Children of Vietnam has two overarching goals: assisting children and families in breaking the cycle of poverty, and providing immediate aid to those in crisis.
Since 1998, Children of Vietnam (COV) has been serving the children in Vietnam whose future is stifled by poverty. They do that by educating minds, mending bodies, sheltering families and nurturing their development.
COV is guided by its commitment to be effective, efficient and transparent. Under Ben Wilson’s leadership, the foundation’s founder, COV has been innovative in its approach to providing assistance to children, ensuring each child has the opportunity to grow and fully develop.
Human Asia has the following exclusive interview with Ben.
Tell us about Children of Vietnam and how did the idea come about?
Ben: My first time in Vietnam was in 1995 to 1997 on a two year project assignment for my American company. I was responsible for constructing a major Joint Venture factory with a Danang company in Central Vietnam.
My home in the center of the city was surrounded by working families and their children. Day by day the children were very focused on the “foreigner” living in their midst and were very often at my door selling American chewing gum, seashells from the beach and smooth stones from the Han River. Very enterprising children.
At that time, I was one of only three Americans working in Danang. Not only was I accepted as a foreigner by the local colleagues in my workplace, but around my residence as well. As an American I was astounded how I was accepted as a friend and supported in all areas of my life there.
The owner of my house had a sister, Luong Thi Huong, who was assisting me arranging all permits required for living in Danang. There were so many interesting children coming to my door, I wanted to know what their lives were like day by day.
Huong led me to the Street Children Program, orphanages, schools for the disabled, hospitals and public schools. There were malnourished children, obvious from observing their physique, children with disabilities and hearing loss, some without necessary tutoring, suitable clothing or shoes, many not attending school, a need for tutoring and health care.
As time came when the factory was complete and as I was preparing to leave, Ms Huong asked me “What can we do to improve the lives of these children, Mr Ben?” That was the spark that started the fire that has been burning for twenty years with Children of Vietnam.
Building bright futures for these children has been our objective, having served 250,000 children since our beginning! Our focus has been Education, Health Care, Housing and Nutrition – all vital to their lives, whose age is between birth to 18 years.
Ms Huong has been our dedicated Vietnam Director of Children of Vietnam for twenty years managing ten Staff in Danang.
What has been the main achievement of COV thus far?
Ben: A major program is education, as in an emerging economy, opportunities abound and a good education is a gate to opportunity and a necessity. Children of Vietnam has currently 105 students with full scholarships in university study who have amazing intellect and no funds.
We have built and donated 48 kindergartens for poor areas. Also built and donated 600 houses for needy families. We have served over 400,000 disadvantaged children to date while providing nearly US $9,000,000 for all programs.
Many children had heart surgeries, as well as limb and eye surgeries. 350 women in our Empowering Foundations for Women and Their Children Program are now living a stable and self-sufficient life.
After visiting so many of the critical needs in Vietnam and the nonprofits working there, Children of Vietnam was created. My presence in Danang for two years created an element of trust for me personally allowing us the ability to receive rapid approval by the Vietnamese Government to operate there.
Why should Americans donate to a non-profit organization in Vietnam and not in the U.S.A?
Ben: There are already over one and a half million nonprofit organizations in the USA with a significant number to serve people in need.
Costs to provide services, surgeries, food, medicines, clothing, housing, kindergartens in Vietnam are extremely low. Housing costs $2,800 a year, one year of a university scholarships costs $515, and a fully equipped kindergarten costs just $20,000.
What do you hope to see COV accomplish in the next few years?
Ben: We are currently involved in a planning program to evaluate our work to date and to outline our future objectives.
Being considered are:
- Broader objectives in education
- Expanded food distribution
- Reaching deeper into tribal areas providing more kindergartens and assisting in other need areas
- Broaden the Empowering Foundations for Women & Their Children program
- Additional children in Hope System of Care for Children with Disabilities
How can people contribute and where will their money go?
Ben: Anyone may contribute financially to these programs from our website: www.childrenofvietnam.org and 85% of all funds reach the children.
We also welcome volunteer Board Members and other volunteers for committees and support for Fund Raisers.
We want to find out more about Ben Wilson
Ben, please tell us more about yourself.
Ben: I am a native of North Carolina, U.S.A. and am an engineering graduate of North Carolina State University. I have 38 years experience in designing building and factory construction having traveled to 13 international locations in my career. I have three married sons and six grandchildren residing in the U.S.A.
My avocations include restoration of my 100-year-old residence, biking, gardening, studying history of Vietnam and following International Grand Prix Auto racing.
The reception I received as an American my first time in Vietnam in 1995 was impressive as I was treated as a friend and family member both in business and my private life. The people are dedicated to their children, hard working and make optimum use of anything they earn or receive. Their positive attitude about life, even when poor, is commendable. The children love school and honor the opportunity to learn.
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What is one of the toughest lessons you’ve learned in your experience with your current project?
Ben: The toughest lesson in operating a charity for children 10,000 miles from U.S.A is the detailed communication required to be successful. Without modern technology it would be most difficult! In addition, having a dependable staff and especially a Country Director who is trustworthy, motivated and who loves the children is critical for success.
How do you stay productive and accomplish your day to day tasks?
Ben: The key to staying productive and motivated is a daily list of tasks with deadlines which helps reduce procrastination. Also exercise and diet planning will assist in productivity. Longer working hours will also support meeting objectives.
What dreams and passions are you focusing on for the future?
Ben: Our dreams are focused on the needs of the children as they are the future of the world and the Vietnamese children appreciate graciously what is done for them. Many seek ways to “give back” assistance to their country as they mature. Our dreams are to expand and broaden our list of objectives previously mentioned and to assist as many needy children as possible.
What advice would you give people just starting out on their own foundation?
Ben: Advice for those seeking to do similar work for children as we have for twenty years should be focused on careful selection of operating staff who have a heart and passion for their objectives. Also their communication skills and talent for cooperation are critical. Certainly, financial connections and supporters are vital for long term success.
Thank you, Ben.
Visit Children of Vietnam : https://www.childrenofvietnam.org/