ASIA CONNECTION INC. ---
March 2012: A look back, and a look forward.....
2011 was another productive year for ACI. We kept a strong focus on our traditional target population --- our Montagnard friends in Kontum, Viet Nam --- while continuing to support the Nguyen Nga Rehabilitation Center in Quinhon, Viet Nam; the Kailakuri Health Care Program in Bangladesh; and the Indradevi Association’s AIDS-related work in Cambodia.
With Program Director John Havican serving as our agent in the field we issued grants to various programs in the Diocese of Kontum: the midwife training program, medical clinics in Kontum and Kon J’Dreh village, the Montagnard girls’student hostel operated by the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul, and the village feeding program. Also we are setting up nurses, pharmacists, and physician assistants --- a project that bodes well for the Montagnard population of Kontum, especially for those dwelling in remote villages.
The Nguyen Nga Rehabilitation Center in Quinhon was inaugurated in 1993. The inspiration for the program was the founder’s success in nursing a family member back to health following a serious accident --- an experience that motivated Ms. Nguyen Nga to set up a facility that could serve the needs of the larger community. There were tremendous financial and political obstacles to overcome, but Ms. Nga persisted and eventually earned the blessing of the local People’s Committee and was able to attract support from local and international sources. She and her staff are devoted to caring for, educating, and enabling people with a range of physical and mental handicaps --- in the founder’s words, setting them out on the path to a 'happy and useful life.'
A chance meeting between Ms. Nga and ACI’s tireless liaison worker John Havican took place several years ago and, welcoming the prospect of extending ACI’s outreach to lowland Vietnamese beyond the Kontum area, we have provided financial support ever since. John maintains regular contact with the Center to assess their needs, and on several occasions has arranged special treatment for residents of the Center with critical medical problems.
The Kailakuri Health Care Program in Bangladesh continues to provide help and hope for the impoverished rural population of Tangail and neighboring districts in central Bangladesh. The founder, our former colleague from Minh Quy Hospital in Kontum Dr. Edric Baker, established the program in 1983 with the support of the Church of Bangladesh. Administrative responsibility was later assumed by a secular Bangladeshi organization called the Institute for Integrated Rural Development, but it is Dr. Baker himself who has shouldered most of the administrative, fund-raising, and medical burdens since the program’s inception.
Presently there is a 35-bed hospital, plus substantial outreach into the neighboring villages: education and treatment projects for pre- and post-natal care, diabetes and tuberculosis. Of the 89 staff people the majority have been recruited from local villages (some of them former inpatients at the hospital) and have learned their medical skills through on-the-job training. Patients pay a token sum for their treatment, but most of KHCP’s funding is from private overseas sources. Operating costs come to about US$200,000 per year --- so compared to hospitals and public health programs elsewhere in the world, KHCP is an incredibly cost-effective enterprise.
Our support for the Indradevi Association’s AIDS care and prevention program in Cambodia continues. Thanks to the fund-raising efforts of our colleague Don Luce (former director of International Voluntary Services in Viet Nam) the flow of contributions remains constant, and our Indradevi counterparts in Phnom Penh are able to carry on their work as in years past. Educational seminars in AIDS prevention are still one component of the program, but there is increasing emphasis on direct assistance for households already infected with HIV. There is a generation of AIDS orphans whose parents have succumbed to the disease, and Indradevi reaches out to this unfortunate group with job training programs and a supplemental feeding program.
Don Luce reports on a recent visit to Cambodia:
“….we met family after family that had watched their homes destroyed by bulldozer or fire so that wealthy companies could use the slum land to build factories and corporate headquarters. We have never seen such a gap between the poor and the wealthy. There does seem to be economic progress in Cambodia, but the cost to the very poor has been incredible --- there is no “trickle down” benefit to those suffering from AIDS or to the disadvantaged living in city and rural slums.
Indradevi has used the funds sent by Asia Connection for care-giving, primarily in the form of rice, canned fish, and noodles for families disabled by AIDS; and for education. The Orphans and Vulnerable Children Project ensures that children whose parents have died from AIDS or who can no longer work will have enough to eat and will be able to attend school. It also provides special training in trades like motorcycle repair and beautician work so that older children can earn wages to help support the family.”
Asia Connection provided additional grants to a number of worthy causes which we have supported over the years: East Timor Religious Outreach, which provides educational materials for schools in East Timor; Burma Humanitarian Mission, which supports medical assistance for oppressed ethnic minorities in Myanmar; Rabbis for Human Rights, which makes heroic efforts to secure justice for Palestinians and other oppressed minorities in Israel and the Occupied Territories; and Christian Peacemaker Teams, which stations volunteer observers and activists in conflict areas such as the West Bank of Israel, Iraq, and Columbia.
In addition, we made a small grant to Project Vietnam, an operation based in Santa Fe New Mexico that distributes aid to needy Vietnamese at the grass-roots level. What attracted our attention to this group is that they operate on a volunteer basis as does ACI, that operating costs are absorbed by the staff and directors, and they distribute aid directly to the beneficiaries in Viet Nam with the approval of the local People’s Committees so that administrative hassle is minimized and end results are maximized. We also supported a hospice for AIDS patients in Vishakapatnam, India, that was founded by our late Minh Quy colleague Dr. George Pradhan.
Finally, we distributed a small grant to the East Bay Covenant Sanctuary in Berkeley California. This is a program that provides support and legal advice to immigrants who have come to this country seeking refuge from violence. It is a non-political humanitarian effort that reaches out to the most vulnerable members of American society, a prime example of “the Spirit of Minh Quy.”
Here’s a look at our numbers (Tampa account only) for 2011:
Balance as of 1 January 2011: $13,981.04
Total deposits: $133,576.27
Overall total: $147,557.31
Balance as of 1 January 2012: $16,651.04
Expenditures: Kontum/Quinhon $52,580
Timor Outreach $1,000
Burma Mission $2,000
Christian Peacemakers $2,000
Rabbis for Human Rights $1,000
AIDS Hospice $1,000
Viet Nam Project $1,000
East Bay Sanctuary $500
Overall total: $130,906.27
*[12,900 of this amount was for
legal and accounting fees.]
The ‘Administration’ slice of ACI’s imaginary pie chart was substantially larger in 2011 than in previous years, when there was a fairly constant 2% ratio of administrative costs vs. grants to programs in the field. There were special circumstances that required us to put out a whopping $10,000 legal fees (with more to come). But we have to point out that this was a unique situation; and that these non-program-related expenditures were more than covered by contributions from board members, so that donations from our long-time ‘Friends of Kontum’ supporters are still going to projects in the field as before.
The legal fees were incurred as a result of a substantial bequest for which ACI became eligible in 2008. The processing of the estate in question proved to be long and drawn out, and ultimately we were required to engage an attorney to verify that all parties had performed properly and that ACI would receive its full entitlements. As it turned out everything was in order and, after four years of dithering and delay, the bequest was finalized.
So at this writing we have the financial means to ensure that ACI will continue to be active for the foreseeable future. More important, the ACI board of four ‘veteran’ Minh Quy volunteers has been strengthened by the addition of four talented and motivated ‘younger generation’ members --- so we’re hoping that our ‘candle in the darkness’ will shine on for years to come….
Tampa – March 2012