Friday, December 28, 2012

Our hometown Sammamish, Washington - America's # 1 Friendliest Town (Forbes 2012)

We sent our 1,000+ snowflakes to Sandy Hook earlier today, and made a small contribution to support Newtown Teachers.

To all the children and families of Sandy Hook Elementary School (Newtown, Connecticut), you are in our thoughts and prayers.

Happy Holidays from Kids Without Borders

Snowflake for Sandy Hook in Sammamish

More than 125 people came to the Snowflake for Sandy Hook event, and they made more than 1,000 snowflakes.
Santa also came and surprised all of the kids (and the adults, too).

It was a wonderful gathering of caring people in our community of Sammamish (home of Kids Without Borders).

Incidentally, our city Sammamish was recently named by Forbes as America's # 1 Friendliest Town.

Upcoming event honoring Sandy Hook

Please join other families in our community on Friday December 21, 2012 for a Snowflake making party!

We've all wondered how we can help in the wake of last week's tragic events in CT. Let's help the students of Sandy Hook have a winter wonderland at their new school! The Sandy Hook PTSA wants to decorate their new school with as many snowflakes as possible when classes resume in January. They are moving to an empty school in a neighboring town. 

Bring some white paper, scissors and your imagination. We will make sure the snowflakes get to CT.

Kids Without Borders - a local, all volunteer non-profit, will be there with additional supplies and also be collecting donations for the “Connecticut PTSA Sandy Hook Fund”.

The message for this event is positive - I know many small kids are innocently unaware of the tragedy. This is going to be a fun "Snowflake Making Party" to help decorate a school on the other side of the Country to help make kids happy.

Let's get creative!! No two snowflakes are alike...and that is a beautiful thing. Yes this is short notice but we hope to see as many people there as possible!

Organized by:
Kids Without Borders (
City of Sammamish (Dawn Sanders, City Volunteer Coordinator)


25101 SE 24th StreetSammamish, Washington
3pm - 5pm

Kids Without Borders HumaniTour Viet Nam

Kids Without Borders founder Son Michael Pham led another successful mission to Viet Nam in November 2012. You can view stories and photos from the 17th HumaniTour Viet Nam via KWB Facebook Page

Wheelchair distribution in Mexico

October 2012

Welcome Home, Mike and Alex Shimizu, Kids Without Borders donors/supporters/volunteers.

Mike and Alex returned home (Shoreline, Washington) from their annual humanitarian mission. This year, they traveled to Mexico and involved with another Rotary / Wheelchair Foundation wheelchair distribution. They also brought along two full suitcases of new children clothes and toys from Kids Without Borders and delivered these during a visit to an orphanage.

Through Mike and Alex's efforts, more than 5,000 wheelchairs have been distributed to many countries over the last 9 years.

Successful fundraising event for Go Vap Orphanage

More than 500 people came to the Carols by Candlelight at the Renaissance International School Saigon on Thursday December 6, 2012.
The event raised 60 million Vietnam Dong (VND60,000,000 = US$3,000) for the Kids Without Borders - Go Vap Orphanage Medical Fund.

THANK YOU to the school management and staff, teachers, students, and parents for organizing this wonderful event.

More than

Renaissance International School Saigon upcoming fundraising event

Renaissance International School Saigon would like to welcome you all to our special Christmas event. Come down and sign along to your favourite Christmas Songs and watch our students perform.
Come and buy some candles, special paintings and Christmas decorations that our children have made.
Bring a blanket to sit on and enjoy our amazing show!
We are raising money to support the Go Vap Orphanage.
There will be drinks from Big Cola and pizza from Alfresco's available.
Our address:
74 Nguyen Thi Thap Street
Binh Thuan Ward, District 7
This event is organized by Laura Baines, teacher at the Renaissance School and volunteer of Kids Without Borders.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Make A Difference Day - October 27, 2012

About Make A Difference Day:

For more than 20 years, USA WEEKEND Magazine and Points of Light have joined together to sponsor Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of community service. Make A Difference Day is a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors. Millions of volunteers from around the world will unite in a common mission to improve the lives of others on Make A Difference Day, Saturday, October 27, 2012.

Thousands of projects are planned each year involving corporations, communities, nonprofit organizations, entire states and individuals. Many of the 250 HandsOn Network affiliates lead projects across the nation.

