October 24, 2014

The New Frontier of Going Green in Vietnam

Pham Thi Thu Trang is a pioneer in environmental protection in Vietnam. An alumna of the 2011 Southeast Asian Youth Leadership Program (SEAYLP) and the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative (YSEALI) Generation Workshop in April 2014 in Kuala Lumpur, Trang has been instrumental in mobilizing youth to raise awareness and protect the environment. She is the Founder and President of Water Wise, an organization formed with seed money from the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi to protect the environment. Trang credits SEAYLP with empowering her to become more involved with volunteer activities, saying, “I always wanted to better myself and try to get scholarship for my higher study. After the exchange experience, I found a new me who loves volunteer activities, loves Hanoi lakes, and feels so blessed that every Sunday morning I meet my second family with a lot of wonderful people of Water Wise Vietnam.” 
In the two years since its founding, Water Wise has become a well-known community organization for Vietnamese youth who take proactive steps to encourage their communities to save water resources. Water Wise attracts hundreds of membership applications and has received positive coverage by respected press outlets and television stations, such as VTV4, the national channel for Vietnamese abroad communities, and VTV1, an important professional news channel. Under Trang’s leadership, Water Wise has established close relationships with local authorities and the community to support the organization’s activities, including delivering reports from water testing excursions to appropriate NGOs who analyze the results and propose solutions to local government agencies and departments. Participants learn how to prevent damage to the environment by curbing the use of plastic bags and encourage their parents to adopt the practices they learn at Water Wise.  
Trang uses the skills acquired during her exchange program to assist and inspire others who lead volunteer projects. Recalling her SEALYP leadership training, she helps students facilitate CozyVil, an annual charitable endeavor that encouraged 400 volunteers to collect toys, books, and clothes for three community service centers. 
Trang has expanded her volunteer portfolio to lead Green School, a project aimed at establishing a network of environment-friendly schools and school clubs throughout Vietnam. She and her Water Wise members also contribute human resources to many other environmental alumni projects such as Streams of Hope – a YSEALI-funded lake rehabilitation project. As the leader of English faculty for 11th Grade at the High School for Gifted Students, Trang also shares SEAYLP activities as best practices in teaching public speaking and presentation skills.
Each month, the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ (ECA) Alumni Affairs Division, which supports program alumni as they build on their exchange experiences, recognizes one outstanding alumnus or alumna. Pham Thi Thu Trang is this month’s outstanding alumna, and her work will be recognized throughout October on the International Exchange Alumni website, ECA’s official alumni website which serves more than one million Department-sponsored exchange alumni worldwide.