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Report by Professor Trinh Ngoc Trinh, Director of Hedo


(Held at Hanoi International Convention Centre 28 March 2000)

Dear distinguished delegates from Mountainous and Ethnic Region,
Dear distinguished guests from Home and Overseas,

As suggest by the Vice-President in charge of Social and Cultural Affairs, over the past 10 years, seminars on “Assistance to the Education-Science-Health Care Development in Mountainous and Ethnic Areas” were held in Son La, Lai Chau, Ha Giang, Ninh Binh and Vinh Phu. These have been the gathering opportunities for people who had the responsibility and keen interest in the field usually regarded as important but difficult in the less fortunate areas of Vietnam.

On the 10th Anniversary of HEDO’s foundation, this year we once again get together here at the Hanoi International Conference Centre to continue exchanging our initiatives, ideas, experiences and searching more effective ways to assist the education-science-health care development, hunger eradication and poverty reduction in the regions facing a lot of difficulties and shortages, that are mountainous and ethnic areas of Vietnam.

On behalf of HEDO, I very much appreciate the presence of all Foreign and Vietnamese delegates and distinguished guests here today.

The Highland Education-Science-Health Care Development Organisation, shortly named HEDO, was born when the Reform and Open policy had been issued by the Government of Vietnam aiming to build, defend and develop the nation. Mountainous regions, which account for three forth of Vietnam land with 20 million people among 54 ethnic groups, have been considered as the strategic and great potential position despite its sluggish growth and lagging behind. In 1990, Decision No. 72 on “Economic and Social Strategic Development in Mountainous and Ethnic Regions” were issued by Government of Vietnam. The Lieutenant General Dam Quang Trung, the former Vietnam Vice-President, was one of the authors of this vital strategy. With the perception that men were both the objective and driving force of all process of national development, he then gathered, discussed with some people, who had the responsibility, experience and interest in mountainous and ethnic issues, about the possibility of setting up a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in order to obtain co-operation with and assistant from international and Vietnamese organisations in the field of education – science – health care development in Mountainous and Ethnic region.

HEDO was established on the 28th of March 1989 in a meeting with the present of representatives from 7 provinces which were CaoBang, Lang Son, Bac Thai, Hoang Lien Son, Ha Tuyen, Lai Chau, Son La and many representatives from domestic and international organisations. The meeting was also attended by Lieutenant General Dam Quang Trung, former Vice-President; Mr Pham Minh Hac, Minister of Education; Mr Nguyen Van Hieu, Director of Viet Nam Science Institute and other well-known professors on Education and Ethnic such as Mr Ho Truc, Mr Ngo Dat Tam, Mr Cu Hoa Van, Mr Be Viet Dang, who delivered important speeches on the direction, objective and activities of HEDO. Mr Dam Quang Trung, in his speech, also mentioned the words of President Ho Chi Minh: “An ignorant nation is a weak and poor nation” and “The mountain and river of Vietnam may become glorious or not; the Vietnamese people can match up to other powerful nations in the world or not; the fact mainly depends on the knowledge and talent and our educated children”. At the meeting, an agreement was formulated among sponsored organisations in which partly stated: “We shall all together sponsor and do our utmost to assist the activities of this organisation for the human cause in order to promote education, to enrich our culture and to bring to ethnic people and children knowledge and science, the most effective means which help themselves to get rid of poverty, backwardness, illiteracy and illness and to successfully build a multi-ethnic nation living together in peace, independent, freedom, equality, civilisation and prosperity”. On 25th April 1991, in the meeting held between the Minister of Health, Mr Pham Song and the Director of HEDO, the Ministry of Health has become a formal sponsor of HEDO. Following stream of history, H.E. Nong Duc Manh, Chairman of Vietnamese National Assembly; Madam Nguyen Thi Binh, Vice-President of Vietnam together with other three Ministries namely the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ministry of Health and the National Centre for Natural Science and Technology, has continued the Lieutenant General Dam Quang Trung’s work, provided all possible opportunities and means to facilitate HEDO’s activities.

As you might have known, it is really difficult to set up an organisation but how to organise, to maintain and to develop it in the effective manner are even harder especially to a NGO with no state financial support. Despite having obvious organisation’s objectives it is not simple to define what, how and where to do. In fact, staffs of HEDO are teachers, diplomats, newly graduated students, who have great respect to the contribution of Mountainous and Ethnic region during the process of national development and defence as well as their awareness of a saying “Drinking pure water, one must know where it came from and the brotherhood of fifty brothers who followed their father on the long journey to the mountainous region”.

