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ESR workshop report on: Life courses of Vietnamese GI Children, 24-25 October 2016, Queen’s Universi

The project

A workshop on « Life courses of Vietnamese GI children » supported by Wellcome Trust funding was organized by Professor Sabine Lee, Dr. Susan Bartels, ESRs Nastassia Sersté and Sophie Roupetz at Queen's University, Kingston, Canada. This workshop was part of a project bearing the same name. The project was initialized by Sabine Lee (University of Birmingham) in collaboration with Dr. Susan Bartels (Queen's University of Kingston) and Professor Robert McKelvey, an American psychiatrist from Portland. He had served as a Captain in the US Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and his experience stimulated his interest in medicine and cross-cultural psychiatry.

This project aims to study the life courses of children fathered by a foreign soldier and born of a Vietnamese mother during the Vietnam War and better understand their life experiences. Evidence suggests that these children born of war have had and may still have difficulties being integrated into their maternal or paternal home countries due to discrimination or stigma based on their mixed-race or because they are perceived as children of the enemy.

Method: SenseMaker® software and Online questionnaire

Sabine Lee and her collaborators chose the Cognitive Edge’s SenseMaker® software to conduct their study. This novel research tool collects a large amount of mixed-method data in a short time. Using iPads and SenseMaker® software, narratives are voice recorded and then self-interpreted to gain a nuanced understanding of current concerns within a community such as the complex changes, attitudes and experiences of individuals and groups of individuals. It is important to note that participation is voluntary and all data collection is anonymous and cannot be traced back to individuals. The purpose of this project is to study the life courses of these Amerasians but also the perceptions of their mothers, fathers, spouses or children, and from this to gain a more comprehensive understanding of their experiences of identity, stigma, discrimination during their childhood and later, with particular emphasis on mental and physical health.

An alternative to tablet-based data collection is the use of SenseMaker® via online data collection. A secure email link will be sent to Amerasians living in United States to record their stories and self-interpret them via the questionnaire.

Agenda for the workshop

We started the workshop with two Skype sessions – one with Robert McKelvey and the second with Dr Hang Truong, an anthropologist from the University of Social Sciences and Humaniaties (Vietnam National University, Ho Chi Minh City) who collaborates with us on the project – to talk about the agenda, the design of the training materials and contents regarding the project.

We discussed, in particular, the terminology used in the questionnaire, but we also talked about the project partners, the aims of the research, the methodology, and the expectations of this study. Further, we identified the target groups; here, we decided to include three distinct cohorts of Amerasians (those who were evacuated as babies and toddlers from Vietnam by the Operation Babylift, those who emigrated to the US following the Amerasian Homecoming Act, and those who still live in Vietnam); We developed the first draft of questionnaires for the study with SenseMaker® and the online one. As the next step, a training workshop will take place in Los Angeles on February 2017 and the data collection is planned from April to June 2017 in Vietnam and United States. Then, we will analyze the data later in the summer. Finally, we will give the feedback around October 2017.

As the photos demonstrate, the two days were busy – but they were also efficient, and we left not only with whiteboards filled with ideas but also with the knowledge that the project was in a much more advanced stage at the end of the two days compared with the beginning. We were able to see the richness to work in collaboration into this project.

Work in progress!

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