Last week’s Global Social networking event focused the conversation on Vietnam and Southeast Asia; speakers from Peace Trees Vietnam and Partners Asia gave brief presentations on their work and opened the floor for questions
Michael Auch, Executive Director of Peace Trees Vietnam, discussed his organization’s goals and outlined five ongoing projects: mine risk education and de-mining; survivor assistance; citizen diplomacy trips, during which US citizens visit parts of Vietnam; building libraries and kindergartens; and microlending programs. Auch gave a brief overview of each project and highlighted PTV’s goal of integrating and leveraging the programs with each other to create a stronger presence in Vietnam that would provide a broader variety of services to the local populations.
Therese Caouette, Executive Director of Partners Asia, spoke about her ongoing work in Burma and focused particularly on Burma’s potential for growth in the coming years. In the last 18 months, Caouette said, Burma has experienced massive changes and newfound openness and this in turn allows her to speak more freely about Partners Asia’s work in the country. Partners Asia works mostly with populations in the rural border areas of Burma, as these groups are often desperately poor and vulnerable to exploitation and trafficking. The organization functions primarily as a small grant maker and instrument of community-led change.
Pwint Htun, a board member of Partners Asia and telecommunications consultant, spoke briefly about the trend toward openness and mobile communications in Burma; 95-95% of Burmese people, she said, lack access to financial services and about 95% have no access to communication services. The rapid increase in availability and ease of communication means that a new system must be designed in Burma “with the poorest people in mind,” as they stand to benefit the most from regulation and social change.
Before and after the presentations, Global Social attendees sampled Vietnamese sandwiches, sipped wine, and chatted with each other about their own work in Southeast Asia.