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In 2016-2017, I had the massive privilege of working with the Centre for Sustainable Rural Development (SRD) as an Australian Volunteer for International Development. It has been a fantastic experience working with SRD's dedicated and talented staff who warmly welcomed me to the SRD family.

I was already impressed by SRD's record when I arrived and in only a short time, I recognised the striking impacts of SRD's work. This included SRD's successes: building sustainable livelihoods and a social enterprise approach for single women-headed households; engaging forest-dependent communities in the Voluntary Partnership Agreement development processes under the Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade initiative; and supporting 5 provinces to develop Climate Change Adaptation Plans in the Red River Delta under the Vietnam Forests and Deltas project.

As a Climate Smart Agriculture Support Officer, I supported SRD to empower poor and vulnerable rural communities, women, and people with a disability.

Firstly, I supported SRD's important work by assisting them to develop new projects in order to help vulnerable communities develop sustainable livelihoods and adapt to climate change. I was impressed that SRD could readily align its experience to a diverse range of areas such as sustainable energy, community-based tourism, social enterprises, etc.

Secondly, I supported SRD's key role as a core member of the Climate Change Working Group in order to advocate on the climate change issues that impact Vietnam and SRD's beneficiaries – for example by actively participating in national events and contributing to policy papers. Thirdly, I supported SRD to share its experience and achievements by networking with partners, and by developing materials and communications.

Visiting SRD's project sites was an extremely rewarding highlight because I saw the human face of SRD's beneficiaries and the results of SRD's great work first hand.

I visited Thái Nguyên province to support SRD to develop the publication Planting Trees, Planting Life for project VM055 Rainforest recovery by local species nursery garden development. I heard stories from beneficiaries about how SRD's work has helped change their lives and their minds. I remember Mr. Bach Dinh Chuan's enthusiasm to continue building SRD's safe honey production model to strengthen the Động Đạt bee-keeping group's sustainable livelihoods. I also remember Dong Nghe farmers' faith and dedication to the traditional herbal medicine plant La khoi as a new livelihood model.

I was also lucky to join a special event that SRD held for Quảng Trị's disabled community to help celebrate Vietnam's National Day for Persons With a Disability (PWD). I was inspired to meet PWD who had shared their personal stories as part of SRD's photo voice contest and the publication We Talk About Ourselves. It was moving to see PWD's sense of community, belonging, strength and pride – and to know that SRD's work was helping them to overcome the challenges that they face.

I am grateful for my time with SRD – one year is not long enough to spend with my SRD family! It has been tremendously fulfilling and given me the opportunity to work on important issues and with great people.

I would like to congratulate SRD on its impressive achievements during 2017 and give my warmest wishes for an even more successful 2018!

James Simon – The volunteer from Australia


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