no one organization is in charge of the effort. That doesn’t mean, however that collaborative effort shouldn’t have a leader. This is especially true when the project’s timeline is critical to its success. The goal of the first team meeting or conference call should be to elect a leader for the team. The team leader has overall responsibility for the efforts success. Their primary task is to keep the team moving in the same direction and ensure that everyone on the team is able to work to their full potential. They can allocate resources to the areas most critical to the schedule, mediate between team members with conflicting goals, and keep the team and the collaborating organizations informed of the efforts progress.

These are general guidelines adapted from large project management, and they won’t all be applicable to every collaborative effort, but I hope they will provide some food for thought and a useful guideline for you to organize your collaborative efforts to achieve the best outcome for you and your constituents.

Michael Kane
Board of Advisors

Travel Green

Tips to Reduce Your Ecological Footprint

  • Reduce/Ban plastic water bottle
  • Take fewer but longer trips
  • Travel light
  • Reduce luggage weight
  • Consider cycling, sailing, hiking, cross country skiing, walking tours
  • Use public buses/trains instead of private taxis/rental cars
  • Decline car rental upgrades
  • Keep your speed down
  • Use cruise control while driving
  • Before you leave the home, pull power plug from computers, TV and appliances that will not be in use (Phantom power) and tightly turn off all faucets, toilet
  • Turn down thermostat on water heater
  • Stay with a local family
  • Bring clothes that are easy to wash and dry quickly
  • ReUse towels, and forgo daily linens change
  • Bring your own refillable toiletries, soap, minimize single-individual-pack toiletries
  • Remove plastic and packaging from the gifts you bring, some countries have no means of recycling
  • Use rechargeable batteries, bring old used batteries home to dispose properly
  • Take your own travel mug
  • Bring your own bags
  • Avoid disposable dishes, serving ware, containers
  • Buy local
  • Turn off your computer when it is not in use
  • Turn off all electric devices when leaving the room
  • Minimize the use of room heater/air conditioner
  • Be mindful of your power consumption
  • Buy items that last, with multi-purpose use, support cradle-to-cradle design, think about how items are disposed after its use
  • Encourage hospitality industry to go Green, give them compliments and thanks them
  • Keep your showers short
  • Plant a tree wherever you are
  • Leave footprint, pack it in, pack it out



Cathy Lam
Membership Committee

Program Updates

The VA NGO Network’s Capacity Building Workshops (Spring 2010) are in full swing of planning all ready to start on April 2-3 in Hue and April 5-6 in GoVap. We are expecting about 70-80 workshop participants for CBW in Hue and about 50-60 for CBW in Go Vap, and a total of 10 presenters and 8-10 volunteers will join us in Hue and/or in Go Vap. This year’s CBW marked also an all time high collaborative network of 9 member organizations: AmerAsian Voice, The Compassion Flower, Children of Peace International, Friends of Huế Foundation, Institute for Civic Education Vietnam, Kids Without Borders, Our1World, Pacific Links Foundation and  Project Vietnam. The Summer 2010 CBW is targeting July 2010 and we are especially seeking additional lecturers from member organizations to enhance CBW curriculum. Come bring your experience to share!

The Network is officially kicking off the second year of the Human Trafficking Program, with the hosting of the Human Trafficking Prevention Training Worshops in Hue on Mar 29 – 31. The program is funded in part with a grant from the Center for the Encouragement of Self-Reliance (CESR). Funding is available to member and non-member organizations, please submit proposal to

Upcoming Events

  • Children of Peace International Spring Medical Mission: March 11-27, 2010, Phu Tho, Sapa, HCMC.
  • Our1World Spring ” Sustainability of food and the Environment for Healthy Living”: March 11 – April 3, 2010, Hue (Viet Nam), April 5 and 9, 2010, Saigon and An Giang.
  • AmerAsian Voice Human Trafficking Workshop: March 15 – 17, 2010, Hue (Viet Nam). Contact
  • VA-NGO Human Trafficking Workshop: March 29 – 31, 2010, Hue (Viet Nam). For more information:
  • Pacific Links Foundation Early Childhood Care Education Spring Training: March 31 – April 1, 2010, Hue (Viet Nam).
  • VA-NGO Capacity Building Workshop: April 2 – 3, 2010, Hue (Viet Nam), April 5 – 6, 2010, Saigon . For more information:
  • Welcoming Operation Reunite returning to Viet Nam: April 3, 2010, Saigon (Viet Nam). For more information, contact
  • Pacific Links Foundation Early Childhood Care Education Spring Training: April 8 – 9, 2010, An Giang (Viet Nam). .
  • Len Duong Camp 2010 by the Vietnamese Culture and Science Association (VCSA): May 28, 2010, Huntsville (Texas).

If you wish to include your upcoming event, please forward information to