The stories told around Make A Difference Day show that anyone - regardless of age, location or resources - can accomplish amazing things when they take on the problems they see in their community. Recognizing the power of Make A Difference Day, other organizations join with USA WEEKEND and Points of Light each year to inspire and recognize the valuable work of volunteers. Newman's Own supports the day by awarding $10,000 to the charities of each of 10 National Honorees and three City Awardees.

On Saturday October 27, 2012 from 9am to noon, Kids Without Borders will have a limited work party at our office/storage located in Sammamish, WA.

How you can help/involved:

- We collect children's clothes and products to stock our Clothing Bank in Tukwila. The Clothing Bank serves a large population of immigrants, refugees, low income families in the Tukwila School District area.. Items we accept are new or slightly used: children clothes, shoes, hats, coats, jackets; blankets, school supplies, toys, ...

- We collect NEW toys, NEW children's coats and jackets, NEW children's socks and underwear, for the sick children staying at the Ronald McDonald House.

- We collect the following items for our programs and projects in Viet Nam and other countries: working cell phones, personal audio players (portable CD or DVD), working laptop computers or notebooks, working cameras.

- You can drop off the following products at our warehouse in Sammamish on Saturday (9am to noon).
Public Storage
23025 NE 8th Street
Sammamish, WA 98074
Kids Without Borders Unit 633 & 634

We will have limited needs for volunteers to help us with packing and organizing (clothes) for upcoming events: CARE nights for children in Tukwila, Harvest Festival in November in Bellevue, and upcoming humanitarian mission to Viet Nam.

For additional information please email us at

We invite you to join us in service on Make A Difference Day 2012.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Our friend and supporter Penny LeGate joined Kids Without Borders on Saturday (Sept. 22, 2012) at the GlobalFest Stand For Girls event in Seattle. Penny was there to share information of The Marah Project . Click on the link to learn more on how you can support.

The Dad Next Door: Forgiveness


I recently saw a couple of videos on the same day, a few hours apart. They were created to celebrate the lives of two great kids, both of whom I’ve known for many years. They were pieced together from old home movies, set to nostalgic music, and presented to big gatherings of adoring family and friends.  
It was all there: the first breaths in the delivery room, the saggy-diaper waddle across the kitchen floor, and the sleepy little angels curled up with their siblings in bed – like kittens in a cardboard box. There were vacation scenes on the beach, and family portraits by the lake. There were those awkward pre-teen years, and that miraculous metamorphosis into beautiful young adults.
Two amazing kids. Two wonderful, loving families. Two vibrant communities, gathered together to celebrate their lives.
But there was one difference. One film was created for a bar mitzvah party. The other was for a memorial service.
The girl who died had lost a long, tortuous battle with addiction. It was the kind of story you might hear about secondhand, and sadly shake your head. You might speculate what kind of abuse or neglect or character defect must have led her to such a horrific end. But I knew better. 
This was a kid with as much life and light in her as I’ve ever seen in one human being. I knew her since she was 10, and every memory I have of her is full of joy. She was smart, and creative, and talented, and kind. Her parents and her sister are the sweetest, loveliest people you’ll ever meet.
So what happened? That’s what you want to know, right? What rare and awful force seized such a beautiful child and wrenched her away from the life she should have had? I wish I knew.
If there was something I could offer you, I would – some comforting explanation why her story was destined to veer off on its own tragic course, leaving your kids and mine to sail safely through their happy lives. Believe me, I’ve looked for one. But all I come up with is confusion and grief – and of course fear. Plenty of fear.
We parents act as if we control our children’s destiny. We like to think that the safety-rated car seats, and the healthy organic snacks, and the carefully choreographed play dates will inoculate them against pain, and terror, and despair. We like to pretend that we can protect them from all the cruelty of the world with the invisible shield of our love. Not because that makes any sense, or because we really believe it – but because the alternative is too frightening to consider.
The problem is, bad things do happen. Sometimes horrible things. And every time they happen to a child, their parents sift through the wreckage for days and gather up blame. They live with the guilt, not only of survivors, but of failed protectors. They look in the mirror every morning and ask themselves: “What did I do wrong? Where the hell was my invisible shield?”
There’s an old Yiddish saying: “You can never be happier than your least happy child.”  Eventually, bad things happen to each and every one of our children, and we feel every arrow that slices through their hearts as if it pierced our own. If we look hard enough – and we always do– we find a way to blame ourselves for their suffering. Sometimes rightfully so. But ultimately, if we want to be any real help to them, we have to learn to forgive ourselves.
Don’t pull out your long list of parental failures and count them as you toss and turn in your bed.  We all have a list like that, but it’s not as long as the list of the ways we loved, and the ways we tried. And in the end, neither list is inscribed with our children’s fate. Sometimes bad things just happen to good people. Sometimes they happen to good people’s kids. 
The day after the bar mitzvah and the memorial service, I took my own kids out to a movie. It was a quirky, goofy comedy, but I spent most of it on the edge of tears. I kept sneaking peaks at my daughters’ faces as they laughed and giggled in the flickering light. In my mind, I tried to cast an invisible bubble around them – around all of us. 
Not so much to keep out the darkness. More to keep in the light.
For Mike and Penny and Molly, with much, much love.

