Brethren Volunteer Hosts Meeting for Agent Orange Delegation

Grace Mishler serves in Vietnam as a program volunteer supported in part by the Church of the Brethren’s Global Mission Partnerships. She teaches in the Department of Social Work at the National Vietnam University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City, training others to compassionately mainstream the physically disabled.

Grace Mishler, a Church of the Brethren member working in Vietnam, recently helped organize and hosted a meeting between local disabilities activists and members of a delegation that is visiting the country to explore the continuing effects of Agent Orange/dioxin. The toxic blend of herbicides known as Agent Orange was used as a defoliant by the US military during the Vietnam War.

Mishler teaches in the Department of Social Work at the National Vietnam University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City, training others to compassionately mainstream the physically disabled. Her work as a program volunteer is supported, in part, by the church’s Global Mission Partnerships.

The delegation group is sponsored by the Ford Foundation and includes:

–Charles Bailey, director of the Ford Foundation Special Initiative on Agent Orange/Dioxin;
–Susan Berresford, former president of the Ford Foundation;
–David Devlin-Foltz, vice president of Policy Programs at the Aspen Institute;
–Gay Dillingham, co-founder and former president and chair of Earthstone International, LLC;
–Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause;
–James Forbes Jr., president of Healing of the Nations and former senior pastor of Riverside Church in New York City;
–C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance;
–Connie Morella, former Republican member of the US House of Representatives from Maryland;
–David Morrissey, executive director of the United States International Council on Disabilities;
–Suzanne Petroni, vice president for Global Health at the Public Health Institute in Washington, D.C.;
–Pat Schroeder, former Democratic member of the House of Representatives from Colorado and member of the National Governing Board of Common Cause;
–Karen A. Tramontano, chief executive officer at Blue Star Strategies.

The delegation’s goals, according to a blog posted by Common Cause leader Edgar, are “to see and understand the Agent Orange/dioxin challenges in Vietnam. To explore the issues, contradictions, and questions that arise and find ways that they can best be answered. To grasp the extent of the problem by seeing the military bases where Agent Orange was stored and to talk face-to-face with some of the affected people and their families. To understand what is being done about remediation and to help the affected people, we will meet with NGO leaders and Vietnamese and American officials.”

Monday’s blog reported on the meeting set up by Mishler: “After breakfast this morning, David Morrissey invited Charles Bailey, Susan Berresford, David Devlin-Foltz, Le Mai, and myself to travel with him to meet 15 of his friends in the ‘differently abled’ community here in Ho Chi Minh City. We traveled by taxi to a beautiful restaurant located on the waterfront. Led by Grace Mishler, Social Work Practice Advisor from the Vietnam

National University, who is partially blind, we were warmly welcomed to the meeting. We listened for over two hours to speaker after speaker highlight their work training and assisting persons with a variety of physical and emotional conditions. WOW!”

Yesterday, Edgar focused his blog on children affected by Agent Orange: “It doesn’t take long to remember why we’re here when we visit with the children of Vietnam. Their struggles are matched only by their infectious joy, and it becomes even more obvious that we must do what we can to help increase that joy and lessen the struggles.” (Find the blog and photos at .)

Mishler continues to be in contact with delegation members as their trip moves on to other venues. “Today, they are visiting Da Nang airport that is barren with agent orange spray,” she reported in an e-mail this morning. “(The) delegation will be wearing special throw away shoes. I asked David Morrissey…to be sure his walking cane has shoes too. He did not think of it. This is at-risk for all, but speaks well of their commitment.”

For more about Mishler’s work go to .

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