In a Club with a 30 year history, it’s important to know what happened in the past. Similar situations come up in the present or stories from the past resurface.  It’s also important to keep in touch with longer term members and supporters, and show that although we are a modern and forward-looking group, we value the ideas and perspectives brought by friends who have known the Club longer. By talking to long standing members and supporters of the Club, we helped trace our previous Vision awardees and we aided our understanding of  CAC and Bazaar precedent.  So the Board decided to appoint Mentors to help us, future Boards and the Club generally.

All our mentors are long standing members and/or supporters of the Club who have held Board, CAC or other important positions. In addition, they are all long term Vietnam residents.  By appointing Mentors, we also wanted to recognise and show appreciation for the contribution of long term supporters, and acknowledge their importance to the Club.  The role of our Mentors is:

– To act as a source of advice to the Board based on their experience of the Club and knowledge of precedent;

– In doing so, provide a measure of continuity that the Club can sometimes lack;

– To act as another channel through which members, particularly longer term Club members can feed in their views.  

Our current mentors are Lia Garcia Halpin (Concordia School), Maeve O’Donovan (UNIS Hanoi), Stephanie Ralainarivo (Santa Fe Relocations) and Ulli Wingardh (UMA). Here’s what they have to say:

Maeve says ““Moving around the world, it always takes some time to feel settled, to belong, and to feel part of something. HIWC gave that to me. I had never known an expat women’s group to be so dynamic, so inclusive, so professional and so much fun. If you only do one thing during your time in Hanoi – it should be to join HIWC. It will open up a window of adventure, friendship and opportunities like no other location. And regardless of where you are coming from, your age, your background or your interests, you will find many others like you to enjoy your time here in Hanoi together.”

Maeve was Tennis Coordinator (Dec 2007- Mar 2013), CAC member (October 2008 -2010) and CAC Chair and Board member (2010-2013) – and “Bazaar helper and volunteer always!”

Stephanie came to Hanoi as an expat child 22 years ago from Madagascar. She fell in love with the Vietnamese way of life. “It’s similar to home” she says, “however it’s not home so it was the idea of having much more to explore and the opportunities available that kept me here.”  Stephanie has been an HIWC member for 22 years, served on the Board and has helped out with Newcomers Coffee. “Being a long timer means one says a lot of goodbyes. Therefore meeting new friends is as just as important for us veterans as it is for new people in town!” Stephanie enjoys her work for Santa Fe Relocations as it allows her to be in touch with people coming and going . She loves fashion and designs jewelry. “I now live in Ho Chi Minh City but Hanoi will always be home and so I visit every month.”

Ulli originates from Sweden and joined HIWC in 2002, volunteering on the HIWC Board for several years, including the time the Vision Award was established.  She recalls “It was a happy time. I met many wonderful people and got many new friends.” Her homeware and interior design business UMA now has 15 stores in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and has been a repeat sponsor of HIWC’s Annual Charity Bazaar. “We are always happy to help. HIWC is doing an important job,” says Ulli.

Lia originates from the Mexican border in south Texas. She’s been living in Hanoi for 12 years, moving here to work with the LCMS World Mission.  With a background in education (and more degrees that you can shake a stick at!),  she became a founding member of Concordia School. She’s passionate about being involved in the Hanoi community and for many years has been the HIWC Newcomers Coordinator,  helping the Club welcome and support new people to Hanoi.  Drawing on her personal experience, Lia helps people manage the emotional rollercoaster of being a new arrival in a foreign country.  Lia also coaches basketball, sings and works with local chambers of commerce. Her husband Daragh Halpin runs the family-friendly café The Kitchen on To Ngoc Van.

Former HIWC President, Gill Lever says  “We found that talking with people who know the Club’s history helped us remember what was important and how we have got to where we are. It gave us an extra source of advice and support and helped improve the decisions we made. So this experience lay behind our decision to appoint mentors.”

Members can get in touch with Lia Garcia Halpin, Maeve O’Donovan, Stephanie Ralainarivo and Ulli Wingardh by emailing contact@hanoi-iwc.com in the first instance.