In 2008 Trinh Foundation Australia (TFA) began collaborating with the University of Medicine Pham Ngoc Thach (UPNT) in Ho Chi Minh City to educate Vietnam’s first ever speech therapists through a two-year training program.
With a population of over 97 million, a legacy of defoliants from the Vietnam War, poor maternal and child health and nutrition, and an ageing population, about 7 per cent of Vietnamese people aged two years and older, around 6.2 million, have a disability, many including communication and swallowing disorders. An estimated 2.79 per cent of children aged 2 to 17 years have a disability and only 1 in every 8 professional healthcare staff is trained in rehabilitation services.
TFA’s Co-Founding Director Professor Emerita Lindy McAllister said that by enabling the people of Vietnam to acquire speech therapy capacity themselves, the long-term benefits are now being seen some thirteen years on. As Professor McAllister said, “The development of speech therapy as a profession coupled with the ongoing support and education facilitated by TFA, has seen a radical improvement in the quality of life of those in Vietnam living with communication and swallowing disorders. For the first time ever, those affected have access to the appropriate services and care required”
“Until 2010, there were no formal training courses or qualified speech language therapists (SLTs) working in Vietnam. Thanks to TFA’s ongoing commitment to capacity building, between 2010-2017 TFA were actively involved in the training of 65 SLTs, 32 of whom were only trained as paediatric SLTs; the others trained to provide service to children and adults. All now working and teaching throughout the country. UPNT have since gone on to successfully run courses independently,” she said.
Ms Na and Ms Vân Anh are two graduates from the first cohort of 18 Vietnamese speech therapists in 2012. Both have now become valued Clinical Supervisors, including for the undergraduate course currently underway at Da Nang University of Medical Technology and Pharmacy. TFA consults for the Bachelor program as well as the inaugural two-year master program at UPNT in Ho Chi Minh City. Ms Na said she will always be grateful for the career opportunities she has been given through TFA’s assistance.
“Prior to being introduced to TFA, Ms Vân Anh and myself were working in the accounts department at the Office of Genetic Counseling and Disabled Children in Thua Thien Hue Province. TFA provided us with a two year fully subsidised scholarship, as well as additional funding over the years, made possible through various Speech Pathology Australia grants, to participate in workshops and mentoring to further develop our capabilities as speech language therapists,” Ms Na said.
In 2018 TFA entered into a five-year contract with MCNV to partner as Technical Advisors on the Speech and Language Therapy in Vietnam Project, which aims to further develop formalised speech therapy training courses.
Ms Na’s and Ms Vân Anh’s accumulated professional experience in speech therapy over the last 10 years has provided further career growth resulting in self-initiated employment with MCNV through the I-THRIVE project (interdisciplinary rehabilitation services supporting children with intellectual and developmental disabilities to thrive) which provides rehabilitation services including speech therapy to disadvantaged provinces.
The I-THRIVE project also provides support for rehabilitation professionals working at provincial and district level to improve their clinical practice skills. Working on the project from February—August 2021, Ms Na and Ms Vân Anh are providing assistance and training across 24 districts throughout Quang Nam and Thua Thien Hue Province.
“With the support of our partners, TFA is committed to providing ongoing education and empowerment to Vietnamese SLT students and professionals to drive sustainable change for those living with communication and swallowing disorders,” Professor McAllister said.
Trinh Foundation Australia is an ICP participating organisation. For information about volunteering visit their website.
Tess Stolarchuk and Sue Woodward
Trinh Foundation Australia