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Country Director, Worldwide Orphans Foundation
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
When helping orphans with HIV/AIDS in Vietnam, Linh Do, MBA 04, approaches her work much like any entrepreneur, albeit one attuned to social rather than financial payoffs.
Since being hired as Worldwide Orphans Foundation’s (WWO) second Vietnam-based employee in 2006, she's built a core staff of 15 and played an integral role in the development of WWO programs to help orphans infected and affected by HIV/AIDS. Her position as Vietnam country director has demanded as much energy, perseverance, and creative thinking as her previous work founding a startup.
“We’re trying to do things that are quite innovative for Vietnam,” says Do, who believes her biggest accomplishment has been helping reduce the stigma experienced by orphaned children with HIV/AIDS.
Under Do’s leadership, WWO has created a network of community workers to provide outreach to HIV/AIDS orphans. One flagship WWO program offers a small stipend to people from the local community to spend daily one-on-one time in orphanages with infected children.
The program fills a major gap in treatment for institutionalized children, who are often developmentally delayed due to limited emotional support compared to what a family setting provides. Programs from the US government and the Clinton Foundation ensure children with HIV/AIDs can receive free medicine. But Vietnam suffers from a shortage of trained social workers because academic training in social work was mostly shut down for more than two decades after 1975.
Although Do was born in Vietnam, she and her family left as political refugees in 1979 when she was still in preschool, eventually settling in St. Louis. She first exercised a strong entrepreneurial streak after graduating from Stanford in 1998, when she founded a company to recruit new college grads for dot-coms. “I wanted to focus on one project and see the results,” she says. “But I realized that while that was making a change, it wasn’t really the change that was close to my heart. It’s working with people who are impoverished that motivates me.”
Do, who went to Haas with the goal of working in nonprofit management, has been able to apply what she learned in areas such as marketing, strategy, and organizational behavior to running WWO’s Vietnam office.
Her business degree also helped WWO land a significant grant from USAID, the government aid agency. Do and her team beat out some 750 other nonprofits to win a $1.7 million, three-year grant from USAID. Do was told that because of her MBA, “the donor agency felt like there was somebody there who had some training and would use the funds efficiently,” she recalls.
The grant will fund another innovative project that Do helped conceive: a new WWO program to improve training for social workers and other people who work with children and families infected by HIV in Vietnam.
Linh Do, MBA 04