Friday, September 21, 2012

International Day of Peace - September 21, 2012

The International Day of Peace was established in 1981 by resolution 36/67  of the United Nations General Assembly to coincide with its opening session, which was held annually on the third Tuesday of September. The first Peace Day was observed in September 1982.
In 2001, the General Assembly by unanimous vote adopted resolution 55/282 , which established 21 September as an annual day of non-violence and cease-fire.
The United Nations invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.

Each of us can be a messenger of Peace.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11 Remembered

For everyone who has volunteered or helped someone, these lyrics are dedicated to you.

I wanna to leave my footprints on the sands of time
Know there was something that I left behind
When I leave this world I’ll lea

ve no regrets
Leave something to remember so they won’t forget

I was here, I lived, I loved
I was here, I did, I’ve done everything that I wanted
And it was more than I thought it would be
I will leave my mark so everyone will know I was here

I wanna say I lived each day until I died
And know that I meant something in somebody’s life
The hearts I have touched will be the proof that I leave
That I made a difference and this world will see

I was here, I lived, I loved
I was here, I did, I’ve done everything that I wanted
And it was more than I thought it would be
I will leave my mark so everyone will know I was here

I just want them to know
That I gave my all, did my best
Brought someone some happiness
Left this world a little better just because I was here

I was here, I lived, I loved
I was here, I did, I’ve done everything that I wanted
And it was more than I thought it would be
I will leave my mark so everyone will know I was here

I was here, I lived, I loved
I was here, I did, I’ve done
I was here, I lived, I loved
I was here, I did, I’ve done
I was here

Link to music video

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Volunteering in Viet Nam

Letter from one of our volunteer, Rena. Rena (on right in photo) spent her summer vacation volunteering at the Picasso Thu Duc Orphanage (Saigon, Viet Nam) on behalf of Kids Without Borders. Rena has returned to the U.S to finish her study at Harvard.

Dear Uncle Son,

I had a wonderful time volunteering at the orphanage. My time there consisted of teaching conversational English lessons to the older kids and feeding and playing with the infants and toddlers. Each experience was valuable in its own way.

With the younger kids, I was able to light some smiles on their faces just by picking them up or making silly faces at them. They really longed for attention, and I was glad to be able to provide them with that.

I also enjoyed teaching English to the older kids, who were around my age. Although we came from completely different cultures and backgrounds and had somewhat of a language barrier between us, I got to know my students pretty well. They eager to both learn English and befriend us. We focused on teaching informal, conversational English by playing fun games and facilitating casual conversations. I had an incredibly fun time with the students both inside and outside of the classroom, and they really helped make my first experience in Viet Nam a unique and memorable one.

Thank you for a wonderful experience, I hope this opportunity will continue to touch the lives of the many volunteers following me!



Note: above photo, Linh (left) and Rena (right) with a caretaker and children of the Picasso Thu Duc Orphanage. They arranged for the purchase of a new dryer in the photo for the infant ward. Fund for this dyer was provided by the Lantern Projects (California).

Kids Without Borders Power Of One

July - August 2012
Letter from one of Kids Without Borders volunteer. Linh, her brother and friend Rena, spent their summer vacation volunteering on behalf of Kids Without Borders teaching English and caring for the orphans in the Picasso Thu Duc Orphanage (Saigon, Viet Nam). Linh has just returned to the U.S to complete her study at Harvard.

Dear Chu Son,

Today was my last day meeting with my students and the children. I haven't left Vietnam yet, but my heart feels heavy and sad inside. Although the time I had was short, it was such a wonderful and beautiful experience,  definitely one of the best times I had working abroad.

Many of my students gave me goodbye gifts. I feel so grateful, but I am also worried that they have spent money to buy me gifts. They are so thoughtful. One student, Mai, wrote me such a touching letter saying that all he wished was for Rena and me to come visit them every summer but stay longer than this time. The students have really enjoyed our English lessons and I am glad to have helped them in some way. I will miss them all dearly. Please update me on their lives and such when you come in November.

