As Americans, we often presume to know the needs of struggling communities outside the United States. Nonprofit organizations sometimes “jump the gun” and instinctively draw conclusions about whether they should build homes, provide clothing, or distribute clean water to the community – without asking questions. This is where REI stands out from the crowd.
The vision behind present-day Resource Exchange International (REI) was inspired by REI-Vietnam founder Doug Sparks after he recognized this tendency in the nonprofit sector. During a trip to Southeast Asia in 1992, he began to ask local leaders questions like “What do you need?” and “How can we help?” When he heard their answers, Doug gathered a group of men and women willing to lend a hand and respond to expressed needs. Together they began to build REI.
Twenty-five years later, REI is still “building people to build nations” by sending professionals overseas to educate and empower people in emerging countries. Their most recent success story comes all the way from Hanoi, Vietnam.
Brian Teel, Senior Vice-president and Program Director for REI-Vietnam, was recently surprised to hear that a long-standing medical partner in Hanoi no longer needed REI’s assistance. When Brian asked why, he was told that there were not enough patients for REI’s traveling surgical teams. What was once an ill-trained hospital full of doctors in need of REI’s training, is now functioning efficiently on its own!
“The surgeons we have trained are successfully training others around the country,” Brian explains. “Fewer patients at the large urban centers are a sign of the more widespread expertise our teams have yearned to see for years, and now it is becoming a reality.”
By training professionals who will pass on what they have learned to their colleagues and to future generations of professionals, REI continues to change lives across the globe. To help Resource Exchange International create more success stories like this one in Vietnam, chip in your extra nickels and dimes through Donate Your Change. By donating just a few cents each day, you can provide sustainable solutions to real-world problems in underdeveloped and developing countries.