By Nguyen Vu Cat Tien
On Sept. 3, 2013, the Ho Chi Minh City University of Social Sciences and Humanities (USSH) Faculty of Social Work received boxes containing the first 1,000 copies of the Vietnamese translation of “Coping with Physical Loss and Disability Workbook,” written by Rick Ritter, M.S.W., who has been part of Lincolnshire Church of the Brethren in Indiana. The book was published by Youth Publisher, Ho Chi Minh City.
This workbook is for people with losses to reflect on themselves and find the resources from outside, as well as inner strength, to motivate them and move toward self-recovery. The 1,000 copies are funded by VNAH-Vietnam Assistance for the Handicapped, an organization that has been a great supporter for a long time, with projects related to people with disabilities, the university, and professor Grace Mishler. Each played a very crucial role for all of this to happen.
The 1,000 copies are an encouraging outcome of a two-year journey from the day that professor Truong Van Anh, a linguistic teacher at Sai Gon University and also a person with disability, read the book first in English, fell in love with it, and volunteered to translate it into Vietnamese. He said it was a valuable book and would be a helpful resource for people with disabilities in Vietnam. He volunteered to translate the book without receiving any payment as his “little contribution to people with disabilities in Vietnam.”
Beside the main role of professor Anh in translating, we also had professional help in editing the translation, first from a member of VNAH, and then the dean of the USSH Faculty of Social Work and head of the Social Work Department, who helped to edit, proofread, and contextualize a more perfected translation. The great support of the faculty of Social Work and the dean is the reason why we could get these books published in such a relatively short time.
We were then entrusted by the faculty with the assignment to organize and plan a book launch. We were referred to students at the School Youth Union to help us. Together we came up with the idea of organizing a prior book launch focusing only on students’ evaluation of the book as a means of piloting this published book through a student-driven small project. The project was initially funded by the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service office, with a grant of $90.
Social Work Student Youth Union leaders recommended that we organize a display activity, like a booth, at three different universities--the HCMC University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Open University, and University of Labor and Social Affairs. The aim of this “Activity Booth” is to promote the book more widely among students, offer them a chance to read it, and collect direct feedback from students’ perspectives. The booth would make a colorful display of the book, with tables and chairs for students to sit down and read. Students would receive a small questionnaire to give feedback after reading.
We also plan to invite guests such as leaders of groups of people with disabilities to come and talk with students. We think this would be a great experience for social work students to not only get access to helpful material but also to get to know more about people with disabilities and prepare for their upcoming field work activities. Outcomes of this activity, which includes feedback from students, will be presented at the book launch to show their perspectives.
We are planning for the book launch to be held publicly in April. Hopefully by that time, author Rick Ritter will be able to join us at the book launch, and carry out trauma trainings here in Vietnam. There are so many things that need to be planned for this special event, but we believe that with the support from the Faculty of Social Work and a group of dynamic and creative students, we will be able to carry out a good launch.
Looking back at the whole process until now, we are excited to see that the path for this book is becoming clearer and wider every day. It is getting a bigger scope that we didn’t expect. One of the biggest encouragements so far is that the book is gradually gaining more and more recognition. Copies already have been distributed to six different places across the country, from small provinces to big cities, and from north to south. More and more people are interested in it, and they are willing to pass it on to more people in need. They consider it easy to read and helpful to people with losses.
The headmaster of Nhat Hong School for the blind in southern Vietnam is willing to put the book into Braille so that blind students can get access to it. One of the non-governmental organizations in HCMC-LIN center considers this book as “a wonderful resource” and already has added it to their library and held a small meeting to come up with a list of organizations that “might be able to make use of the book by ways of their beneficiaries or clients.”
We are just so curious to know what students will think about the book through the display activity, and can’t wait to see how much further this process can go, as well as how the practice of this book can be carried out in reality here in Vietnam. This book could be one of the pioneer efforts in applying the definition of a workbook and group work into Vietnamese society where these concepts are still not common or applied widely. Introducing this book, applying it, reviewing and adjusting it, will be a long process, but at least this is a start. And we cannot be more thrilled to be a part of it!
--Nguyen Vu Cat Tien is assistant and translator for Grace Mishler, who receives support for her work on disabilities in Vietnam from the Church of the Brethren Global Mission and Service. Mishler serves at the university as faculty of Social Work Project Developer. She and Betty Kelsey and Richard Fuller helped review this article for publication.