Phan Dinh Hiep: I experienced profound changes in my life perspectives

“The experience and study in Australia have been part of my life since I was lucky to be engaged in the Australia Awards Scholarship program in 2005,” Mr Phan Dinh Hiep, Plan International Program Unit Manager and Australia Awards alumnus, described the impact of his time in Australia on his life and career.

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Mr. Hiep was born in 1974 and brought up in the old capital of Hue. He spent his junior secondary education in Quoc Hoc High School, and received his Bachelor Degree from Hue University in 1997. He obtained an Australia Awards Scholarship and graduated with a Master of Development Studies with Merit at the University of Sydney in 2007.

“In addition to the exposure to a world-class education system, I experienced profound changes in my life perspectives: the way I think, the way I work and behave. I became more professional, improved my critical thinking and skills, but more importantly, I learned of how to overcome difficulties and failures. I learned how to forgive and inspire others to improve and to change,” he said.

Since 2009 Mr. Hiep has been the Program Unit Manager, in charge of Plan International programs in Quang Tri. Before working for Plan, a global development non-governmental organization, he worked for the Hue Urban Development Project funded by the Swiss Development Cooperation, then moved to the United Nations Development Program/United Nations Centre for Urban Settlement (HABITAT) for a national project that provided support to provincial urban citizens in terms of water sanitation, land use, public services for migrants, urban planning, and municipal policy.

Leading a team of 26 at Plan, Mr. Hiep works hard with local partners and communities on a child - centred community development program that includes: child malnutrition prevention and reproductive health care, water and sanitation, disaster risks reduction and climate change, emergency response, grassroots participation in local social development planning, child protection, village savings and loans scheme, capacity building and governance. The program has impacts on the lives of hundreds of thousands of adults and children in mountainous and ethnic communities in Quang Tri, one of the poorest provinces in Central Vietnam. With their endless efforts, Mr. Hiep and his team have received Certificates of Merit by District and Provincial authorities for their outstanding community services. Mr. Hiep has had the opportunity to participate in and provide inputs to the design and management of Plan programs and policy advocacy at all levels.

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He described how he used his network with Australia in his job, “I am lucky to work for Plan International, a global child-centre development organization where I have opportunities to work with local, national, regional and international networks. In my work, I have often met with scholars and professionals from Australia to our programs in Vietnam: field researches, evaluations, workshops and exchanges. These have not only helped me and my organization continuously to improve our work but also enabled local partners and organizations to share and learn. From Australian professionals’ perspective, they have also enriched their global knowledge and promoted strong partnership and scholarship between Australia and Vietnam.

Mr. Hiep is also an active member of Australia Awards Alumni Core Group in Hue. He has co-facilitated in training courses on climate change, change management and management skills for alumni.

“Australia Awards Scholarship has become a most prominent program in Vietnam not only because of its professional and high-level education and support, but because of its equal and fair accessibility/outreach to a wide range of applicants: from central, provincial levels, universities and schools to most disadvantaged groups in mountainous, remote and poor areas.

The second significant difference from Australia Awards Scholarship program to others is the alumni network and its follow-up services. Alumni are provided with re-integration orientation events on returning to Vietnam especially regular gatherings and seminars for professional networking, training and skills development and on-line research resource and databases. All the efforts prove that Australia Awards Scholarship program is very well-designed, well operated and professionally managed, reflecting long-term commitment and support. I am very happy and proud to be part of the program”, he said.