During my volunteer trip in Vietnam, the children showed me how pure and joyful life can be and make me wonder if having less could be better for someone’s mental wellbeing.
Finding My Way in the Concrete Jungle
After an intense and stressful year with my Master’s, I was so looking forward to my volunteer trip in Vietnam. It had been a lifelong dream of mine to work with children, contribute to a community, and see a different part of the world. It was my first trip to Asia, so besides a few friends’ stories, I was not sure what to expect. I decided to arrive a few days before the start of my project, so I could first settle in and explore the city. I was glad that I did so because wow… Ho Chi Minh City is enormous. What especially struck me was the traffic. I did not dare to cross a road the first few days, at least not on my own. However, I eventually figured out there is a certain strategy to the way they drive here.
Having arrived in this concrete jungle, on my own, I felt quite lonely and lost. Luckily, I quickly got in touch with other exchange participants from AIESEC. Later on, through the active social scene, I connected with young people trying to make a career in this city. The people I met were inspiring and some of them became and remain my closest friends.
AIESEC Project ‘Hope for Children’
But the main reason for my trip was the AIESEC project ‘Hope for Children’. I worked at two different shelters where volunteers take care of some of the poorest kids in the city, often referred to as ‘the forgotten children’. The parents of these kids most often cannot afford the school fee. They have lost their spouse or they exploit their kids, which was unfortunate but not uncommon.Volunteer abroad!
Shocking Realities and Heartwarming Moments
The first few days for me were quite shocking to hear their stories and see the conditions in which they live. The classrooms were rather improvised, but that in the end was not of the essence. These kids want to learn, no matter where they are seated. It’s about people taking the time for them and showing them they are worth being invested in. Moreover, I experienced that besides the English language, I could teach these kids social skills and values that they didn’t grow up with. Those will hopefully help them on their journey to a better future.