In 2005 John and Lan Dean established COCOA South East Asia. John had served in the Vietnam War and chose the poorest province without NGO support – Binh Phouc, 150 km north-west of Ho Chi Minh City – to begin working. COCOA SEA began with housing construction, clean water and livelihood projects. He established a partnership with Binh Phouc Association for the Disabled, Poor and Orphans (BPADPO) who were able to direct him to the people most in need.
Since John's passing in 2014, GMP has been implementing projects directly through BPADPO. These have focused on improving sanitation for disabled people through providing toilets and community hygiene training. A process for community consultation and evaluation has given communities their say in the shape of the projects.
In the last three years, over 400 people have received toilets. Ms. Luc Thi Khieu, a single woman from hamlet 3 of Dong Tien commune, Dong Phu district says, “your organisation and the Local Government built me this latrine. I am very happy, and I can have a bath in it as well. From here I don't need to look for bushes in the garden to defecate anymore and I'm not afraid of anyone watching me like that." It has been a long and fruitful partnership.
We have reached the end of the five-year license issued by the Government of Vietnam and have reviewed the wisdom of renewing this license in the light of the increasing complexity of the environment in Vietnam. One part of this complexity is the retirement of our long-time project manager in Vietnam – who is one of the few people fluent in English. Another dimension is the difficulty of aligning some of the requirements of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) in an environment where the expectations of the Government of Vietnam take priority.
Additionally, COCOA is beginning to focus ever more strategically on a narrower set of projects with an eye to our ongoing accreditation with DFAT, and with our mandate to work through Churches of Christ partners.
It seems to us that now is a good time to bring the partnership to a close. We had planned to visit and have a proper farewell face-to-face but coronavirus travel restrictions have made that impossible for the moment. A visit will be planned in the future.
A number of Australian churches and individuals have taken a special interest in BPADPO and our thanks goes out to them for their faithful and generous support.
The current Community Support in Health and Self Care project will finish at the end of the financial year and your prayerful and generous support is welcome in the meantime.
Colin Scott, COCOA Director