Serving the Local Community in Times of Need
Center for Vein Restoration’s Dr. Duc Le talks about the importance of giving back to the community.
One of the guiding principles of my life and career as a physician is to give back to the community. Even as a medical student, I wanted to do my part to help under-served populations. So in 1993, I became the first U.S. medical student granted permission to serve a rotation in Saigon, Vietnam.
But my desire to serve didn’t end then. As president-elect of Hope For Tomorrow, a Rockville, Maryland-based charity organization, I have participated in several international and local missions to bring healthcare and other vitally needed services to disadvantaged communities.
Hope for Tomorrow was launched more than 15 years ago by a group of Vietnamese professionals in various fields from medicine and dentistry to IT. After being blessed with the generosity and opportunities here in the U.S., we decided to give back to the community and our homeland, Vietnam, through our projects here and abroad. Over the years, we’ve built a network of partnerships, including the Order of St. Camillus in Saigon, that have helped us continue our charitable work there.
Hope for Tomorrow Projects
Our organization averages one international mission each year to Southeast Asian countries, including Vietnam and Cambodia. In 2005, we sponsored our first mission to Da Nang, Vietnam, where we provided free dental and medical care to local residents. We’ve also built a wing of a hospital in South Vietnam offering free healthcare to the local community.
Although most of our work focuses on healthcare, Hope for Tomorrow does other projects, as well. In 2008, we opened an orphanage in Saigon, the Mai Tam Center, for children living with HIV/AIDS. We built the Gary House, modeled after Ronald McDonald House, for patients undergoing cancer treatment and their families, also in Saigon. We’ve funded water filtration projects and small bridges for access between communities. And last year, when a devastating flood hit Hue, Vietnam, our partners in the country rushed in to provide rice, blankets, and flood relief.
Locally, we sponsor two to four free dental clinics in Northern Virginia and Maryland annually. We treat between 300 to 500 patients in one day, offering everything from cleanings and extractions to more extensive oral surgeries.
Partnering with local businesses, several board members were able to raise $100,000 for personal protective equipment, which we distributed to firemen, hospital and nursing home staff in the Washington, D.C. and New York City regions.
Sometimes our charity endeavors are quite small but have a great impact. For instance, last summer we raised money for a cochlear impact for a child in Vietnam. We are grateful for the generous donations from local businesses and individuals. Most notably, our organization received a $1 million grant from Daisy Nail Designs during the 2017-18 fiscal year, which has funded our medical and dental missions for the past several years.
Training the Next Generation of Volunteers
Because of the ongoing pandemic, we were unable to hold our annual October fundraiser. Our last dental and medical mission to Vietnam was in 2019. But we’re hopeful as the vaccine rollout continues, a third to half of the people who want to be vaccinated will by midyear. We see a light at the end of the tunnel. At the same time, we have boots on the ground in Vietnam and will continue building relationships with our partners to build water filtration systems and undertake other projects.
We’re happy to announce that Hope for Tomorrow may be expanding to other states. A group in Texas is interested in starting a similar organization to ours within the next few years, although the pandemic has put those plans on hold for now.
Most important, our mission is to raise and train the next generation of volunteers. In the U.S., we are sustained by a wonderful group of volunteers, including high school and college students, and even middle school students. All of our volunteers pay their own way, making our organization 100 percent volunteer-based. Our hope is to inspire the next generation to give back to the community so our work continues after my board members and I are no longer here.
To learn more about Hope for Tomorrow, visit their website.