- Project overview
Name: STRONG HANDS
Time: 13/11/2015 – 28/11/2015
Location: Phong Thạnh Commune, Cầu Kè District, Trà Vinh Province
Participants: 16 students and 2 teachers from Nanyang Girls High School
along with 6 Vietnamese volunteers (including 2 EVG members)
+ Finished 1 EVG Love House.
+ Finished 1 toilet.
+ Taught English for local primary school’s kids.
+ Organized a carnival for Hoa An’s children.
STRONG HANDS is a community project in Phong Thanh commune with the
participation of 16 students and 2 teachers from Nanyang Girls High School,
along with 4 Vietnamese volunteers and the support of 2 ECO Vietnam Group’s members.
This project aims to finish the construction of 1 EVG Love House, 1 common
toilet for the local community as well as teach English for local children
at Phong Thanh A Primary School. Organizing a carnival for children
in Hoa An commune and a joint performance called Culture Night is also part
of the project’s main objectives.
2. Working Process
The First 3 days:
The morning of 13/11/2015, the Vietnamese volunteers along with
Ms. Mai Anh, Ms. Duyen (vicepresidents of EVG) and Mr. Harry
(president of EVG) gathered at Tan Son Nhat International Airport
to greet the Singaporean volunteers from Nanyang Girls High School.
Despite the unfamiliarity at first, everyone was quick and happy to mark
the first moments of the project with group photos.
The group then departed for Tra Vinh City. The two sets of volunteers
from Vietnam and Singapore had some initial interactions during meal
time at noon and in the evening in Tra Vinh City.
On 14/11/2015, the group departed for Phong Thanh commune.
After the travel, everyone was eager to help bring all the logistics
for living and working into the storage area. Despite the tiredness,
the settling of the group in the living area was quick thanks to
everyone’s positivity. The Welcome Ceremony was also organized
by the local authority in a friendly and warm manner.
On 15/11/2015, the group had its first household visiting session.
All the life stories and sharing about everyday’s life of the locals
were touching and eye-opening. They helped all the volunteers, especially the Singaporeans,
to gain an insight into the living conditions of Phong Thanh commune
as well as the cultural characteristics of southern Vietnam’s rural communities.
The work days in Phong Thanh:
Following the first few days of settling down and getting accustomed to the
life and people of Phong Thanh was the series of work days, where our
hard works were to be placed.
Construction works seemed to be the one that interested everyone the most,
despite the long distance from the living area and its demanding nature.
We spent the majority of our time plastering the brick walls. This work
demands great patience and also good techniques so during the early days,
the volunteers took a lot of time just to learn how to do it properly and
the results were usually not as good as we expected. Despite that, the volunteers,
with their own efforts along with the tireless support from the professional workers,
were able to improve day by day. There was also a variety of other works that
the volunteers did such as mixing the cement, flattening the floor, whitewashing
the walls or tiling. Each and every single work was done with a lot of effort and
passion from the volunteers. Because of that, we all felt happy when we handed
over the finished buildings to the recipients and witnessed the joy in their eyes.
All the best wishes to everyone, especially to Bay’s family (the recipient of the
house) and the two granddaughters: Han and Hieu.
Teaching was also another interesting work during our days in Phong Thanh
commune. Along with the sessions in classrooms, we also had sessions
outdoor, of which the open air and bright sky made our lessons even more
active and fun. The volunteers taught the children simple topics like greeting,
family, personal hygiene… through short songs, which helped with the learning
of vocabulary. Although at times, controlling a class full of energetic and curious
kids was really challenging, the volunteers overcame this issue with their playful
attitude. Interacting with kids was no longer a challenge. At the end of the project,
to see the kids use some English words we taught to describe simple things or
just to greet us made us happy and emotional. Despite the short time we had there,
at the least we had instilled the interest of learning English to the kids.
Along with teaching and construction works, housework was also an
essential part of our time in Phong Thanh. The living area needed to be kept
clean and meals were to be prepared before everyone got home after work.