As for the children, I could not bear to put them back in their cribs today. Everyday, I have been seeing them. Their faces brighten up as they see Rena, Canh, my cousin, and me at the door. They jump up and down to greet us. At the end of each day when we try to put them down in their cribs, they whine and cry. All these children need is to be be cradled and held and they can never get enough. Often, we try to stay with them a little longer to get them to stop crying. But today, I did not stay longer because I knew that I would cry if I did. It is always hard to say goodbye to people you have connected and bonded with.

Thus, I would like to sincerely thank Chu Son and the organization, Kids Without Borders, for providing this once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I am not certain whether I have made an impact or a difference at the orphanage, but it has certainly made an imprint in my heart. This experience has further inspire me to not only become a pediatrician, but to also continue volunteering even after I become a doctor. Again, I thank you with all my heart. I hope that someday I would be able to volunteer with Kids Without Borders again.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Taylor Bridge Wildfire

Wednesday August 15, 2012

Early this morning we learned that the Taylor Bridge wildfire between Cle Elum and Ellensburg has destroyed more than 60 homes, killed unaccounted animals (cows, horses, and other livestock) and scorched so far more than 28,000 acres. 900 people have been evacuated, and many are working to save their homes by whatever means they have.

After several text messages and a phone call, KWB volunteers Katrina and Son Michael met up at Kids Without Borders office/storage in Sammamish. They loaded their vehicle with boxes of new children clothes, shoes, baby products, ... The car was packed to the maximum with enough space left for a driver and one passenger. Driving on I-90 through Cle Elum, the wildfire was visible from the highway. They arrived in Ellensburg in one hour and stopped at one of the designated fire relief centers.

How the Taylor Bridge wildfire quickly spread.

1:19pm  fire reported at bridge construction project at Taylor and Hart roads. It rapidly grows to 100 acres.
5:45pm  2,800 acres.
10:15pm  10,000 acres; evacuations begin; about 25 structures destroyed.

12:07am  16,000 acres.
2:00am  26,500 acres; 60 buildings destroyed.
5:20am  27,000 acres.
5:00pm  28,077 acres; 70+ buildings burned.

Follow their day of service via: Kids Without Borders

Sunday, August 12, 2012

International Youth Day

August 12th is International Youth Day.
Kids Without Borders salutes all youth volunteers who give themselves to serve others in their community and around the world.

Every two months, KWB organizes a work party at the Ronald McDonald House in Seattle. Our volunteers join members of the Rotary Club of the University District (Seattle, Washington) preparing and serving dinner to children and families. As usual our volunteers do not come with empty hands. We distribute new children clothes and footwear, toys, and various essential daily supplies. These items are procured year-round by our volunteers, sorted, and packed for distribution.

It is during our visits when we meet many seriously ill children and their families going through the most difficult time of their lives. We want to share with you one of the many stories, of twelve year old Lauren Selden.

If you wish to participate in Kids Without Borders product drive to support the Ronald McDonald House or other KWB programs and projects in our community and in other part of the world, please contact us at .


