Seattle-based nonprofit aspires to assist deaf children in Vietnam

Paige Stringer (center left, in turquiose) with Thuan An schoolgirls in the Binh Duong province, Vietnam (Photos provided by Paige Stringer)

Paige Stringer (center left, in turquiose) with Thuan An schoolgirls in the Binh Duong province, Vietnam (Photos provided by Paige Stringer)


By Jason Cruz

Northwest Asian Weekly

It was an unassuming trip.

Paige Stringer traveled to Vietnam for her work and discovered a cause so personal that she established a foundation to help raise funds for deaf children in Vietnam. Last year, Stringer, a freelance travel writer, was working on an article about customized vacations when she traveled to Vietnam and volunteered at a school for deaf children.

Born hard of hearing, Stringer spent two and a half weeks at the Trung Tam Thuan An center for hearing impaired students in South Vietnam. She observed a distinct difference between the limitations of the school and her personal experience growing up in the United States.

“A lot of hearing aids were old and outdated,” said Stringer, who uses hearing aids but has the ability to listen and talk without using sign language. She also found that Thuan An lacked the proper training and resources needed to assist children with hearing problems.

Stringer learned that most deaf and hearing impaired children in Vietnam did not receive an education past the 7th grade. This prevents children from attending college or learning any vocational skills which would assist them in developing a career.

A student at Thuan An (name unknown) smiles broadly due to the gift of sound.

A student at Thuan An (name unknown) smiles broadly due to the gift of sound.

The Thuan An Center is a state-sponsored school located in the Binh Duong province. It is funded by the communist government out of Hanoi. It serves more than 300 children ranging from ages 3 to 20. The school also boards some of the children. Stringer saw that some of the children had been abandoned by their parents and live at the school out of necessity.

When Stringer returned to Seattle, she was so moved by her experience and what she saw that she decided to do something about it.

This year, she established the Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss. The Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization designed to provide resources to children so that they may be able to obtain the necessary education and equipment to function as independent adults. Stringer hopes that the initial work done in Vietnam will lead to sponsored programs in other countries.

Stringer, a former University of Washington tennis player, has 12 years of corporate marketing experience that includes working with Fox Sports Northwest, the Clorox Company, and Amazon.com. Using her marketing background, she hopes to raise enough money to sustain a program that will benefit young Vietnamese children with hearing issues.

The foundation would provide a month-long teacher training workshop at the Thuan An Center. The workshop will bring  together 80 teachers in Vietnam with 10 visiting experts identified by the foundation for their work in the areas of auditory-verbal and deaf education. The focus of the training will center on children ages 5 and younger, which experts say are the most critical ages in speech and hearing development.

In order to enhance the foundation’s purpose, Stringer has enlisted a board of directors which includes many experts in the field of audiology, education, and speech pathology.

Fred Minifie, a retired professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington, is chairman of the foundation’s board.

“I told [Stringer] I was busy, but I would be happy to do it,” Minifie said. He said he felt the foundation’s purpose was “interesting and appropriate.”

Some of Thuan An’s youngest students enjoy their breakfast. (Photo by Paige Stringer)

Some of Thuan An’s youngest students enjoy their breakfast. (Photo by Paige Stringer)

“It’s a response to a bona fide need.” Minifie said. He has been impressed with Stringer and her ability to engage with different groups in her fundraising efforts as well as her drive to seek assistance to underwrite the teacher training program.

Stringer estimates that the foundation will need approximately $140,000 to establish the teacher-training program. With the necessary funding, she plans for the program to begin during the summer of 2010, lasting for 3 consecutive summers. She thinks that with the success of the teacher training program, the foundation can blossom into other programs that will benefit the deaf and hard of hearing.

Stringer has planned a trip to Vietnam this fall to meet with companies regarding potential partnership opportunities. In addition, she has approached companies regarding donations of hearing aids and other equipment which may upgrade those currently used by Thuan An. ♦

To make a donation or for more information on the Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss, visit www.childrenwithhearingloss.org.

