By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
It was an unassuming trip.
Paige Stringer traveled to Vietnam for her work and discovered a cause so personal that she established a foundation to help raise funds for deaf children in Vietnam. Last year, Stringer, a freelance travel writer, was working on an article about customized vacations when she traveled to Vietnam and volunteered at a school for deaf children.
Born hard of hearing, Stringer spent two and a half weeks at the Trung Tam Thuan An center for hearing impaired students in South Vietnam. She observed a distinct difference between the limitations of the school and her personal experience growing up in the United States.
“A lot of hearing aids were old and outdated,” said Stringer, who uses hearing aids but has the ability to listen and talk without using sign language. She also found that Thuan An lacked the proper training and resources needed to assist children with hearing problems.
Stringer learned that most deaf and hearing impaired children in Vietnam did not receive an education past the 7th grade. This prevents children from attending college or learning any vocational skills which would assist them in developing a career.
The Thuan An Center is a state-sponsored school located in the Binh Duong province. It is funded by the communist government out of Hanoi. It serves more than 300 children ranging from ages 3 to 20. The school also boards some of the children. Stringer saw that some of the children had been abandoned by their parents and live at the school out of necessity.
When Stringer returned to Seattle, she was so moved by her experience and what she saw that she decided to do something about it.
This year, she established the Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss. The Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization designed to provide resources to children so that they may be able to obtain the necessary education and equipment to function as independent adults. Stringer hopes that the initial work done in Vietnam will lead to sponsored programs in other countries.
Stringer, a former University of Washington tennis player, has 12 years of corporate marketing experience that includes working with Fox Sports Northwest, the Clorox Company, and Amazon.com. Using her marketing background, she hopes to raise enough money to sustain a program that will benefit young Vietnamese children with hearing issues.
The foundation would provide a month-long teacher training workshop at the Thuan An Center. The workshop will bring together 80 teachers in Vietnam with 10 visiting experts identified by the foundation for their work in the areas of auditory-verbal and deaf education. The focus of the training will center on children ages 5 and younger, which experts say are the most critical ages in speech and hearing development.
In order to enhance the foundation’s purpose, Stringer has enlisted a board of directors which includes many experts in the field of audiology, education, and speech pathology.
Fred Minifie, a retired professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Sciences at the University of Washington, is chairman of the foundation’s board.
“I told [Stringer] I was busy, but I would be happy to do it,” Minifie said. He said he felt the foundation’s purpose was “interesting and appropriate.”
“It’s a response to a bona fide need.” Minifie said. He has been impressed with Stringer and her ability to engage with different groups in her fundraising efforts as well as her drive to seek assistance to underwrite the teacher training program.
Stringer estimates that the foundation will need approximately $140,000 to establish the teacher-training program. With the necessary funding, she plans for the program to begin during the summer of 2010, lasting for 3 consecutive summers. She thinks that with the success of the teacher training program, the foundation can blossom into other programs that will benefit the deaf and hard of hearing.
Stringer has planned a trip to Vietnam this fall to meet with companies regarding potential partnership opportunities. In addition, she has approached companies regarding donations of hearing aids and other equipment which may upgrade those currently used by Thuan An. ♦
To make a donation or for more information on the Global Foundation for Children with Hearing Loss, visit www.childrenwithhearingloss.org.
Jason Cruz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.