This post is in response to this article in the L.A. Times:
I would like to address the protesters cringing into your city in an attempt to tell your city leaders and residents what to do. Being and American-Vietnamese (note that I’m always an AMERICAN first), having deep family ties in Vietnam and visiting Vietnam numerous times, I can certainly testify first hand about the so called suffering of the Vietnameses at the hands of their communist controlled government.
Putting it bluntly, that’s a bunch of BULLSHIT… Vietnam today is clearly not the same Vietnam shortly after the Fall of Saigon in 1975. Vietnamese have more freedom now than they’ve had in two generations and that freedom will continue to grow as their market economy continues to grow and prosper. Furthermore, Vietnam is experiencing their greatest economic prosperity EVER IN THEIR HISTORY be it communist, democratic or otherwise…
Vietnam’s current central controlled government is a far cry from the Stalinist oligarchy of their past. There’s open elections for Vietnamese city officials much like councilpersons are elected to Riverside or other cities in America. To become a political prisoner in Vietnam today, you almost have to punch a cop in their face while yelling “Down with Communists…” Even so, you might be in jail for less than a week or as soon as you pay off the cop for punching him.
What’s most important to understand is why this organization is protesting in your city. The vast majority of those involved with Federation of Vietnamese Communities and similar organizations are old farts who are still holding a grudge after over 30 years and refuse to believe that their enemies are literally dead or dying. They are a miniscule small portion of the Vietnamese-American community who mastered bringing attention to themselves with the perception that all Vietnamese think and believe as they do when in fact it’s the exact opposite. It’s a personal embarrassment whenever I see these groups continue spewing their ignorance and hatred.
Furthermore, it is YOUR community and NOT THEIRS. Make up your own mind on whether or not you want to establish a relationship with Can Tho, but please don’t these outsiders dictate what you should do in your city.
Rotary Club of Apple Valley with the grateful assistance of Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund funded $1,000 US for a humanitarian project to help five families affected by unexploded ordinance (UXO) accidents in Quang Tri Province, Vietnam in 2007.
Quang Tri Province has the unfortunate distinction of being the most bombed region in the world. More bombs were dropped in an area that can fit inside San Bernardino County than all of Europe during World War II. The U.S. Department of Defense estimates that about 10% of the ordinance used did not detonate as designed, which means that thousands of munitions still lay in Quang Tri waiting for the moment to be disturbed to unleash it’s devastation. UXOs are still harming and killing people over 30 years after the Vietnam War ended. It is estimated that nearly 7,000 innocent people are harmed or killed from UXO accidents since the Vietnam War ended over 30 years ago.
Quang Tri is also one of the poorest regions of Vietnam due to the devastation from the Vietnam War. The area is heavily dependent on agriculture and the intense bombing combined with use of defoliants, such as Agent Orange, left Quang Tri looking like a virtual moonscape after the War.
Rotary Club of Apple Valley has coordinated through Project RENEW to provide support for this issue (more on Project RENEW can be found on their Web site: http://www.landmines.org.vn). Our effort funds a micro-loan program supporting animal husbandry for families who had been affected by a UXO accident. These families had a loved one killed or incapacitated by a UXO, but the tragedy doesn’t stop at the accident.
Those involved in UXO accidents are usually the family’s breadwinners and the family as a whole is driven into extreme poverty by this loss. Our funds gave five Vietnamese families an opportunity to turn their life around from such tragedy and lift themselves out of poverty. I know first hand how resourceful the Vietnamese can be with just a little assistance. My Mother has been helping Vietnamese families in need in Thai Binh province for years. We have seen families take money to buy a couple pigs, turn it into several pigs, put their kids through school and their kids come back to buy their parents a new house. In Vietnam, the cost of a couple pigs or a cow can be enough to bring a whole family out of poverty for good.
Our money is not done working, but will continue to work indefinitely to help other families in the region. The funds were distributed through a micro-loan program, where the beneficiaries are expected to pay the money back when they can and then re-disbursed to other families in need.
This was not an easy project to put together and any level of success was uncertain. Most all Rotary International projects work through a Rotary Club in the region to assure Rotary funds are spent as designated. There are no Rotary clubs in Vietnam, so this project had to be managed from Apple Valley instead. Perhaps the most critical problem was Vietnam’s notoriously corrupt government, which could have caused our funds to disappear instead of reaching those who need our support. Thanks to Project RENEW and their staff, 100% of our funds reached Quang Tri province and disbursed to the beneficiaries in accordance to our instruction.
Rotary Club of Apple Valley will continue to support this project by direct funding, partnering with other Rotary Clubs and increase awareness by promoting this project through Rotary channels and media networks. It is hoped by this Rotarian that more Vietnam Veterans become involved with this project, because this project was created in their honor as well as their assistance through the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund. It is also hoped that this and other Rotary projects in Vietnam will bring Rotary clubs back to Vietnam again.
Respectfully Submitted By,