One Sunday in October, Dinh Thanh Huong woke up at 4:30 a.m. in her apartment in Paris to start a busy day with the Association of Vietnamese Scientists and Experts (AVSE Global), an organization connecting intellectual sources to identify ideas and strategies to contribute to Vietnam’s development.
Huong, head of liquidity reporting at a global bank, managed an online meeting on development programs for a mountainous province in Vietnam, and another meeting with a partner who wanted to promote Hack4Growth, a program encouraging solutions to alarming problems like climate change and urban development, in the country.
A typical Sunday for her also includes some outdoor activities with her family before returning to her desk to speak with people all over the world about many other projects of AVSE.
Thanh Huong is currently working as head of liquidity reporting at a world-renowned bank in France. Photo courtesy of Dinh Thanh Huong.
Over the last five years AVSE has kept Huong as busy as her bank, but she has never complained. Contributing to her country of birth is a dream for her.
Joining several charitable works in Vietnam when she first began her career in France, she was thrilled when AVSE invited her to work as director of executive education and train senior leaders in Vietnam.
When the organization was founded with limited funding, members like Huong had to use their own money to travel.
Once, when attending a training program in Switzerland, she shared a studio with three others and used public restrooms.
“I feel like I am climbing a mountain. The more I climb, the more beautiful the scenery is, and I am not tired anymore,” she says about her works with enthusiastic AVSE members.
She is currently managing a slew of programs in Vietnam, including one supported by AVSE and a Vietnamese billionaire living abroad to mitigate poverty in a mountainous province using and local resources.
But she has never worked alone. For instance, Le Vo Phuong Nga, head of finance management at Credit Agricole Corporate and Investment Bank, works as finance manager for AVSE.
With her long experience in banking, Nga believes there are many ways to serve her motherland. In 2003 she successfully persuaded an association of French doctors to provide medical support to Vietnam.
Nga at the 20th anniversary of the Orleans Economic Institute in France in 2017. Photo courtesy of Le Vo Phuong Nga.
After a trip to the Mekong Delta and seeing poor people living in small huts, the association decided to build a clinic and train local doctors. It was a long and challenging process, especially importing medicines, but Nga did not give up. She convinced the doctors and travel back and forth between Vietnam and France and set up seven clinics in the poorest areas.
“That happy memory gives me inner strength,” Nga says.
She then persuaded her bank to lend money to 50 low-income families in Dong Thap Province and My Tho Town in Tien Giang.
Nga suggested a unique approach. The bank lent them money at zero percent interest for the first three years, allowing the farmers full control over their finances. After three years, the bank erased the debt.”
In 2019 she was one of 20 organizers of the Vietnam Global Leaders Forum, a successful event held in Paris, France.
Seeing everything positively and dealing with problems proactively are two rules that Nga always follows.
Tran Phuong Tra, academic head of the MBA program at France’s IPAG Business School, is another high flier who has found her calling at AVSE.
The head of AVSE’s economy and policy networks says: “I did not know a lot about my country before joining the organization. After attending it, I can talk a lot about the issues of my fatherland. I live abroad, but I feel like I am living with people in Vietnam and supporting them.”
In October 2018 she worked with several organizations in France and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, a group of developed nations, to run a training course for senior Vietnamese leaders.
Tra and her teammates have kept working with OECD and its Country Program to help Vietnam have international institutional standards in investment, technology, inclusive development, and management of state-owned companies.
Tra (front row, fifth left) and her teammates visit OECD headquarter. Photo courtesy of AVSE.
“I had never imagined my connection can have such huge effects,” Tra said.
Dozens of women executives at AVSE have been working hard to contribute to the development of their motherland.
Bui Thi Minh Hong, an associate professor at the University of Bath in the U.K., works as its head of its education network (Edunet) and has connected with more than 10 Vietnamese academics and educationists around the world to seek ways to improve Vietnamese education.
Nguyen Thi Tra, international program manager at the International Institute of Management in Paris, is another devoted member.
She has traveled to several countries and Vietnam to find ways to contribute to her homeland. In the last few years she has been visiting Vietnam twice a year to organize forums on sustainable development and leadership and public policy.
Huong, Phuong, Nga, Hong, and Tra have busy careers and families to attend to, but they have volunteered to contribute to the development of their homeland. The more they see the world, the more they want their country to develop.
Huong sums up thus: “No matter how good we are, it is difficult to achieve success if we stand alone. The thing that binds us is knowing our strengths, which combined, could deliver great achievements at national level.”