Roarin’ Lauren Returns to Hilo
August 10, 2012
By Barbara Fahs
Twelve year old Roarin’ Lauren Selden returned to Hilo on Wednesday, July 25 after a long, tough year in Seattle, where she was treated for cancer. A group of about 30 sign-carrying friends and family greeted Lauren and her parents Todd and Piper, older brother Tedd and doggie Skittles at the airport. Many members of the Paradise Roller Girls and Big Island Babes Junior Roller Derby were present to welcome their teammate home.
“We learned of Lauren’s cancer in July 2011, just after her eleventh birthday,” her mom, Piper, said. “It was a particularly rare, fast-growing bone cancer known as Ewing’s Sarcoma. Whatever we were going to do, we had to do it fast. Although we moved to Hilo from Portland in 2003, both my husband and I still have family in the Pacific Northwest. They helped us connect with Seattle Children’s Hospital, which has specialists in Lauren’s type of cancer. We flew over within three days of receiving the diagnosis. I ‘quit my life’ in a single weekend – my graduate studies, teaching jobs, my business “Hawaii Rainbow Worms,” everything – to dedicate myself to Lauren’s healing.”
Ronald McDonald House Provided Needed Support
The Seldens stayed at the Ronald McDonald House during their time in Seattle. “We couldn’t be more than one hour from the hospital at any time,” Piper explained. “The ‘Clown House’ is an amazing place – a supportive environment where everyone with a critically ill child is on the same page. We met some folks who I know will be lifelong friends.”
Lauren’s treatment consisted of six surgeries, including the replacement of her left femur. That, plus ten months of intensive chemotherapy, resulted in the complete eradication of her cancerous tumors. Lauren reports that her friendships with the other children at Seattle Children’s, two of whom had the same type of cancer, were “the coolest part of the whole experience. Only two in a million get this kind of cancer, so to be able to compare notes (and complain!) with other kids was so important to me.”
Viral Video
Lauren added. “The other cool thing that happened while I was there was when another patient, an older boy named Chris Rumble, made a video of us kids and some of the nurses lip synching and dancing to Kelly Clarkson’s song ‘Stronger.’ Chris put it up on YouTube and it went viral! I think it’s gotten over two million hits by now!”
Social Media Connected Friends and Family
“Of course this experience was hard for the whole family,” Piper added, “but we were really helped by the caring and support of friends and loved ones — even people we didn’t know. Through Facebook and a blog called Caring Bridge, we communicated what was happening with Lauren, as well as some of our hopes and fears. I love to write, so posting was therapeutic. The love we received was heartwarming and so encouraging. Like we aren’t alone because so many people care.”
What Does the Future Hold?
Lauren’s prognosis is good, but trips back to Seattle every three months will be necessary for the foreseeable future. After the first year or so, the visits will become less frequent, “but we’ll have to return periodically for at least five years,” Piper said. Ever positive, Lauren added, “I’ll be back to skating with Big Island Babes before you know it.”
More Info:
“Stronger” video:
Caring Bridge:
Seattle Children’s Hospital:
The Seldens have set up two accounts where people can make donations to Lauren’s ongoing medical expenses:
PayPal: Send contributions to (click the “personal gift” option to avoid a service fee). Any Home Street Bank: just give Lauren’s name.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Agent Orange Champion Charles Bailey

There are people around the world who have devoted their time and energy to understanding the legacy of Agent Orange and coming up with solutions to address this problem. These champions come from all different backgrounds and levels of expertise, but all are true humanitarians that are helping make Agent Orange history.
Members of Rotary International and Vietnam Dialogue Group
at the dedication of a water system in Dong Son Commune
(central Viet Nam, May 2012)

