ASIA CONNECTION INC. --- 2008 Annual Report
As a modest enterprise with minimal bureaucracy, Asia Connection has a flexibility that large Foundations might not have, and we enjoy the ability to respond promptly in situations of need. Our organization and our budget are small, but we try to allocate our grants where they’ll be most effective. 2008 was a successful year in this respect.
We continued to support our traditional beneficiaries in Viet Nam, Cambodia and Bangladesh, with grants also distributed in Timor, a migratory farm worker program in central Florida, and to the American Friends Service Committee for relief projects in Burma and Iraq. Despite the economic meltdown that commenced in 2008 there was generous support from loyal donors and we were able to disburse over $110,000 in grants – an increase of $30,000 over the previous year.
ACI activity in Viet Nam centered largely on the interaction between Program Director John Havican and the clergy at Kontum Diocese. John continues to make several trips a year to Viet Nam to participate in surgical missions in collaboration with the Hospital of Odonto- Stomatology in Ho Chi Minh City. This is a Government institution that hosts visiting medical teams from around the world who come to Viet Nam to treat burn survivors and children with congenital facial deformities. The Vietnamese hospital staff is highly trained and strongly motivated. They conduct missions of their own to neighboring provinces and countries and have a deep concern for the tribal minority children brought in for treatment by John and the Sisters.
There are numerous NGO’s active in the Kontum area and a variety of health and welfare projects at the Diocese. John maintains close contact with the Diocese and we kept informed of special needs not covered by other programs. During the past year ACI helped support students at Ya Gabrielle’s Compound near her village, a midwife training program, a home economics program, plus a clinic and student dormitory in Kontum.
Unfortunately none of the young Montagnard women who were prospective candidates for advanced medical training in HCMC were able to pass the qualifying exam. We are disappointed but not discouraged, hopeful that it is only a matter of time until students from the Kontum area will be able to gain new medical skills so serve the local tribal community. Meanwhile ACI funds which have been earmarked for medical scholarships are safely stashed away in separate certificates of deposit (Pat Smith Scholarships).
Apart from the Kontum Diocese we made a grant to Sister Le Mai, who was formerly assigned in Kontum, who faced special needs at her new assignment in Can Tho; and also to a privately administered rehabilitation center in Qui Nhon for special need individuals, a notable example of Vietnamese initiative that ACI is happy to assist.
In Cambodia, we continue our support for the Indradevi HIV/AIDS care and prevention program. Our colleagues Don Luce, in Buffalo and Kay Halvorson, in St. Paul, work consistently at fund –raising and also make regular visits to monitor Indradevi’s programs.
These include counseling, safe sex education, job training and special nutrition for HIV-afflicted households. A total of $28,500 was granted to Indradevi in 2008, an increase of $10,000 over the previous year.
The Kailakuri Health Care Project in Bangladesh, directed by our old Minh Quy colleague Dr. Edric Baker, continues its mission of providing health services for the poor by the poor. With its outreach to surrounding villages, the diversity of cultures and languages, the locally- trained medical staff (many of whom are recruited from among the patients), with its general aim of ameliorating living conditions in a region of rural poverty and disease, Kailakuri resembles Minh Quy in many ways and ACI is proud to take part in its support.
A portion of ACI’s funding for Kailakuri came from the estate of Marion Brown, a former nurse at Minh Quy who was devoted to the tribal population in Kontum as well as the mission of the Kailakuri Health Care Project. There was an equal sum bequeathed to programs at Kontum Diocese: a ripple effect of the work commenced by Dr. Pat Smith fifty years ago, and a testimony of Marion’s dedication….
Bangladesh presents an extremely difficult political, economic and social environment. Dr. Baker faces a number of issues for the future, financing being only one of the several. As his time for retirement nears there is an ongoing search for a replacement as medical director: a difficult assignment, but we hope that someone with talent and determination comparable to Edric’s will step forward.
