I decided that I better tell everyone about my work over here or you will think that all we do is travel and have fun! My situation at my university (Vietnam National University) has not been the best because most of the faculty do not speak any English. The person who I was supposed to work with (who is fluent in English) ended up announcing in August that she was leaving to attend a Ph.D program in the US so that made it a difficult start to the semester. I ended up co-teaching the English and social work classes with two other professors. Bob also helps with English part and I do the social work part. I have discovered that knowing how to speak English doesn’t qualify you to teach English. Bob has more patience than I do and is very good at it.
After much negotiation, I am now teaching two aging classes. One class has 50 students and the other one has 60 students. The classes are offered at a satellite campus 45 minutes from campus so I leave on a bus at 6:00am for a 7:00 class. One class runs from 7-11 and the other one goes from 1-4. I actually had to hire my own interrupter to make this happen but I am glad it all worked out. I am excited to be sharing my passion for working with the elderly with the students. As part of this class I am going with the students to learn about aging programs in the community.
Bob and I run the English club for students and meet with them weekly to practice their English. We also teach the staff English on a weekly basis and continue to help with the English and social work classes. Bob also goes to the hospital and teaches the geriatric doctors English one day a week.
I continue to provide workshop and trainings on a variety of topics both at my university and at other settings. I manage to get myself involved in all kinds of interesting situations. My best story is about a Dr at the hospital who asked me to do a small training for his staff on Alzheimer’s Disease. We talked about a date and he made it seem like it would be an informal presentation. He gave me the address of the hotel for the “meeting”. When I arrived I went to the front desk and asked for the room for the hospital meeting. They sent me to the 2nd floor but when I got off the elevators there were hundreds of people walking around, display tables, and large conference rooms. I went back downstairs and said that I was looking for a small meeting room. They told me that this was the only place that any doctors were meeting. So I go back upstairs and start looking for the Dr I know. It turns out that this was my “meeting” and that I was the keynote speaker on Alzheimer’s Disease! I spoke for 2 hours on the behavioral concerns for individuals with Alzheimer’s Disease.
This presentation has led to many interesting opportunities because they don’t know much about diagnosing and supporting the caregivers. I am currently working on a research project at the hospital to try to determine the number of elderly admitted to hospitals that have Alzheimer’s Disease.
I never knew how much I knew about social work until I came to Vietnam! Because Social Work is such a new profession they are many years behind us in their development. I provide workshops on service learning, core competencies, curriculum, developing field placements, ethics, aging policies, etc.- you name it and I can talk about it. I am always introduced as the “Fulbright Scholar from USA” so that makes me an expert!
I am currently working with the Ministry of Health and several hospitals to help promote the idea of having medical social workers at hospitals. They currently don’t utilize social workers at the hospitals and don’t understand their functions. I hope to provide a workshop to introduce the idea to the hospitals in HCMC.
Overall I am pleased with my experience and the impact that I am having on social work and the aging programs in Vietnam. And yes… I really am working!