EVS VIETNAM 2015, an experience for a life

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I decided to come to Vietnam because I wanted to experience something new in my life. "Volunteering abroad is a brilliant opportunity to do three things in the same time, which is traveling, helping and learning. That is what I am interested in.", I thought.

It took me one month to become sure that I'm leaving Poland and moving to Vietnam for 8 months. On the 2nd of February 2015 I had a flight which took almost 24 hours. Two transfers in Amsterdam (Holland) and Canton (China) and I ended up at the different site of the world.
At the airport some man was waiting for me and raising a paper with my name written. I saw it, walked to him up and followed to the taxi. My first impression when I got off the airport was "what a beautiful view!", next "why are we driving so slowly on the highway" and finally "OMG! Bicycles are everywhere!". It was very funny to feel first differences between countries Vietnam and Poland. Some people say that feeling is a culture shock.
We were driving 30 minutes to reach the destination. 72 Phạm Thận Duật Street, Cầu Giấy District, Hanoi. I got out of the taxi and saw gray gate looking door. "Is this my volunteers house?", I considered. Yes, that was. I was welcomed very warmly by Thuy, Vietnamese girl, who introduced me everything and introduced me to everyone in the house. Volunteering in the Center of Sustainable and Development Studies (CSDS) in Vietnam was started!
But with my volunteering work I had to wait few days because I arrived in Vietnam in a special time. In the February this year was the Tet holiday, which is a celebration of Lunar New Year and it lasts near two weeks. For this occasion I was invited to the hometown of my new Vietnamese friends on the southeast from Hanoi. It was unique chance to see how people here celebrate the most important holiday in the year. During six days I was visiting many, many relatives in the village.
Center of Sustainable and Development Studies is a non-governmental organization, which leads many different kinds of projects. They help disabled children, teach youth English, organize workshops and events, support ethnic minorities, support different NGO's in office work and many other. I had many options to choose which project I would like to support. I wasn't certain what I want so I had small interview with coordinator, who showed me few opportunities which suited my background. I chose two of them: "SOCI HUB" - a free venue for young people and eco-tourism project for community with ethnic minorities in Vietnam.
When I am writing this story my project is still outgoing. I am almost in the middle of it.
I am sharing my time between these two projects. Almost each day I learn something new. I have still many challenges to reach. On the beginning the biggest challenge for me was using English all the time. I have never been abroad for long time and never been using different to my mother language in daily conversation. It was hard to shift my language habits. I had passed university English test but I felt worse than other volunteers who came from England, America, Holland, different countries and spoke English excellent. I knew that practice is the best adviser in that case. I had to cope with every day English struggles. It worked and I am happy for that. Now I can even write articles about my experience in English!
Language obstacle appeared also in project teamwork, but we overcame with it by listening each other, explaining and giving a feedback. Everybody here knows that it is an only way to understand each other clearly.
Work for eco-tourism project is very interesting and quite ambitious. On the northeast of Vietnam there is one of the poorest districts in the country and one of the poorest communes - "An Lac". There are five main ethnic groups: "Tay", "Kinh", "San Chi", "Cao Lan", "Dao". Despite poverty, the people are offering a welcoming smile with generosity of spirit for all those they meet. The main economic sector of the commune is agriculture. People living in "An Lac" community depend either directly or indirectly on the "Khe Ro" forest. It provides them with food, wood and non-timber products (such as mushrooms, bamboo shoots, honey, etc.) that they need for their families, or sell to make a living.
What we want to do in our eco-tourism project for "An Lac"? We want to promote, strengthen and maintain: local business ventures that generate sustainable incomes for local people; infrastructure improvements (sanitation, community resources); health, education and opportunities for the people; environmental and cultural heritage. We want to encourage tourists to come to this beautiful place.
Work with "An lac" people is challenging because it is quite far from Hanoi and because of language. They do not speak English and most of our team do not speak Vietnamese. Fortunately in the project we have Vietnamese friend who can translate everything. We visited "An Lac" community twice in order to get to know with people and see how life there looks like. It is 200 kilometers far from the place where we are living and it took 4,5 hours to got there. We spent with them three days during we could eat local food, enjoy nature, watch cultural performance and sleep in homestays.
Our project team often meet to discuss what we can do to help this community. We decided to rise some funds by applying for grants and looking for donors. We know that even small money could help them to improve daily life in "An Lac". I hope we help them.
"Soci Hub" is a free venue for young people to generate new ideas, join free activities and learn new things. Last few weeks were very exciting because "Soci Hub" moved to different work place. We were cleaning and painting every day. I joined to this initiative and enjoyed it very much. I also prepared my first workshop about "Project documentation and evidence gathering for youth clubs".
Since first day volunteering in Vietnam I have been experiencing a lot, meeting many new and friendly people and learning new things about culture, language, daily life. I already know that I will get more than I can give. Thank you, "European Volunteering Service" (EVS) for giving me this opportunity and thank you, Vietnam for welcoming me! Thank you to a non-governmental organization "Europejskie Forum Młodzieży Poland" and "TOGETHER Luxembourg"! Volunteering adventure is still ongoing!

Fifth Edition

5While closing the 4th edition of Scriptamanent, after the final meeting in Izmir, we are already preparing the new call for the next edition of the project. Stay tuned!

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