Volunteer in Vietnam – Ho Chi Minh Community Involvement
Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Volunteering in Ho Chi Minh Community Involvement in Vietnam was the most fulfilling and life-changing experience of my life. I feel like I have achieved more and learned more about myself in those two weeks than ever before, and I am so grateful for the incredible opportunity I was given. The Ho Chi Minh Community Involvement placement starts off with four days of Culture Week, a fantastic opportunity to get to know the other volunteers we would be living with for the next two weeks to six months. This experience involved language and culture immersion classes which were very interesting and informative, where we learned about the culture of Vietnam and social norms and expectations as well as the history, geography and cuisine. We had an excellent tour of the city, guided by Leah – one of the local Vietnamese coordinators – and its major historical sites, such as the Reunification palace, Ben Tanh Market, the Post Office, and the War Remnant Museum. A major highlight was visiting the Cu Chi tunnels just outside Ho Chi Minh City – it was so interesting and amazing. We also took part in a cooking class, a Vietnamese fan and dragon fly painting class and Vietnamese towel folding classes!!
Despite being the youngest out of all the volunteers, I never once felt left out – instead I made great friends with people of all ages, races and religions, and everyone was so inclusive welcoming and fun. The social life of this program was so fun and the people were awesome.
On our fifth day of the program, we launched straight into our project. I had decided to do my volunteer work for the next 6 days at the orphanage. The first day was amazing – after a long bus ride and tiring walk in a humid 33 degree heat, we arrived at the orphanage to 40 welcoming and over-excited, enthusiastic, gorgeous children.
First we taught the kids English for about 45 minutes (the day before you prepare various learning activities and resources such as posters of animals or colors and the English words next to them). We would sing the alphabet and count to 10 before teaching them common words such as animals and vegetables.
After this we did some dancing – they love the Macarena – and attempted musical chairs. Because the kids have no personal items, when they are given something temporarily they get really excited and possessive over it – this is why musical chairs didn’t work, because they all wanted to stay on their chair as they were attached to it! After this we would do coloring on the floor – one of their favorite activities.
Then we would take them upstairs and play with them for about 30 minutes to an hour. Constantly giving piggy backs, playing tiggy, giving wizzy dizzies and trying to entertain 20 kids gets very tiring, but their smiles and laughs make it all worth while.
After this they would have lunch and we fed them. They loved the volunteers doing ‘airplane’ with the spoon going into their mouths, it was adorable. They got so much pleasure and enjoyment out of the simplest things, it was amazing to watch.
After lunch we would pack away the tables and chairs and sweep and mop the floors while they all got undressed and had showers. We would dry them and dress them in clean clothes and nappies (diapers). After this we would play for quite a while longer and before long it was time to go!
This is roughly how every day at the orphanage went, each one with little quirks and quiet achievements. I remember how amazing it felt to watch the kids learning and growing, even in such a short space of time while I was there – hearing them say my name, words I had taught them, singing songs I had sung to them or games I had taught them. I began to get to know and love the personalities of each of them, it was so gorgeous.
After 2 weeks in Vietnam, I was sad to leave and I knew I would miss it so much. I’m nostalgic thinking back to the most amazing experience of my life, but from Ho Chi Minh Community Involvement I have brought with me so many valuable memories, friendships and knowledge. Thank you so much GoEco for providing me with such an incredible experience. – Matilda