Jason Cruz can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

8 Responses to “Seattle-based nonprofit aspires to assist deaf children in Vietnam”

  1. Maggie Lee says:

    I have been able to have a little boy, approx 6-7 years old sent to Thuan An School as a boarder. He was previosly at Thi Nighe Centre for disabled orphans (Phu My). He has hearing aids, but is unable to communicate. he is a very intelligent boy and i would like to give him every oportunity to improve.Would it be possible for me to have Hieu tested at the ENT hospital, Hanoi?? How?? he has had initial hearing test at RECDC at 1008 Ly Chinh Thang. HCM. This found hom profoundly deaf. I will be in Vietnam in Sept. to see Hieu 1

  2. Priya Grealy says:

    Hi I am an Australian Citizen and expat living in Thai Nguyen 2 hours north of Hanoi. My husband works at the Thai Nguyen University. I have visited the school at Thai Nguyen for Disadvantaged Students (there are about 300 students, 80 deaf students). I have also been trying to get something happening there for the deaf students.

    Recently at the school the 80 deaf students all got hearing aids but still some can not hear. The school has very limited equipment for testing hearing and I suspect the equipment has not been calibrated.

    I am not sure the school nurse knows how to use this equipment to it full benefit. Plus they do not have the capacity to do a full hearing assessment (this can be done at Hanoi ENT hospital but the cost although low is still too expensive for these children of poor families). They are also unable to do proper mouldings and I suspect resources for teaching deaf children is also limited.

    I am also speaking with a Dr Duong at the ENT hospital at Hanoi and with a number of audiologist and speech therapists in Australia that are keen to help.

    I would love to hear from you about what you are doing in south vietnam and maybe you could give me some advice on how to go about helping these children, regards Priya

    • Alison McCarthy says:

      Hello,

      I too am an Australian living in Hanoi. I am in the process of working alongside a charity ‘children’s hope in action’ to enable a 7 year old boy to gain his hearing for the first time, through the use of hearing aids. He has not been going to school on account of not being able to hear, and he can not speak. He lives in Hoi An. I would be eternally grateful for any advice on the best way forward in terms of assisting the family to help their son speak, listen, and manage his hearing aid. I think it would also be useful to access some sort of information pack – a sort of do it yourself guide to speech therapy for families so that they can help their children. Does anyone know if this exists? Would love to discuss further.

      • Traveller says:

        Hi Alison,

        As someone who has worked with deaf and hard of hearing children for a few years in north america, I would strongly suggest you research the impact of early language deprivation on cognitive and social development and how this would impact late language acquisition.

        Has the child had no exposure to language at all or has he learned sign language? For how long? Internationally adopted older deaf children I have met, even if their hearing is good enough to hear with hearing aids, often are not able to adapt to depending on spoken language as a primary communication mode even though they probably would if they grew up in north america with early intervention. If children have had no exposure to any (spoken or signed) language for many years they will be extremely delayed in their cognitive and social functioning.

        For hard of hearing children, not being able to hear for so long affects brain development so they are often unable to adapt to communicating only orally even with hearing aids/CI etc. The brain has not been received signals for so long that it looses the ability to make meaning from auditory input.
        If their vision is unimpaired, they usually depend on ASL (american sign language) at school and at home – however their signed language use can also be impaired due to the general cognitive delay.

        If the child has been able to acquire signed language (not just basic gesturing) his brain will be in a much better position to benefit from hearing aids as he will have a linguistic framework, point of reference that will help him attach meaning to new auditory input.

    • Jacquie says:

      Hello!

      I am an American teaching English in Thai Nguyen at the American Academy of English. The school is having a slow summer, and I am eager to work elsewhere on my days off. However, I’m having trouble finding contact information for the Disadvantaged Students Center. Could you help me contact that agency?

      Thank you!
      -Jacquie

  3. Duong Phuong Hanh says:

    Great to hear this news. Thuan An is the biggest and best school for the Deaf in Vietnam.

  4. sig says:

    ALDA meets in Seattle this October. The annual Conference is open to all interested in hearing loss. See http://WWW.ALDA.ORG and go to the information about the ALDA Conference.

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