Manifesto

1. Value 

We believe in best value for money. Every dollar you donate is sent to Vietnam to help people. No exceptions. All of Friends of Vietnam Orphanages’ administrative costs are covered by members of our board, meaning that 100% of all donations are used to improve the lives of people in Vietnam.

2. Everyone

“Never see a need without doing something about it.” – Saint Mary of the Cross MacKillop

We’re here for everyone who wants to help socially excluded people in Vietnam: the volunteers, the donors and the orphanage staff. We are a small, “hands-on”, developing charity with the long term aim of assisting village communities in Vietnam. This is to reduce poverty, increase education and raise quality of life, particularly amongst the poor and those with physical and intellectual disabilities. Our short term goals are to complete some achievable projects that benefit communities. We will achieve long-term goals by continuing to build a support base in Australia and implementing sound policy.

3. Development

We believe in the long-term improvement to people’s lives, mainly through education. We evolved our approach from dialogue with local people, to:

1. Stage all funding, using in-kind payments and proof documents (receipts, photos).
2. Fund only by written agreement (e.g. a funding contract).
3. Work in partnership with locals, gaining trust by following ethical funding practices.
4. Assist development in preference to providing short-term welfare.
5. Give local people ownership by crediting them with successes.

The end state is to have an enduring effect on the community. Because developing countries tend to rely on a culture of corruption and embezzlement, we provide in-kind funding rather than cash.  Projects to increase self-reliance, rather than build expectation for continuous charity. Each program is evaluated with the question: “If the funding ceased tomorrow, would people’s lives be better, or would people just have their hands out for more money?”

But when faced with an urgent need, we don’t put it off. We try to provide immediate relief.  “Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die left undone.” – Pablo Picasso.

4. Transparency

We believe in clarity of funding and require proof documents including receipts and photos of completed projects. To reduce corruption, funding is generally broken down into small projects. We expect some tensions between our Western business approach and local gift-exchange traditions (such as handing over cash donations “without strings attached”).

If a large project is requested, then a signed, bi-lingual, funding contract is prepared. It clearly sets out responsibilities and undertakings of both parties to the contract (the parties being us and our project partners in a local community). Download example of a Standard Funding Contract.

5. Trust

We believe in gaining the trust of donors and local people by following ethical funding practices. Working in partnership with locals requires gaining trust through direct involvement and though completion of committed projects.

Australian charities have learned hard lessons about helping poor communities. Focus is shifting from “throwing cash” at projects to earning trust of communities. To provide sustainable improvement, charities have to maintain the trust and support of the people. Persistence and follow-though is important to maintain while working in Vietnam’s culture of corruption and embezzelment. Sometimes we act when others refused to act. “I am thankful for all those who said NO to me. It’s because of them I’m doing it myself.” – Albert Einstein.

By visiting local populations, volunteers gain local trust, more than if they had “supervised” projects from outside. In-between visits, English interpreters maintain the flow of communication via email and phone. This gives us a continuous presence within the local community. It ensures there is enough capacity for us to have a “hold” effect between visits.

Any solely “kinetic” operation – for example building construction – has only a temporary effect; a lasting effect is achieved by encouraging locals to take ownership of the task.

Our Ethical Standards Policy covers a wide range of topics and are based on the ACFID Code, a self- regulatory standard of good practice agreed by 123 signatories in the Australian aid and development sector. For example, the policy referencing terrorism financing is covered in ethical standards.  Download: Ethical Standards Policy.

Our Child Protection Policy – to reduce risks of child abuse – is a template provided by Ausaid.  This is set out in the form of a declaration to be signed if we engage people to implement aid.  For the complete guide notes notes provided by Ausaid, see http://www.ausaid.gov.au.  Download: Child Protection Policy

Words and promises mean little to poor communities. Trust is best sponsored through actions. It is important to complete all development or action that we have committed to. Trust is built up over time through dialogue and interaction with the local people and demonstrating commitment through finishing development projects. “Spin” achieves nothing and creates a situation in which both groups posture with rhetoric.

Quick impact projects – such as the orphanage playground – are of great benefit in winning over the local population. Such projects are community based and relatively easy to complete. They show that the Australians are committed to the task of helping the local population. Unfortunately, the local population are probably dubious of Australian intentions to provide lasting support, until they see a long-term project – such as the women’s tertiary scholarships – after which trust starts to develop.

6. Connection

We believe the ultimate connection we can help facilitate is the friendship between Australian volunteers and sponsors with  disadvantaged communities in Vietnam.

We need to seek advice from local communities on which development projects they want, not prescribe solutions for the people. At first, small community-based projects can be recommended by local people. As trust builds, the projects can became larger. Local people have to provide guidance as to what will be needed for all future development projects.

7. Equality

We believe in a level playing field  where local people get credit for their own achievements. We need to give the credit for all development efforts to the local community. For example, a village education project might be supported by donations. Focus should not be on us as a source of funding, but on local volunteers. After all, they do the hard work. We just provided some funding. Sponsors of student tertiary scholarships are proud they can open up opportunities for local education. But all the hard work is done by the students. It is the students’ own achievement.