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Mr. Robert Kalatschan (center, in suit) – GIBTK President & founder – poses for a group photo with Ambassador Bùi Thế Giang (3rd from left) and some special guests at the ceremony

The story starts when the American couple Robert and Dorothea Kalatschan arrived in Vietnam to adopt a child. It turned out to be a fateful visit for this middle-aged couple: Coming to know that in the beautiful and promising land of Vietnam where the people were industrious and hospitable, there were still many hard lives and especially many children without an opportunity that the little girl they just adopted was about to enjoy, they decided to set up a non-profit which is called “501(c) (3) organization” by American professionals

Briefly speaking, 501(c)(3) is a section of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code (IRC) covering a specific tax category applicable to nonprofit organizations. Accordingly, organizations that meet Section 501(c)(3) requirements are exempt from federal income tax. It’s noteworthy that while the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) – fundamentally like Vietnam’s General Department of Taxation – recognizes more than 30 types of nonprofit organizations, only those that qualify for 501(c)(3) status can state that donations to them are tax deductible

Prompted by a simple thought that every child should have more or less similar basic needs like food, shelter and education, and that every child should have a chance at a better life, or at least an opportunity to try for it, the Kalatschans named the organization that they established “Giving It Back to Kids” (GIBTK) – returning to children all that they were entitled to once they were born into this world. They set as mission for this organization, or in fact primarily for themselves: To help kids achieve their maximum potential through medical care, education, nutrition and especially love.

20 years have passed. Constituting too short a period in history, 20 years are long enough to witness the constant growth of this nonprofit. Growth in terms of the number of projects. Growth in terms of operational scale and scope. Growth in terms of the size and qualifications of the Vietnamese team working at Đà Nẵng Office. And growth in terms of livelihoods of the organization’s beneficiaries. The following few figures alone can attest to such a growth just in Vietnam:

- 1,558 heart surgeries

- 768 orthopedic surgeries

- 182,508 wheelchairs

- 4,107 mini water filters for household-based use

- 154 graduated university/college students with a job

- 108 attending university/college students

- The “New Hope” project including:

* Mary’s home for under-18 girls

* Carmela’s home for under-18 boys

* Lighthouse for female university/college students

* Hal’s home for male university/college students

* The Father’s House for single mums

- 425 compassion houses

- 1,258 bikes

- A community-based “Mother’s Love” program for single mums

- Dorothea’s community-based Project Legacy 1, 2 &3 for disadvantaged students

- Life skills & emotional health education for primary, secondary and high school students

- Emotional health (one-on-one counseling) program

- G.I.O.W. club

- Program of raising awareness on anti-human trafficking

- Leadership training for university students

- Laurie Schoendorfer Endowment for Education

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Mr. Robert Kalatschan with Lê Thị Bích Nguyệt – who benefitted from a heart surgery in 2007, then a scholarship; now works as a hotel receptionist in Hội An, Đà Nẵng and has her own happy family

This list must be longer should concrete deeds put in place by GIBTK over the last 20 years be sufficiently enumerated. Yet, however long this list may be, it is only a part of the organization’s panoramic growth, for it can only show what is visible and measurable. It is the deep sentiment, the dedication and the big heart behind those achievements which are immeasurable that is the biggest and most important part.

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Mrs. Dorothea Kalatschan – passing away in March 2015 due to a fatal disease – with child beneficiaries of GIBTK’s support in Quế Sơn District, Đà Nẵng City

20 years have passed. Starting with mere goodwill and bare hands, and regarding itself even at the moment a small-scaled non-profit charity, GIBTK has made a long stride. In recognition of its efforts, at its very commemorative ceremony, the Nghệ An Provincial People’s Committee and the Presidium of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations conferred Certificates of Commendation on GIBTK. That was an act of acknowledging the Vietnamese members of GIBTK for their tireless endeavor in realizing the organization’s lofty goals. That was also an act of acknowledging American friends, philanthropists and volunteers for their generous contributions in terms of efforts, finances and materials for needy children in the Vietnamese land where hardships remain numerous although 47 years have gone by since the end of the war and despite extraordinary achievements that have been recorded in all fields of life. That was, furthermore, an act of acknowledging the facilitation and support rendered by central- and local-level authorities as well as the joint efforts made by local organizations and individuals in places where GIBTK has operated, which has helped to an important extent turn the hard work of the Vietnamese team and the donations of American friends into practical and tangible outcomes.

Both Certificates of Commendation this time, like the Letters and Certificates of Commendation conferred so far by other agencies and institutions, are meant to recognize GIBTK as an organization. This is only natural, and understandable. Nevertheless, all GIBTK staff as well as all those who have once met the American couple who founded this organization have oftentimes thought of Robert and Dorothea Kalatschan with affection and veneration. It was at Robert and Dorothea Kalatschan’s initiative that GIBTK came into being. It was thanks to their hearts and minds that GIBTK has helped so many children in Đà Nẵng and elsewhere in Vietnam succeed in securing a better life and education, and becoming good individuals for their families and their communities. It was thanks to this couple’s guidance and counselling that many young Vietnamese have grown up, not just becoming good citizens but also holders of important positions in their respective fields and locations. Typical in this connection is the case of Ms. Tống Thị Thanh Tâm, a Vietnamese who has been recently promoted to GIBTK’s Vice President after 16 years’ service in the organization. What’s extraordinary, as mentioned in his personal capacity at the commemorative ceremony by Mr. Bùi Thế Giang who was former Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Vietnam to the United Nations, and who currently is Vice President of the Vietnam – U.S.A. Society, it was thanks to their bit-by-bit, modest and quiet deeds that the couple have helped bring the Vietnamese people and the American people closer to each other and become true partners for each other in all spheres, precisely as the official comprehensive partnership that the top leaders of our two countries endorsed in July 2013.

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Disadvantaged children at a school in Kon Tum province receive bikes supported by GIBTK

Upon conclusion of its 20-year journey, GIBTK can be legitimately proud to say that its modest but meaningful contributions have created so many hopes and helped turn such hopes into realities. GIBTK’s conclusion of its 20-year journey actually opens up a new journey with new hopes. As the first invited speaker at that 20-year commemorative ceremony, Ambassador Bùi Thế Giang quoted the world-renowned British statesman Winston Churchill as saying that “You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.” He also conveyed a message of his expectation to see GIBTK, its President Robert Kalatschan, its team, supporters and volunteers keep joining hands with Vietnamese partners, both public and private, in their journey so that when meeting again, all could be gratified to say that by what they have given, they would have made many more new lives. Congratulating GIBTK on this grand occasion, the Ambassador went on to wish that GIBTK continue with its noble mission in Vietnam, the country that both Robert and Dorothea Kalatschan have regarded as half of their homeland. It goes without saying that Ambassador Bùi Thế Giang did speak for the thought and sentiment of all GIBTK members and all those who have come to know this organization./.