Our Man in Hanoi
Charles Bailey Tackles the Vietnam War's Unfinished Business
By Peter Slavin
Swarthmore College Bulletin
For years Charles Bailey ’67 has awakened every morning thinking about his job: how to restore the ruined fields, forests, and rice paddies and help the human casualties of Agent Orange in Vietnam. For the Vietnamese people, Agent Orange has been the lasting curse of what they call “the American War.”
Five months after the Ford Foundation made Bailey its man in Hanoi in 1997, he went to the central highlands, the locus of heavy fighting during the war. Coming upon a huge pine-tree plantation in a valley, it dawned on him, as an agricultural economist, that the pines had been planted where an entire jungle had once stood. He learned that the valley had been wiped clean by aerial spraying during the war. He thought of Agent Orange, the most common and most toxic of the chemical herbicides applied in vast quantities by the U.S. military from 1961 to 1971.
The aim was to destroy all vegetation and thereby eliminate the Viet Cong’s food sources and hiding places. Vietnam’s Red Cross estimates that herbicides cut short the lives or disabled up to 3 million adults and children. And the impact apparently continues with a third generation.
The great concern of the Vietnamese has been these children, the offspring of people exposed to the spraying. “Almost 50 years later, babies are being born disabled,” says former Ford Foundation President Susan Berresford. “They’re not even the children of people who were in the war. They’re just children who live in an area where they imbibe the fish or duck or whatever it is that carries this.” Despite the claims, the U.S. government has been highly skeptical for decades of dioxin’s impact on human health.
Dioxin is the chief contaminant in Agent Orange. It’s a class of chemicals so poisonous it is tested in parts per trillion and remains toxic for decades. The diseases attributed to it include cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and nerve disorders. At least one generation of Vietnamese children has been afflicted with birth defects, including spina bifida. The Vietnamese also blame dioxin for children born with extra fingers and toes.
The more than 2 million American troops in Vietnam who may have been exposed to Agent Orange—how many to a dangerous degree is unknown—eventually won the possibility of aid from Congress. Any Vietnam veteran who later developed any of 14 diseases and conditions is entitled to disability compensation, expected to total $42 billion by 2022. By contrast, the United States offered Vietnam no help in dealing with Agent Orange until a few years ago.
After visiting the highlands 14 years ago, Bailey tried to determine the extent of the damage that Agent Orange inflicted in Vietnam. “But nobody [from either nation] wanted to talk about it at all,” he says. The two countries were miles apart on the question of American accountability for the legacy of Agent Orange. At one pole were the Vietnamese who demanded justice for Agent Orange’s human and ecological casualties; at the other were Americans who insisted on scientific proof that the chemical was responsible. Bailey calls these years of deadlock “the frozen period.”
The more he learned, the more dismayed he became by how his government had muddied the waters and evaded its responsibility for Agent Orange’s aftermath. He grew increasingly aware of the defiled land, lingering dioxin “hot spots,” and the ill health and disabilities among the Vietnamese—the war’s “open wounds,” as a report later put it.
Then a U.S. embassy official presented plans to spend $50 million on large-scale testing in Vietnam “to show that the dioxin in people’s bodies came from sources other than the U.S. spraying during the war,” Bailey recalls. The plan went nowhere, but it fired his resolve to do something about Agent Orange. He decided his foundation could go where diplomats feared to tread. He has been walking that fine line between polarized camps ever since.
Initially, it was a slog. The frozen period went on and on. Though Bailey wanted to give the Vietnamese grants for Agent Orange projects, between 1998 and 2005 he was able to fund just three. “People did not want to work on it,” he says, marveling. “I’d never had anyone anywhere in the world not want a grant from the Ford Foundation.”
That’s something, considering Bailey spent spent more than three decades as a grant maker for the foundation, working in the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and Africa besides Southeast Asia. After graduating from Swarthmore with a history degree, Bailey was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal, then picked up an M.P.A. in public policy from Princeton before joining Ford in 1972. He later earned a Ph.D. in agricultural economics from Cornell University.
Work did get underway on the three grants Bailey arranged for Vietnam. The first provided wheelchairs, prosthetics, and other help to people with disabilities. Next, Bailey sought to assess all 2,735 former U.S. military bases in southern Vietnam to identify any that still harbored dangerous levels of dioxin. Remarkably, a Canadian study found that dioxin no longer contaminated the soil in landscapes where it had been sprayed. It was concentrated primarily at former U.S. bases where it had been stored and loaded aboard aircraft. The third grant funded a conference at which Vietnamese and American officials finally broke the ice, talking informally about Agent Orange.
In 2004, a new American ambassador, Michael Marine, arrived in Hanoi. Marine drew on Bailey’s work to make the case that the United States should do more. He found Bailey’s very different attitude “tremendously important, because at that time everyone else was turning their backs on the issue.” Agent Orange was “a dead issue” until Bailey came along, Marine said, according to Susan Berresford.
The turning point came when President George W. Bush visited Vietnam in 2006. For the first time, a joint communiqué between the two countries included a one-sentence mention of “environmental contamination near former dioxin storage sites.” That aside may have been partly prompted by Agent Orange information Bailey gave a Washington Post reporter, whose front-page story about the unresolved issue appeared just days before the visit. But the communiqué steered clear of mentioning Agent Orange or dioxin’s effects on people.
The communiqué marked the first official U.S. acknowledgement of the consequences of Agent Orange in Vietnam. But the two countries remained at an impasse concerning what to do about it. So Bailey turned to what’s known as track two diplomacy—arranging for prominent private citizens from both countries to meet and explore how to resolve conflicts concerning Agent Orange. Track two, says Bailey, is “citizen-to-citizen diplomacy to resolve conflict that official channels can’t handle.” Most participants were experts in fields such as toxicology and disability services. Bailey dubbed it the Dialogue Group.
It took him more than a year to recruit former ambassador Ton Nu Thi Ninh, vice chair of the National Assembly’s Foreign Affairs Committee, to lead the Vietnamese side. Trusting the Ford Foundation, the Vietnamese asked Berresford to play a role, and she still chairs the group. Bailey recruited author and Aspen Institute President Walter Isaacson to head the American side. The group grew eventually from seven to 11.
The Dialogue Group quickly settled on five top priorities: clean up the dioxin hot spots, expand services for people with disabilities, establish a laboratory so Vietnam could test blood and soil samples itself, restore damaged landscapes, understand the disability issue, and publicize the Agent Orange story in the United States. The group has made big strides in all these areas.