Timor Leste --- East Timor --- is not in the international spotlight as it was nearly a decade ago during its tumultuous separation from Indonesia; but for precisely this reason we feel compelled to continue our small educational grants to East Timor Religious Outreach, based in San Jose California. Timor has been struggling for survival ever since rejecting Indonesian hegemony in a 1999 plebescite. The economy is primitive, unemployment is high, social unrest is a growing problem, foreign aid from the United States has diminished over the years. ACI’s grants have been relatively small but we know that every dollar goes to a nearby school or scholar, and we applaud the efforts of ETRO.
The American Friends Service Committee, which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1947 for its humanitarian efforts overseas, has a reputation for efficiency as well as compassion. ACI made donations in response to AFSC’s appeals on behalf of Iraqi refugees and storm victims in Myanmar, and we are sure our funds were put to good use.
Deprivation here in the United States is another of our concerns. The foremost among the ‘deserving poor’ in this country are the migratory farm worker population, who do arduous work for minimal wages and have little in the way of social support. The Good Samaritan Mission in central Florida is an oasis for the many needy farm worker families who pass through the area, and we are happy to help fund the daycare program that they provide.
Now in our eighth year as a private foundation, we feel that Asia Connection’s support for various programs in a variety of needy places is a moral obligation as well as a sound investment in human health and welfare. We’re grateful to all who participate in the ACI enterprise, either as donors or as agents of help in the far-flung areas that we serve.
Here are the numbers for fiscal year 2008 (Tampa account only):
Balance in checking account 1 January 2008 39,195.00
Contributions received + 137,299.00
Total Credits 176,494.00
Purchase certificate of deposit - 60,000.00
Grants Indradevi 28,500.00
Good Samaritan 1,500.00
Transferred to St. Louis acc’t (plus 35,000
for programs in Kontum 12,088.00 from CD)
Total grants 75,490.32 (plus CD)
Administrative costs (bank fees, etc.) 896.60
Total grants + administration 76,386.92
Balance in checking account 31 December 2008 40,107.08
Certificates of Deposit – Balance as of 31 December 2008:
#0807 - 10,762.08
#7726 - 10,552.70
#2508 – 25,437.24
(Balance after transfer of 35,000 to St. Louis account for Kontum programs)
Asia Connection Inc. 2008 – Addendum: Looking back over the years
From the conclusion of the war in Viet Nam in 1975, communications between expatriate Minh Quy Hospital staff and Montagnard colleagues who had stayed behind in Kontum was virtually non-existent for nearly two decades. It wasn’t until 1994 that a former expat volunteer was able to return to the Central Highlands to reconnect with the old Montagnard friends in the Kontum area. Kerry Heubeck concluded his report on the experience with the words.
”…. Ya Gabrielle…. Continues to provide what healing assistance she can to the villages in the area. I think we can help her, even from here…. I wonder if any of you might be interested in joining us in occasionally sending monies for Ya Gabrielle’s projects and in seeing what other possibilities exist for returning some friendship to those who once made us feel so at home…”
The following summer a ‘Minh Quy Reunion’was held at Bainbridge Island, Washington. Several dozen former Minh Quy volunteers along with Dr. Pat Smith and a handful of Montagnards who had immigrated to the U.S. attended, and a loose-knit group named ‘Friends of the Viet Nam Highlands’ was formed. This morphed into ‘Friends of Kontum,’ which in 2000 gained legal recognition as ‘Asia Connection Inc.’
Circumstances in the post-war Central Highlands have changed dramatically. There have been widespread economic development but to a certain extent the Montagnard population remains marginalized. And so we continue our support for health and welfare programs promoted by Ya Gabrielle (still going strong!) and her colleagues. There are now a number of international NGOs active in the Kontum area, and we applaud their efforts. We also feel that ACI, because of its association with the work of Dr. Pat Smith and Minh Quy Hospital, has a special niche. Thanks in large part to Program Director John Havican’s regular missions to Viet Nam and the constant flow of communication with staff at the Diocese we are kept informed of unmet needs --- funding for medical supplies, support for students, construction and renovation projects --- and do our best to respond.
Our scale of operations is small but the flow of good works and good will is constant, and the spirit of Minh Quy’ lives on.
~Bill R. – May 2009