To answer the above three questions, we decided to visit several provinces, discussed with friends, carried out field trips, held direct talks with local people, teachers students as well as engineers, doctors, managerial officers. In collaboration with the Hanoi National University of Technology, the first field trip made by HEDO to Vo Nhai, Dai Tu, Thai Nguyen took place in mid April 1990, when HEDO’s a half of month old. It was then followed by a series of trips together with bureaus, departments of the Ministry of Education and Training, the Ministry of Health, the Vietnam Science Institute, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Population and Family Planning Committee. There were Cao Bang, Lang Son, Ha Giang, Lao Cai, Son La, Lai Chau, Vinh Phuc etc that we also invited Mr Pham Minh Hac, Mr Nguyen Van Hiep, Dao Vong Duc, Nguyen Van Giao… to take part in. We even visited Tay Nguyen where we had chance to meet with provincial leaders. I still recall one warm and sunny morning in March 1997 when our delegation met Mr. Ha Van Phung in his office at the provincial Committee in Bac Can. He welcomed us with a smart smile on his comic face of a former Vice-President in charge of social – cultural Affairs instead of a serious face of provincial party secretary we normally saw. He asked: “HEDO is every where and what special dishes are you going to offer us this time?” “Hunger eradication and poverty reduction, what do you think?” He answered: “Oh, exactly what we are expecting”, he smiled and continued, “we may not exchange the medals but we can offer each other our sincere and wholehearted feelings”. Thanks to the lively and practical realities brought back from our trips to mountainous and ethnic regions, we have clearly defined that the HEDO means “action”, not getting involved in sophisticated researches or studies or deep critical comments, nor taking part in an endless discussion on “student’s manner first and then learn to read and write” or “wealth generates formality”. We determined to carry out “the immediately tasks” aiming at assisting Education, Science, Health Care development, and at eliminating hunger and reducing poverty, at eliminating social evils particularly the drug problem, which is enable us to make a small but practical distribution to achieving the “Rich people, strong nation, a civilised and equal Society” objective.

Although determining what and where to do, it is, however, hard to find the ways of doing thing. At a meeting with HEDO, Mr. Nguyen Khanh, Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam, praised HEDO of offering the opportunities to travel and study overseas to many provincial leaders. During that meeting, we asked the Deputy Prime Minister for the financial support from the Government. He then said: “Vietnam remains still a poor country, therefore the setting up of HEDO is to assist the Government, the difficult region and the poor. So it might be worthwhile to explore and to seek funding from international organisations”. In September 1990, HEDO was formally invited by the Asia Community Education Association to attend a Seminar on “Community Education for a knowledge society in Asia heritage background”. Mr Nguyen Khanh spent time meeting with HEDO’s delegation in the Government Office, in which Mr. Pham Minh Hac, Mr. Ho Truc and representatives from the South East Asian Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were present. Mr Nguyen Khanh would liked to be informed more about the seminar and the content of HEDO’s speech. He even requested the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to inform the Vietnamese Embassy in Malaysia for further detail of seminar’s information and objective and content that could help HEDO supplement new ideas and initiatives. With the effective assistance from the Vietnam Embassy in Malaysia, the Vietnamese delegation’s speech was delivered successfully that all 250 delegates from some 18 countries have risen to applaud. Professor Ramlal Parikh, chairman of the Association, who chaired the meeting, came up to the stage and shook hands with the head of the Vietnam’s delegation. The chairman respectfully held the paper in both hands and said: “ The Community Education in Vietnam first launched in 1945 by the late President Ho Chi Minh, who is symbolised patriot in Asia, helped to sweep away the illiteracy for the 80% of the Vietnamese and to build an educated nation. We should discuss and adopt the way that Vietnam has done.” Also at this seminar, all of a sudden, HEDO was admitted as formal member of the Asia Community Education Association and the new membership of the International Community Education Association (ICEA). The general secretary of ICEA Mr. Alan Blackhurt announced this on behalf of nearly 100 members. HEDO was also invited to attend an international seminar held in Trinidad and Tobago in Centre America in September 1991. After the seminar in Malaysia, HEDO has become a founding member of the International Centre for drug prevention in schools, the Ethnic’s Language Right Commission, the International Association for ASEAN drug prevention and it has established with almost 100 governmental and non-governmental organisations, research institutes and universities from 45 countries. All these achievements could not be made without major contribution of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, especially Vietnamese Embassies in foreign countries. In his letter to HEDO, Mr. Nguyen Duy Nien, presently the Minister for Foreign Affairs has written: “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been doing its utmost to contribute to the mountainous region cause. We hope and expect to have more effective co-operation with you in the future for the mountainous region cause”.

