U.S. Army Corps of Engineers builds bright futures for children in Vietnam

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers builds bright futures for children in Vietnam

Ana Allen

U.S. leaders officially turned over the keys to a new two-story kindergarten in northern Vietnam, Ha Giang province, near the border of China, on May 7, 2019. The 339-square-meter kindergarten in Xin Cai has six classrooms and holds up to 320 children.

Maj. Joshua Rodriguez, chief of the U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation in Vietnam, highlighted the enduring partnership of the U.S. and Vietnam and the strengthened alliance symbolized by the school’s construction.

“Since 2009, the U.S. government, through the Overseas Humanitarian Disaster Assistance and Civic Action Program, has helped to construct dual-use disaster shelters, management coordination centers, clinics, bridges and schools like this one in many towns and villages throughout Vietnam,” Rodriguez said. “These efforts are important to strengthening Vietnam’s education system as well its ability to respond when disaster strikes.”

Brig. Gen. Thomas Tickner, Pacific Ocean Division commanding general, said that humanitarian assistance construction projects are just one way the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) engages with partners in the Pacific.

“USACE works closely with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, U.S. Army Pacific and our interagency partners at the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development in support of water and environmental security, technical workshops, disaster risk management, subject matter expert exchanges and foreign military sales,” he said.

Tickner said that taking a whole-of-government approach multiplies U.S. efforts to support the development of strong, prosperous and independent countries in the region, citing U.S. Indo-Pacific Commander Adm. Phil Davidson’s attendance at a U.S. Navy-led ceremony to open the Khanh Hoa dermatology hospital in Cam Ranh, Vietnam.

“So whether it’s a Naval Facilities Engineering Command project or a USACE project, these engagements allow us to be a vital partner in building strong relationships and in strengthening Vietnam’s capacity,” Tickner said. (Pictured: Children prepare to dance during the opening ceremony for a new U.S.-funded kindergarten in Lien Thuy, Vietnam, on December 7, 2017.)

Humanitarian assistance joint efforts are having positive effects on community families and the region at large, according to Xin Cai District Chairman Vang Huong.

“The [Xin Cai] school is an invaluable asset to the community, providing a safe, clean school for young students in this extremely rural area,” said Huong. “It also provides a central location for children and teachers who were previously forced to travel to numerous locations throughout the province, dividing the already severely limited resources of this community.”

Huong added that the school serves as an emergency shelter, an important asset when mudslides and heavy storm damage occur. These weather trends, as well as other risks associated with the steep topography of the area, led the team to construct a retaining wall to protect the kindergarten from potential landslides during heavy seasonal rains.

USACE partnered with local Vietnamese government and interagency officials to devise long-lasting solutions such as enabling the structure to endure the harsh mountainous climate with minimum maintenance throughout its life cycle.

Since 2009, USACE has completed 23 schools in Vietnam and has plans to construct more in the coming years.

Beyond Vietnam, USACE is partnering with nations throughout the Indo-Pacific to support humanitarian assistance construction projects, such as birthing centers, labs, nutrition centers and schools. There are currently 28 projects in various stages of acquisition, design or construction in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Laos, Mongolia, Nepal and Sri Lanka, in addition to Vietnam.

Ana Allen is a public affairs officer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Pacific Ocean Division.