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Donor Spotlight: Shelley Brown Visits ReSurge Vietnam

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Shelley Brown is a valued member of ReSurge International’s giving community, and she recently had the chance to accompany ReSurge staff on a site visit to Vietnam. We caught up with Shelley to learn more about why she donates to ReSurge and to hear her reflections on the recent trip. 

Can you start by sharing a bit about yourself and your background?

Shelley: I’m a retired human resources executive, with over 25 years of experience working in technology companies including Hewlett-Packard and two successful startups, Aspect Communications and Ariba, Inc. My focus, as an HR executive, was on talent acquisition and leadership development, and organization effectiveness. When I retired in 2001, I became very involved in nonprofit work. Over the last 20 years, I have served on 10 different boards, focusing on strategy, board development, and talent acquisition. This might give some clues about the filters I use when looking at organizations.

How did you initially learn about ReSurge International?

Shelley: My good friend, Kathryn Hanson, is a ReSurge board member, and I first learned about this wonderful organization through her. I started attending ReSurge events and donating. Then, in 2022, I attended the ReSurge International Transformations Gala – which is where I bid on and won the opportunity to go on a site visit to Vietnam.

Shelley (upper right) sits in with the pediatric team to evaluate patients on clinic day.

Can you share more about the trip to Vietnam?

Shelley: It was a wonderful experience to visit the Resurge organization in Vietnam! The trip exceeded expectations on many levels, including how much ground work I was able to observe. I met with families whose loved ones were receiving care. I observed actual surgical procedures. I also had the opportunity to meet with patients and their families, after surgery, who expressed tremendous gratitude and appreciation for the life changing impact that the reconstructive surgery had on the lives of their family members.

I felt strongly about ReSurge’s mission before going to Vietnam, but was particularly impressed by the capacity building and sustainability work that ReSurge is doing at the local level. ReSurge trains and supports medical professionals in Vietnam and the other countries it serves, and is building the capacity to treat patients long after the ReSurge team leaves. From my perspective, that’s what makes Resurge truly exceptional.

Shelley, Kathryn, and ReSurge staff on patient home visits in the foothills of Quang Ngai.

You mentioned meeting with the patients and their families. Did any of their stories in particular stand out to you?

Most of the surgeries I observed were to remedy cleft lips and palates, remove multiple digits, and treat a condition called ptosis. A story that really stood out for me was that of a woman named Hue who visited the center with her daughter, Thu. Both of them had ptosis, a condition which causes the upper eyelid to severely droop, often so far that it covers much of the eye. As you can imagine, it interferes with vision, and it can be really debilitating both physically and aesthetically. The ReSurge surgeons were able to operate on both mother and daughter, and each regained the function of their eyelids. It really brought home the fact that so many of these debilitating conditions are treatable – the only problem is access to care.

Hue and her daughter Thu were both able to get free surgery for their ptosis.

We are deeply grateful for your commitment to our giving community – thank you so much for your support. Can you share with us which aspect of ReSurge International’s work resonates with you the most?

Shelley: I’m most impressed by ReSurge’s commitment to capacity building and sustainability. ReSurge doesn’t just “fly-in” to these countries, perform surgeries, and leave. They’re training generations of medical professionals who will go on to train others, and they’re helping to build the infrastructure needed to bring access to reconstructive surgery to people in need who, otherwise, would not be able to get the surgery.

ReSurge Medical Volunteers training the next generation of surgeons, occupational therapists, anesthesiologists, and nurses in Quang Ngai, Vietnam.

How do you feel when you see the impact of your donation, particularly in relation to the experiences you witnessed in Vietnam?

Shelley: While I was in Vietnam, I met several of the ReSurge doctors who, not only are remarkable human beings, but are inspirational leaders. They are recruiting younger doctors to reconstructive surgery, training and supporting them, and building the local capacity to provide care. I was also able to observe the doctors, in action, in the operating room and watch the training happen in real time. It was truly inspiring.

Before the trip to Vietnam, I was very supportive of ReSurge — but, now that I’ve seen the work in action and have met this exceptional team of doctors and supporting staff, it’s hard not to feel great about my decision to invest in ReSurge and to want to spread the word to other potential donors.

How do you hope your contributions will impact the future of ReSurge International and the communities it serves?

Shelley: When I invest in a non-profit organization, things have to click with both my heart and my head. From the beginning, the ReSurge mission grabbed my heart, but the more I learn about the work, and ReSurge’s focus on capacity building and sustainability, the more my head thinks that investing in ReSurge is a great value and makes perfect sense. ReSurge has a compelling mission, it has attracted an exceptional team of leaders, doctors, and supporting staff — and, it has embraced a long-term strategy for capacity building and sustainability. As a donor, I can’t imagine what more you could ask for!

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