From the mountainous region of Vietnam to foreign countries, and then back home from overseas, HEDO has pursued a tireless job in effectively and successfully implementing a total of 73 projects worth more than 22 billion Vietnamese Dongs over the past 10 years.

Officer’s training is one of HEDO’s priorities. There have been hundreds of mountainous and ethnic officers who were taking part in the courses at the Vietnam Science Institute (now referred to as the National Centre for Natural Science and Technology), the Environment and Natural Resources Centre headed by Doctor Vu Quy. A large number of provincial students, teachers, doctors, engineers, officers in population work have been offered to study at European Earth Studies Institute, the Asia Centre for population and Development and various universities in India, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, the United States, Spain, Australia and Ireland etc. On the other side, HEDO has received nearly 40 experts from the United Kingdom and Australia as volunteer teachers at some foreign Language Centres in mountainous provinces. The British Embassy and the British Council have opened an English teacher-training course and helped provide with English teaching equipment’s to Gia Lai and KonTum province. Thousands of students have been sent to the extended Foreign Language College for talented students, a school belongs the Hanoi Foreign Language Teacher Training University. There have been thousands of teachers who were trained and educated to become village nurses. A lot of professors, doctors, and agriculture experts have offered direct technical support to thousands of farmers in remote communes and villages.

Most of HEDO projects were carried out in the high land and remote areas aimed at setting up centres for illiteracy elimination together with job training, building school and medical centres, providing tools and equipment to schools and hospitals, transferring advanced technology, environmental protection and development, providing pure water to schools and rural areas, planning trees, drug prevention in school, family planning, hunger eradication and poverty reduction. We have made any possible request as well as accepted even a small proposal by any one that might bring interests to the mountainous region. During project implementation, we together with all localities have tried to build models, draw out experience and campaigning others to participate in. That is the way in which one is given the fishing rod instead of the fish as usually said by some international organisations and other localities.

Being volunteers, who have committed themselves to HEDO’s objectives and have travelled to different less fortunate parts of the country we have realised clearly that what we have done so far is very small in comparison with the needs and requirements of some 1.765 villages in the high land, remote and far away places. We also understand that the numbers of 73 projects are beautiful flowers symbolising the fine sentiments, the money and materials, the efforts and knowledge from our foreign friends and all local people. HEDO is only a bridge linking the two banks of the river.

On this occasion, allow me on behalf of HEDO the people from all provinces that have enjoyed the fruit of 73 projects to convey to all friends overseas and at home our sincere gratitude. I would like particularly to thank H.E. Nong Duc Manh, the Chairman of the Vietnamese National Assembly for his letter sent to HEDO today.

It reminds me of the message from Madam Dora Joseph, the President of the World Community Education Association, that HEDO received on the occasion of “the Seminar on Assistance to Education, Science and Health Care in Mountainous and remote areas” in Ninh binh. Message said: “The dynamism, the enthusiasm and dedication of HEDO to seek all possible opportunities to contribute to the development of education for children of the mountainous regions have been going in a very quiet but respected manner.” And “The World Community Education Association is very happy to work closely with HEDO in developing education projects”.

It also reminds me of the Meeting back in the end of 1992 in Bac Ha district with some villages’ presidents, in which President Giang Seo Phu said: “HEDO has brought us some schools and this was very important. However since the Radda Barnen-HEDO Kindergarten was built it has overshadowed the Manson owed by Hoang A Tuong because it is more beautiful, merrier. And hundreds of children sing and dance everyday there. It attracted the people all over villages who every time when shopping, stopped over to watch the scene just like people saw the exhibition. But what is more valuable is that HEDO has built us a bridge linking Bac Ha with the centre Government and opened us to the new world. I never forget that at happy get-together Mr. Ho Truc, Mr. Nong Hong Thai, presently the party secretary of Cao Bang province said “Cao Bang remains still a very poor and few projects given by HEDO, which are very valuable but the most precious thing is that HEDO has invited me to participate in an international conference held in Trinidad and Tobago and also to visit United Kingdom and France in 1991 period. Returning home I told the provincial leaders “Going overseas we could see the rapid development there. There were everywhere from city to country side many beautiful community welfare facilities and centres. Since then we came to conclusion that we should allocate considerable amount budged every year provided by the government to build schools, hospitals, cultural centres, youth clubs, etc not only in the provincial town, but also at districts and villages as well. At present in Cao Bang there are a good number of welfare facilities”. What is more interesting is the story told by one official from the Education Department in one of Mountainous Provinces. The real story seems a joke! In 1990 television was is very scare. Every evening, all department officials used to gather at a meeting hall to watch movies. The Department Director whose wife and children were living in the Delta was the most frequently visitors. Every time on TV appeared a couple kissing each other he shouted “change the channel, do not watch this strange thing”. By the end of 1991 HEDO invited him to attend a Conference in Australia and Malaysia. After the visit he let all officials watch whatever scenes on TV. He told the officials: “Going overseas we could witness the vigorous renovation, the right to love is a human right and it must be respected”. He asked the Administrative Board to dismantle all the old-style toilets and build new, hygiene ones. He said there has been no such thing around the world!”

