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VVAW Library Project: Changes and Updates
By Chuck Theusch
In 2018, VVAW reconnected with the Library of Vietnam Project (LVP) with the goal of funding and building its own library for children in Vietnam. In 2019, fundraising began, a site was chosen, and plans were to have the library completed in March 2020.
We all know what happened next. The global pandemic brought everything to a halt.
We continued to keep in touch to see when we could get the project moving again. However, as if the Covid-19 Pandemic didn't present enough challenges, differences in the local District People's committee surfaced.
After our diplomatic but firm requests for some resolution were ignored, VVAW and LVP agreed on moving the site.
We went back to Quang Ngai where we were aware of a need for a library some 30 minutes south of My Lai/Son My.
Known in American War time maps as Pinkville because of the color of the maps, Quang Ngai has a long history of resistance and revolt—literally going back more than a thousand years. It was an area of heavy Viet Cong activity. The destruction from the War and poverty have continued to present challenges.
It is one of Vietnam's poorest Provinces. But it has a Department of Foreign Affairs that is engaged in outreach to foreign NGOs. When I visited the Province (where I was deployed during the war) on my first return to Vietnam in 1999, they were open to my offer of a library. We are taking them up on that offer.
The library currently at the Pho Thanh School, on the new site, is not a free standing, designated facility. It is located in a small area beneath the steps in one of the school buildings. This usage of minimal spaces is not uncommon in the remote, still poverty-stricken regions of Vietnam.
About 10 years ago the national government passed a law providing that for a school to receive its highest Rating Recognition it must have a separate library building; a big departure from the usual school reading rooms. The VVAW project will provide this badly needed facility and the recognition that will follow. The Duc Pho and Quang Ngai region are still poor, making the project a dramatic addition to the local education infrastructure.
The Government of Vietnam has been successful in curtailing the pandemic, but continues restricting travel. Restricted means no International VISA access for over a year. The project timeline has been dramatically altered due to the Covid travel cancellations. No international travel into Vietnam is allowed with the specific designated exception for very, very few flights with special VISA status abroad. We are in touch monthly, with the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington DC and PACCOM in Hanoi regarding the "opening up" of Vietnam. We remain on hold, but there is a new optimism rooted in the continued improvements, vaccines and Covid VISA developments—on a monthly, even weekly, basis.
That said we are going forward with construction and have a set of School Leaders ready to go even if we can't meet in person for some time. The target is kids reading books in the VVAW Duc Pho-Pho Vinh School Library for the September 2021-2022 school year. We are not waiting any longer and thanks to the Duc Pho Department of Education, the Vietnamese will not wait any longer either.
We wish to introduce you to one of our many friends in Vietnam. Tran Thi Thuy was in college at Quy Nhon University, back when we first became acquainted in 2010, and has worn several hats since then. As Project Manager, she will bring her creative genius to the kids of the VVAW Pho Thanh Library.
The VVAW Project is special to her and her family on a personal level as well as its importance for the Children of Pho Vinh. Thuy has brought many skills to our project going well beyond teaching talents, as reflected in her young but impressive resume. She has been responsible for bookkeeping, international wire transfers, construction contractors, the bid process, Department of Planning and Investment project certifications, meeting construction deadlines, and adhering to government regulations.
VVAW will have a project that will be a source of pride in accomplishment for Vietnam's future. While the country has moved on after the war in the big cities, places such as Duc Pho, My Lai and remote areas in Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue, are still mired in poverty and war legacy challenges. VVAWs investment in these areas speaks to a vision for a better future.
We look forward to placing this school on a recognized list of high performers of Quang Ngai Education Professionals. The resources will truly skyrocket thanks to the VVAW investment in this remote area's future. VVAW will change people's lives in this province.
Chuck Theusch is a Vietnam Veteran of the US Army, 4/3 Infantry, 11th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division, Vietnam 1969-70. He is the founder/CEO of the Library of Vietnam Project.
The new site of the VVAW Library in Vietnam.