Although not directly involved in the development of the community,
those people who did the daily chores had indirectly helped with the morale
of the group. From cleaning the toilets to mopping the corridor, the volunteers
did all the chores with a bright attitude, singing and laughing as they did.
The housework team also got to go to the local market – yet another cultural experience for the volunteers.
Outside the primary works, the volunteers also had household visiting sessions,
during which the talks with the locals gave many insights into the daily life here
in Phong Thanh: from the concerns, difficulties to the optimism and positive view
of life of the locals. There were tears in small ramshackle houses where the only
inhabitants were the elderly and kids… Those memories were unforgettable and
really drove us to rethink about our lives and what we could do to change the
lives of those who need help.
Hoa An Carnival:
The project didn’t contain itself in just Phong Thanh commune, but also the nearby Hoa An commune. The volunteers had a day here to organize a carnival for the children and also parents. For the kids, this carnival was truly a fun occasion where they could try many interesting and challenging games. It was also a chance for everyone to relax, temporarily forget their daily concerns to enjoy a festive and joyful atmosphere. As for the volunteers, preparing and organizing the carnival was an opportunity to connect even more with each other. Everyone spent the morning working as a team to prepare enough gifts for all the kids; then did the decoration of the booths together; and last but not least, controlled and instructed the children together. The joy of everyone during the carnival helped the volunteers to appreciate the teamwork that brought about the success of the carnival.
Culture Night was the night of performances from the locals, EVG and also the Singaporean volunteers. The participation of many people helped make a night with different emotions and feelings: excitement with the locals’ performances, the performances full of cultural uniqueness from all the Singaporean volunteers really caught the audience with awe, and the performances of EVG volunteers brought a strong Vietnamese flavor to the night. All the emotions and feelings were transfused to the campfire; the light of which reflected back on all the things and memories we had had in Phong Thanh, and also shone the way to a hopeful future with all the projects to come.
… and many more anonymous memories. The 15 days of STRONG HANDS project has been filled with impressions, memories and experiences that are truly memorable. All the Vietnamese volunteers have moved closer together through all the hard works and reflections; through all the disagreements and tough times. We worked as a team and grew up as a team. Though we have left Phong Thanh, all the love and sharing, all the friendship and compassion stay here, deeply in our hearts and souls.
3. Sharing from volunteers
From Tuyền- volunteer project 1507- Strong Hands
From the beginning when we prepared for this project to time it began, I was the main person who take-care of logistic, but due to my schedule in school as well as my carelessness, my “unknown” about how to arrange and plan reasonably, I became the most-worrying- girl who made people crazy about my responsibility. This is also the most difficulty I need to overcome, and I am always grateful to other volunteers, Mai Anh, Duyen who are willing to point out my mistakes and help me to fix and improve myself.
Before taking part in this project, I just thought that Strong Hands is a normal voluntary project with normal activities like others, but lasts long and mỏe professional working environment. But when I was “thrown” to, it seems like that I come to another new life with such energy, inspiration everyday. This project teaches me more than what other programme did for me.
I was such paintful seeing life which can’t – stand- living, seeing beautiful and smart eyes of kids, too young to have to quit from school joining labor without thinking about future. I also appreciated Reflection times when we could hear sharing from team members, hardness, bonding games, fears of “someone” and cried for the last reflection in Can Tho too. I wanna tell the kids many thing: “Just look at your parents, neighbors, fighting! We’re not here forever to teach you anything…” but I couldn’t, cause when basic things aren’t enough, they can’t think further. I learned from serving, many things that is so strong to shocked! I am mature and wanna do more for society.
We’ve made many efforts, with co- operation, thorough work contributed to project. Those are small but valuable. I know that our trip hasn’t finished yet, everyone is their personal plan; but after all, we all have our own lesson for ourselves. Thank you EVG for such a meaningful project like this!