The second Ford Foundation grant had found dioxin remained dangerous only where 28 American bases had stood. According to Bailey, “herbicides had been stored, leaked, or spilled during handling, so that dioxin soaked into the soil or … into rivers, lakes, and ponds. From there the toxin has moved up the food chain to the fat of fish and ducks and into human tissue.” Three of these sites were especially toxic—the bases at Da Nang and Phu Cat on the coast and Bien Hoa to the south. Most spraying flights were launched from these airfields and when the program ended, unused stocks were collected at Da Nang, Bien Hoa and elsewhere.
The area of the Da Nang airport, where drums of herbicide had been stored, proved to be highly contaminated. Breast milk and blood samples from people who previously worked cleaning draining ditches or fished from a nearby lake showed the highest dioxin levels ever recorded among Vietnamese, more than 100 times international limits.
Environmental remediation started at Da Nang’s airport. Ford began funding the sealing and cordoning off of contaminated soil, a way to get American and Vietnamese officials to begin working together. As a result, by 2008, dioxin no longer threatened the health of people near the airport. Since then the two governments have designed and financed the cleanup, slated to begin this summer. They also have cooperated in expanded social services for several thousand people with disabilities near the airport. Da Nang is the first place the former enemies have worked together successfully on Agent Orange.
The United States also has provided modest funds ($11.4 million) to aid Vietnamese disabled by dioxin and their families. All in all, Congress has appropriated $60 million to deal with dioxin’s aftermath. Bailey spent $12 million of Ford Foundation funds in country and so far has spent $5 million outside to win support from key American groups and raised another $23 million from private and international sources. Still, only an estimated 19,000 to 23,000 Vietnamese with disabilities are being helped.
Vietnam itself has not been idle, in fact, “has worked steadily since 1980 to deal with Agent Orange/dioxin remnants on its own,” says Bailey. Hanoi provides $50 million a year in small monthly allowances for people with disabilities believed caused by Agent Orange/dioxin.
“Its activities in this area are … avidly reported by Vietnamese news media,” according to Bailey. Vietnam’s Red Cross has raised another $22 million to assist the disabled poor.
Bailey has kept on the go outside Vietnam as well, both as an Agent Orange remediation advocate and fundraiser. The formation of the Dialogue Group five years ago gave a big boosts to his efforts to raise money to help the Vietnamese. Since then, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Atlantic Philanthropies have funded the dioxin-testing lab. Rockefeller Foundation, Hyatt Hotels, and HSBC Bank have agreed to fund innovative and expanded social services for children and youth with disabilities in Da Nang, forming a public/private partnership.
Bailey also has enlisted many civic groups, persuading Rotary, for example, to help fund a clean-water system in a dioxin-contaminated village near the Laotian border. He raised funds for a program that brings 15 college-age Vietnamese-Americans to Vietnam each year to work with nongovernmental (NGO) organizations to help kids and young adults with disabilities. He’s won financial aid from the United Nations and several countries.
In addition, he formed a media-strategy team to raise awareness of Agent Orange back home. The results include a focus group and national opinion poll on the subject and seven websites operated by NGOs to do media outreach. One NGO has targeted Vietnam’s worldwide diaspora in pioneering online giving for young Vietnamese with disabilities, while San Francisco State University sent teams of journalists to report on Agent Orange. Their work won many prizes.
“He’s planted a lot of seeds,” notes Ellen Schneider, who developed one of the websites. She is impressed by something else. Despite his success, he “is the most humble man I’ve ever known,” Schneider says. She’s also struck by how respectful of people he is. All this may hark back to his days at Swarthmore, where, Bailey says, he was strongly influenced by Quaker tradition.
Bailey was on campus at the height of the Vietnam War, which he examined in Professor Kenneth Waltz’s international relations seminar. Concluding Vietnam was not a just war, he joined an antiwar demonstration in Washington, D.C., and considered becoming a conscientious objector. As it happened, when he joined the Peace Corps, his draft board continued his student deferment, and when the lottery replaced the draft, he lucked out with high numbers. Bailey maintains his affinity with the College as the proud father of Eliza ’14 and member of the Parents Council.
In 2010, the Dialogue Group proposed a 10-year plan for the two countries, calling for a humanitarian effort to make major inroads against Agent Orange. The plan’s goals are to clean up all the remaining 27 hot spots and restore damaged ecosystems and to expand services to people with disabilities. The plan sets the cost at $300 million and calls on public and private donors to help the United States fund it. No one claims the plan will eliminate the problem completely, which Berresford says probably will take 30 years.
Bailey says the Dialogue Group’s “unique contribution” has been to transcend the endless controversy over whether dioxin harms human health. “Its members,” he says, “agree we should respond to the actual humanitarian needs today of people with disabilities and stop arguing over causes.”
Over time the U.S. government has moved closer to this position. Bailey’s Dialogue Group probably has had something to do with this. He likes to say he took the aftermath of Agent Orange “from barren ground to common ground,” from a dead zone to practical action involving Vietnamese and Americans. This no doubt helps explain why last fall Vietnam presented him with its highest honor for foreigners, the Order of Friendship medal.
It can’t hurt that Bailey immersed himself in learning Vietnamese and speaks it fluently enough that he can run a meeting in the language. Bailey himself says he speaks it “well enough to move comfortably around the country talking with people in different walks of life.”
What has kept Bailey doggedly trying to settle the war’s unfinished business since 1998? Three factors: a sense of obligation to act when he sees a problem he can do something about; optimism about his ability to do so; and a sense of urgency about the need to lighten the burden on the Vietnamese. He says Nguyen Trong Nhan, a physician and former president of the nation’s Red Cross, taught him “what it meant to live with disability and disease.”
From Nhan, he learned that the disabled and their families bear “a burden from which there is no escape.”
“Disability,” Bailey likes to say, “never takes a holiday.”
Bailey admired the doctor’s fortitude despite personal losses in the war and felt he had to live up to the challenge of Agent Orange as a matter of humanity and his responsibilities as an American. Also, he says, “once begun, it was impossible to stop.”
The Ford Foundation left Vietnam in 2009, but Bailey has returned frequently to work on Agent Orange. In May 2011 he joined the Aspen Institute, where he continues his mission. He does not expect, however, to still lead the way when the 10-year plan ends. It is younger people, he predicts, perhaps Vietnamese Americans, “who will finally make Agent Orange history.”

