Trinh Foundation Australia

Trinh Foundation Australia (TFA) is improving the quality of life of Vietnamese people by supporting the development of speech therapy training and services in Vietnam. It was launched in 2008 when volunteer Australian speech pathologists Sue Woodward and Professor Lindy McAllister, and orthodontists, Dr Peter Woodward and Dr Aziz Sahu-Khan, identified a huge need for specialist services for the estimated 13 million Vietnamese people with communication and swallowing disorders.

We are named after a 15-year-old young lady, Trinh, who despite a successful operation to repair her cleft palate, still had difficulty with her speech being understood. Trinh’s drive to improve her speech and to sing karaoke with her friends was the inspiration for the foundation.

Working with Vietnamese and Australian partners, TFA launched Vietnam’s first ever speech therapy training in 2010 with a two year postgraduate course of academic learning and clinical training. There are now 33 qualified Vietnamese speech therapists with the knowledge and skills to treat people of all ages across a wide range of difficulties, such as adults who have had strokes, brain injuries and cancer, or children with autism spectrum disorders, syndromes, cleft lip and palate problems, or developmental delays and people with voice disorders, Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy and stuttering.

Many volunteers have made new and lasting friendships and have fond memories of coming to grips with the Ho Chi Minh City traffic, many even venturing out themselves! All have gone home inspired by the dedication and enthusiasm of the new Vietnamese speech therapists, and a love of the food, culture, warmth and hospitality of the Vietnamese people.

The foundation is saying farewell to two valued contributors soon. Translator/interpreter/office manager and trouble-shooter, Tran Thuc Han, who has been with us for two years, is leaving for a new career direction. She says her time here has been thoroughly enjoyable.

Australian speech pathologist Simone Maffescioni’s term with the foundation is also finishing after two and a half years as course coordinator and program officer. “I am passionate about the development of speech therapy in Vietnam,” she says. “Little did I know when I signed up for my first ever volunteer assignment that I would fall in love with the people and country. I look forward to seeing the growth of the speech therapy profession in Vietnam.”

TFA’s work is now expanding into new areas of Vietnam and there are now about 17 hospitals and educational institutions with qualified speech therapists around the country. Speech therapy clinics are being established in Ho Chi Minh City, Lam Dong, Ba Ria, Hanoi, and Hue, in addition to an undergraduate course being developed at the University of Medicine Pham Ngoc Thach. Universities in Hanoi, Danang and Hue are also working to introduce training programs and clinics.

TFA is always seeking donations to support its work and has a range of products for sale including Vietnamese puppets and the Trinh Foundation Recipe Collection featuring favourite Vietnamese recipes from our volunteers, speech therapists, partners and others who have contributed to TFA’s success.

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By Bronwyn Coop, a director of TFA