In 1994 Gilberte DO-HUU and Robert Eberhardt visited Vietnam and especially the work of Bernard Kervyn and Truong Thanh. They were good friends from the time of Frères des Hommes (NGO), Gilberte and Robert in France, Bernard Bangladesh …
Sitting in the countryside and discussing the pressing needs, quickly led them to the desire to do something together. Back in Ho Chi Minh City they decided for a name and so VietNam Plus was born, a French association under law 1901.
Thanh had a strong network of friends in the Vietnamese community in Paris. It had long helped the boat people for their integration in France; there were also other Vietnamese friends willing to contribute to help their country of origin and preserve their culture. Robert was very active in associations. Finally, Bernard had kept a network of friends from the time he was working in Bangladesh. So quickly a core group of friends emerged around Vietnam Plus, highly motivated.
Initially, Vietnam Plus had only one small project, in Tien Thanh. Since then many other projects have grown, the initial team became more than 180 people spread on four major projects. Then, in 2007, Vietnam Plus expanded in Cambodia and a fifth project was born with 16 Khmer staff. The name was thus changed to Mekong Plus. In the meantime the Belgian team grew to a much stronger group with an increased financial capacity.
In 1995, Bernard Kervyn was invited by Dr. Duong Quynh Hoa. Oxfam Belgium wanted to launch a micro-credit program in Tuc Trung (Dinh Quan). After a successful start, it spread in the neighboring district, in Dúc Linh. And then further, to Tánh Linh. In 2000 it was necessary to withdraw from Dinh Quán (conflicts with some local authorities). In late 2001, Mekong Plus started in the Mekong Delta and works in Hau Giang.
Since 2003 the Belgian branch has developed further. Following the extension in Cambodia (2007) More Vietnam changed its name to Mekong Plus
Doctor Duong Quynh Hoa, now deceased, by her experience and the projects she set up, had a great influence on Mekong Plus. Director of Development and Pediatrics Health Center in HCMC (CPDS) until 1999, she was like a hub for many NGOs. She received the title of doctor honoris causa in Paris (2 times) and Belgium (UCL, 1997).
Overall, our programs today reach over 200,000 people every year! Little by little, over the years some activities have been suspended: the literacy classes for example, have become less relevant. But also new ones were added, such as inclusive education, the program for women’s rights … Initially the programs were more expensive, today, but thanks to the participation of villagers and the experience of the teams, we do much more today than 25 years ago, yet with less money. In fact many programs continue without our support and are indeed sustainable.