Monday, July 30, 2012

International Day of Friendship - 30 July

from all of us with

The International Day of Friendship was proclaimed in 2011 by the UN General Assembly with the idea that friendship between peoples, countries, cultures and individuals can inspire peace efforts and build bridges between communities.

The Day is also intended to support the goals and objectives of the Declaration and Program of Action on a Culture of Peace and the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010).

The Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace adopted in 1999 set 8 areas of action for nations, organizations and individuals to undertake in order for a culture of peace to prevail:
  • foster a culture of peace through education;
  • promote sustainable economic and social development;
  • promote respect for all human rights;
  • ensure equality between women and men;
  • foster democratic participation;
  • advance understanding, tolerance and solidarity;
  • support participatory communication and the free flow of information and knowledge;
  • promote international peace and security.
For more information: International Day of Friendship

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Khmer Village Program

THANK YOU to the Rotary Club of West Seattle (Washington) for your support to the Khmer Village Program in Cambodia.

Follow up report from Peter Royce, Project Manager, currently in Chamkar Chek Village.

Project goals:

Now three village projects have grown to become the focal point of what's most needed to improve living conditions for residents, particularly health and safety. The first project is to drill a deep well through an underground rock layer, and install hand and electric pumps. The second project is to place speed bumps on the main road through the village. The third project is to build a community sanitation center.

Project One: currently, most village residents obtain water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning from a shallow, contaminated meter-wide uncovered well outside of the village. Polluted water, brought up in a bucket, is carried 40-80 meters uphill to their homes. Many families in other parts of Sihanoukville access clean water via 10 cm wide covered wells within their village, topped with hand or electric pumps. The total cost necessary to drill a deep well and install a hand and electric pump for Chamkar Chek Village is US$2,003.

Project Two: Chamkar Check Village is located around a curved roadway with notorious stretches of karaoke taverns beginning 50 meters in each direction. Day and evening, scooters and cars frequently cut through the intersection-free blind curve at dangerous speeds, and several scooters have tumbled down its south embankment. Not only do drivers put their own lives at risk in front of village homes, but also small children en route to our village class, state school, home, and elsewhere. The cost to install two seven meter long speedbumps and signage is US$570.

Project Three: several families have expressed strong interest in having bathroom facilities. Currently only three homes are equipped with squat toilet, while other villagers must relieve themselves in brush areas. A shared sanitation facility would make substantial gains in areas of hygiene, modesty, and effective cleansing of persons, clothing, and more. Cost to build a share sanitation center is still being worked out.