“Just be a donkey,” Sister Trish Franklin AO, Founder of Loreto Vietnam-Australia Program told the sea of fresh RMIT Vietnam graduates sitting before her, as she was awarded this year’s Honorary Doctorate from RMIT University.
These were the words an orator spoke to her when she graduated from university in Australia. “I still remember his words and they made a great impact on me at that time, though possibly I may have thought that being told I was a donkey was a little offensive,” Sister Franklin said.
“But now I understand donkeys, because I’ve journeyed and experienced many personal and professional encounters.”
Sister Franklin goes on to explain: donkeys are helpers, social, sensible, nurturing, highly intelligent, have an incredible memory, a keen sense of curiosity, have a calming effect, are independent thinkers and enjoy learning.
“As you leap into the next phase of your lives,” she told the graduates, “maintain a keen sense of intelligence, memory and curiosity. Be independent but collaborative. Take time, be passionate about your work and workplace and stay warmly professional amongst your fellow personnel, all in the name of wellbeing and safety. Take time with decisions and have a humorous and calming effect in all you do. And always be a lifeline of support.”
Australian-born Sister Trish Franklin is the Founder and Former Program Coordinator of Loreto Vietnam-Australia Program (LVPA), an INGO founded in 1997. For more than 20 years, she has worked tirelessly with impoverished communities in Vietnam, helping and educating disadvantaged and disabled children.
Under Sister Franklin’s leadership, LVPA implemented development programs across five remote provinces in Vietnam where no other NGOs were operating. It also built new schools, and upgraded existing educational facilities to strengthen curriculum outcomes in isolated communities.
By 2004, LVPA was running eight projects: a school for the blind, a school for intellectually challenged children, a shelter for street boys and five rural schools.
“Our journey was tough and turbulent. But this challenge gave me a more intense desire to achieve my aims and to replenish myself and my team with self-confidence, optimism, stamina and enthusiasm, which helped to regain – day after day – my positive energy to constantly experiment potential, capabilities and expertise,” she said.
With a Certificate of Teaching, Diploma of Teaching, Bachelor of Education, Graduate Diploma in Intercultural Studies, Graduate Diploma in Educational Counselling, Cambridge Certificate in Teaching English as a Foreign Language, Sister Franklin – with the help of her team – impacted the lives of more than 55,000 children by the time she left Vietnam in 2015.
“The most beautiful memories of my life are those that I spent in Vietnam. In those times, it was the goals I set and the aspirations I held for poor, disabled and disadvantaged kids in this beautiful country, which enabled me to keep going forward,” Sister Franklin said.
This is not the first time Sister Franklin’s extraordinary community achievements have been recognised and celebrated. She has received numerous honours and awards, including an Honorary Medal from the People’s Committee of HCMC, Honorary Medal from the Ministry of Education and Training, Officer of the Order of Australia (AO), Friendship and Peace Amongst Nations Medal, Honorary Doctorate from Australian Catholic University, and Friendship Medal (highest official recognition that a foreigner can receive in Vietnam) signed off by the President of Vietnam.
“When you put effort into anything you do, the results are awesome,” Sister Franklin said. “[Every person] will have times that might be tough and turbulent but renewed goals are what will give you continued direction on your pathway. Every day, find your life purpose, unleash your dream, live your life with resolution and master it.”
The Honorary Doctorate from RMIT Vietnam was awarded to Sister Franklin on 4 December 2018 at the RMIT graduation ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City, and recognises her tireless and distinguished contributions to educating and helping disadvantaged and disabled children in Vietnam.
Story: Lisa Humphries