Voluntary American doctors offer free services hinh anh 1Speech pathologist Dr Ruth W.Bass of Island Therapies in Newport Beach, California, gives guidance to parents with autistic children at a free workshop held by the Ket Noi Yeu Thuong (Connecting to Love) programme. (Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNA) – Four-hundred people filled the auditorium of Nguyen Tri Phuong Hospital on March 5, listening raptly to advice given by American doctors about guided methods of intervention for their autistic children.

The parents, with smartphones ready to record the event, were eager to learn about ways to improve their children’s social interaction and communication skills.

The American health experts were visiting Vietnam as volunteers for Project Vietnam Foundation’s annual Ket Noi Yeu Thuong (Connecting to Love) programme, which also serves children with other health problems such as a cleft palate.

The programme, which ends on March 11, provides free healthcare and training to teachers and parents as well as doctors and patients in HCM City, the central province of Nghe An, and the Mekong Delta city of Can Tho.

Speech pathologist Dr Ruth W. Bass of Island Therapies in Newport Beach, California, spoke about methods to use with non-verbal children to help them develop speech.

A father from the south-central coastal province of Binh Dinh attending the workshop said his 30-month-old son had never spoken.

“By chance, I heard about the programme’s training workshop. I caught a bus to attend to hear about detailed guidelines,” he said.

A 32 year-old mother from HCM City’s Binh Thanh district, whose eight-year-old daughter is autistic, had the same concerns as the father.

Her daughter spoke until she was three years old, but afterwards spoke only single words instead of phrases.

During a break in the presentation, the woman sought out Dr Bass to speak to her directly.

“Such training workshops are very useful for me,” the woman told her.

Dr Bass said: “I’m really happy we have a full house. We love it here, and our group continues to come back every year.”

Vietnamese-American Quynh Kieu, a paediatrician and founder of Project Vietnam Foundation, said the foundation would post links for parents to consult on its website.

“I hope that experts will encourage their colleagues to come to Vietnam for the next training workshop,” Kieu said.

Besides the autism training workshop, the American doctors performed surgery on 83 children with cleft lip palate and heart rhythm disorders.

Many of them visited two disadvantaged districts in Can Tho to offer free dental treatment and to deliver medicine.

Kieu, whose family moved to the US in 1975, has worked with the programme for 20 years. She said she wanted to return to Vietnam to help improve health care for children.

After the American Academy of Paediatrics offered her encouragement and support, Kieu set up the non-profit humanitarian Project Vietnam Foundation.

Its goal is to create sustainable paediatric healthcare while providing free healthcare and aid to impoverished rural areas across the country.

The Ket Noi Yeu Thuong programme has attracted more volunteer American doctors each year.

Kieu said each trip leaves the doctors with unforgettable memories.

She recalled that on March 3 doctors had performed a four-and-a-half-hour surgery on a five-year-old girl with a serious cleft lip and palate at the Military Hospital No.175.

The girl was from a Central Highlands province in the remote Gia Lai area.

Doctors there were unable to perform this kind of operation, and the family did not have money to travel to the bigger cities.

After hearing about the programme, the parents registered to get free surgery.

Kieu said the girl, upon seeing her surgeon in the hallway, ran up to her and hugged her.

The surgeon promised to come back to Vietnam next year to work in the project.

An American couple, both nurses, have also been taking part in the programme since 1999. They collect new equipment from donors to later give to Vietnam.

In the past, the husband was in the military during the war in Vietnam. He said he wanted to return to show his concern and love for the Vietnamese by offering assistance to those in need.-VNA