Stories about HEDO’s involvement with localities are many because “we have devoted all our heart and mind to the cause of the education in the mountainous region” as said in the letter written to the Director of HEDO by Ha Thi Khiet, presently the president of Vietnam Women Association. We have made public a collection of letters from home and abroad sent to HEDO for your reference. Now I would kike to move on the orientations for the year 2000 and 2005.

Being a NGO without funding from Government, it is very difficult to talk about future plans. In other countries NGOs have three resources of finance to carry out their humanitarian activities. They come from the Government, enterprises and big corporations. They enjoy tax exemption and perform their businesses without benefit sharing and use all the income for further humanitarian activities. The third country has another source of finance, which came from foreign aid. Doing this is one way to avoid the red tape, to encourage the participation and contribution of the masses and bring about direct links between the NGOs and the local people. In Vietnam at present the NGOs only enjoy spiritual privileges and the only finance comes from foreign aid and funding.

All foreign aids for the Government channel are distributed by the Vietnam Committee for Pearce and Friendship (PACCOM) and fund is allocated directly to provinces, ministries and departments. NGOs have to look for resources themselves by designing projects, contacting and signing with governmental and non-governmental organisations overseas. This is not an easy task if not to say a difficult one. There are three factors to get the approval of a project from donors: meeting the aspiration of the people, having high feasibility and stable development. Each partner has its own objectives, functions and interest to be met. In some cases after the signing of the agreement there would be no fund available any more or the organisation has been disbanded. This has brought about difficulties for the Vietnamese NGOs. The timing for the approval of a project is another matter. The project on Population and Family Planning in Tuyen Quang Province funded by EU is a vivid example. HEDO had to wait for two years and if without the assistance from British Commission on Population and Family Planning, it would be impossible to get through. With it own experience, over the past 10 years HEDO can not pre-promise with any local authority but only continue with its arduous work, designing projects and campaigning for funds. Only when certainly comes HEDO then begin to work together with the local authorities to realise the said projects. Therefore, many local officials joked to us: HEDO is used to play “surprise but happy games”

There have been some projects on hunger eradication and poverty reduction, on population and family planning, on schools construction, on preservation of national manuscript and culture and particularly on training officials overseas for the year 2000. And in the coming five years, promoting the successes already recorded and learning from the setbacks of the past, HEDO will try its utmost for better meet some of the need of the mountainous and ethnic provinces in the fields of officials training, in education development, in environment and family planning, in dealing with drug problem in schools and especially in hunger eradication and poverty reduction. In accordance with the suggestion of some countries and many international and regional organisations, ICEA has been requested HEDO to host the 9th Plenary Conference in Hanoi in 2003 (Representatives from more than 50 countries around the world will participate). Also the ASEAN’s IFNGO has requested HEDO to host a Regional Conference in 2002 (Delegates from approximately more than 18 countries will attend). These are really huge missions which require the support and assistance from the Government, from the three sponsored Ministries, other Ministries and Departments concerned and also from the mountainous and ethnic provinces.

In the five coming years how well and how big the work that HEDO can do largely depends on the financial support and the co-operation from all of you, friends from overseas and all localities through the country.

We welcome all suggestion and proposals from the delegates present here at this Seminar and in the spirit of enriching our treasure and to equip ourselves for the first years of the New Millennium. This is an unforgettable resounding song encouraging us to go to the poor and remote areas and convey your best regards and that from all organisations at home and abroad, responding to the aspiration and hope of the poor and the less fortunate people.

Allow me to express my sincere thanks to all of you and to declare the opening of our “Seminar on Assistance to Education, Science and Health Care and on Hunger Eradication and Poverty Reduction in the Mountainous and Ethnic Regions”.



© Highland Education Development Organisation (HEDO) 2001
4 Trinh Hoai Duc, Hanoi, Vietnam
Tel: +84 4 7345292 / 7345293, Fax: +84 4 7345293
Email hedo@fpt.vn