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"A precious pearl - a true friend"

20 Nov 2009

The New York Times Magazine recently ran a special issue focused on inspirational women in the developing world.

Ngoc Trai, from our partner RECAS in Vietnam, was nominated, with this story:

Her name means "pearl" in Vietnamese.

At the age of 76, Ngoc Trai still devotes herself working for the rights and benefit of old people in Vietnam.

Believing that older people are a crucial resource for development of the country, in 1991 Ngoc Trai decided for an early retirement and devoted the rest of her life to establish The Research Center for Ageing Support (RECAS) together with leading social scientists. It is the first ever Vietnamese non-governmental organisation in the field of ageing, working for the rights and well-being of older people.

An invaluable resource

Over the past 18 years, she has been seen as an invaluable resource person to motivate and bring together people from all walks of life; professors, medical doctors, journalists, writers, and researchers to work voluntarily for the Center.

Ngoc Trai does not only shed light on older people, but also widens the door to an international cooperation to seek technical and financial support from overseas to bring better lives to older people in her own country.

One of the successful joint projects with HelpAge International and HelpAge Korea is "Home Care for Older People in the ASEAN member countries - Republic of Korea-ASEAN Cooperation Project".

As family units become smaller, and young adults move to find work, increasing numbers of older people are left to cope alone. Most older people want to stay at home if they can maintain their quality of life.

Thinking positively and working tirelessly

The result is a growing need for home-based care services. Such services, often provided by volunteers in the communities, play a crucial role in providing care and friendship to vulnerable and isolated older people.

Nowadays, in the two big cities of Hanoi and Hai Phong- RECAS is a well-known homecare programme for older people. Over 800 volunteers have been trained to serve older people in need. The service is always in great demand and welcomed by older people and communities for further expansion. By now, thousands of older people have access to the service.

By thinking positively and working tirelessly, Ngoc Trai has always been on the move to share her initiatives, do networking and to do more for older people.

People called her "a lasting bright pearl". And myself, I call simply called her a "Genuine Friend" of older people.

Pham Hoai Giang, Vietnam

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Sarah Marzouk
Country: UK
Job title: Digital Communications

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.