8 intensive days in Northern Vietnam: travel report of the Asia coordinator
Since December 2020, Dr. Hildegard Hagemann has been working for KOLPING in Vietnam as a consultant for association and project development in Asia. She lives in Ho Chi Minh City and gradually gets to know the Kolping Families in Asia. She reports about her first trip to the north of the country:
“My first trip to the North in company with Mr Chunh Thanh Binh, member of the National board of Khoi Binh Vietnam, combined the useful with the celebratory. While the days in HaNoi were clocked with meetings with government institutions, international non-governmental organizations, foundations and trading partners of the GEPA (Fair Trade company), we were also able to celebrate St. Joseph’s Day with many Kolping Families. The visit of the member of the National Board and the Praeses to the large celebrations were just as welcome for the Kolping members as the small seminars to introduce the cooperation with the new advisor from Germany. In any case, the informal togetherness and joint celebratory meals with the Families in Vinh, Cua Loc, Bach Lo, Phin Ho and Nghia Lo were also important.
Intensive communication with the Kolping Families
The Kolping Families in Vietnam celebrate Joseph’s Day with a solemn celebration. The number of Kolping sisters and brothers who met in the Pastoral Center in Vinh was impressive. 800 people celebrated mass together, presided by Bishop Alphonse. Those who could not come to the pastoral center in the morning celebrated Joseph’s Day in their daily evening mass in their home parishes and discussed with the visitor from Ho Chi Minh City, as in the Cua Loc parish. Here, too, impressive numbers of churchgoers, young and old could be seen.
Trip to the Primate Rescue Center
A special highlight was the trip to the Primate Rescue Center in the National Park Cuc Phuong, where Ms. Elke Schwierz, currently interim manager of the center, has been working since 2002. The Rescue Centre cooperates with the Kolping Youth Community Services, which use the weltwärts program to place young people after leaving school in many countries. In Vietnam they cooperate with four partner organizations active in nature conservation. Corona abruptly interrupted the program, but considerations have been made to restart as soon as it is possible again. My visit intended to present this program to Khoi Binh Vietnam, because unfortunately the actors are not aware of each other and the combining link, the Kolping background.
Fair trade and networking
The last stage of the trip started with a visit to a GEPA trading partner. Craftlink works with ethnic minorities for the production of handicrafts and does the export marketing through the fair trade partner GEPA. I could not resist and a wonderful orange silk / linen mixed scarf changed hands and was then used in the parish of Bach Loc. 12 out of 44 Kolping Families came together and discussed the way forward and celebrated mass on the feast day of St. Joseph, the craftsman, itself. Strong young Kolping groups ask about the possibilities of networking with other young Kolping groups, Kolping members are interested in ecological and sustainable agriculture and there is also great interest in microcredits for setting up small businesses for women entrepreneurs.
Green tea marketing planned
The trip then led to Phinh Ho parish, which is predominantly inhabited by the H’mong ethnic minority. This is where the sanitary system project was the last Christmas fundraiser of the partnership of Kolping Freiburg and Khoi Binh Vietnam. This time the visit was about the processing and marketing of a special green tea that is growing particularly well here. The plan is to improve market access to bigger cities with the help of the social enterprise that Khoi Binh is building in HCMC. Advice is needed on the establishment of cooperatives but also certification for organic agriculture in Vietnam.
The time until the departure of the comfortable coach back to Noi Bai International Airport Hanoi was for the 115-year-old parish St Theresa in Nghia Lo, where a young Kolping group started a recycling project. 52 young people between 9 and 16 years got involved here to raise money for charitable purposes. But beautiful Kolping T-shirts should also be made possible by the income, because this stimulates the motivation for joint efforts.
After 8 days traveling we went back to HCMC with a backpack full of impressions and tasks.