Jesse Voth-Gaeddert is half way through his one-year SALT (Service And Learning Together) service assignment with Mennonite Central Committee in Hanoi, Vietnam. Jesse grew up in Hesston, Kan. attending Whitestone Mennonite Church and is a graduate of Bethel College in North Newton, Kan. On his blog, Getting to Know My Neighbor, Jesse explains that sometimes he feels, “like a corn stalk in a wheat field,” living in Hanoi, but that the Vietnamese people have extended “abundant grace” to him.
MCC is working alongside people in Vietnam to provide the opportunity for them to live, work and to take care of their families. Each year children are born with disabilities due to the use of dioxin-contaminated Agent Orange by the U.S. military during the Vietnam War.
MCC partner Vietnam Association for Victims of Agent Orange (VAVA) provides a center in Quang Ngai Province where children with disabilities can receive care, allowing their parents the opportunity to work in their fields or run a business.
Voth-Gaeddert is working on the next phase of VAVA work. He is assisting a researcher to do a needs-assessment survey that will be carried out in three districts around the Phu Tho Province, just northwest of Hanoi.
“In discussion with VAVA, it was determined that what was needed most in the Phu Tho Province was to do a survey of households living with the effects of Agent Orange. The survey will provide a map of the needs of those affected, which can be used to guide future projects and programs meant to assist families affected by Agent Orange.”
What is most exciting to Voth-Gaeddert is, “the needs assessment survey tool that will be created and the methods of carrying out this research…can then be used in other areas where families are affected by Agent Orange.”
While his role has primarily been as a correspondent and communicator, he is looking forward to digging in deeper as he continues to assist the researcher for this project in the months ahead.
Outside of his work, Voth-Gaeddert has enjoyed the adventure of learning and living in a new language and culture. Riding his bike to work in the hustle-bustle of Hanoi traffic was a big adjustment. He has enjoyed getting to know the city and the people who call it home. “The people here are very gracious and there is a paucity (tiny amount) of crime. Even though it’s a big city … I really don’t feel like I have much to worry about…. Also, there are loads of neat little coffee shops everywhere.”