- Project overview
Name: SPREAD THE CHANGES
Time: 06/06/2016 – 20/06/2016
Location: Hoa An Commune, Cau Ke District, Tra Vinh Province
Participants: 26 students from Hall 13 of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore along with 5 Vietnamese volunteers and 1 EVG members (also the project manager).
+ Finished 5 Biogas systems
+ Taught English for local primary school’s kids.
+ Visited and gave presents to 8 local deprived households.
SPREAD THE CHANGES is a community project in Hoa An commune with the participation of 26 students from Hall 13 of Nanyang Technological University, Singapore along with 5 Vietnamese volunteers and the support of 1 ECO Vietnam Group’s members who is also the manager of Project 1612.
This project aims to finish the construction of 5 Biogas systems, attract as many Hoa An A primary school’s kids as possible to attend our English lessons, visit and give presents to 8 local deprived households, join in the Hand Over Ceremony held in Phong Thanh commune, visit a Khmer temple and also participate in the summing-up ceremony called Culture Night.
- Working Process
The First 2 days:
The morning of 06/06/2016, the Vietnamese volunteers along with Ms. Ngoc Phuong (manager of Project 1612) gathered at Tan Son Nhat International Airport to greet the Singaporean volunteers from Nanyang Technological University. Despite the unfamiliarity at first, everyone was quick and happy to mark the first moments of the project with group photos. Following the itinerary approved in advance, Singaporean volunteers were picked up to the hotel where each of them had some times to take a short rest then. At the end, the both team together spent initial interactive moments while going see Ben Thanh market.
The morning of 07/06/2016, the group departed for Hoa An commune. Arriving in Hoa An, everyone gave their hands in living orientation so proactively despite being tired from the long journey that we finished quickly. Thanks to the sincere assistance of the commune, the Welcome Ceremony was taken place in such a peaceful and warm harmony. Especially, we were very excited to get the attending of Mr. Van Anh- President of EVG and Ms. Vy- Operating Staff of EVG.
Right after that, we were divided into groups and had our first visitation to 4 local households. We were not only touched because of the difficulties they have to experience during their daily days but also felt great admiration for their courage to overcome through all the challenges without losing hopes or dreams of the better life in the future. We finished the first day with complicated emotions, which brought us closer to the commune living customs. On the top of that, we were inspired to work hard and contribute to the improvement there.
The work days in Hoa An:
Following the first few days of settling down and getting accustomed to the life and people of Hoa An 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. Biogas construction, perhaps, was the most challenging and difficult experience. In spite of Uncle Thanh’s generous help, we all had to cope with harsh environment conditions at the first household, which took us longer to complete our goals than expected. However, we could finally keep up the pace and maintain a stable process after the second household. The only difficulty we had to deal with was the Southern erratic weather.
Teaching was much better than our expectation, a lot of students attended classes though they were on their summer vacation. Singaporean and Vietnamese volunteers together made all lessons full of laughter and meaningful. In every night before the lessons, the both team gathered to have brief discussion on the ideals and together think out the solutions to make sure that what we were gonna teach would be transferred efficiently. We didn’t get how emotional and sensitive the kids are until the end of the project seeing they said goodbye to us with faces poured with tears.
Along with teaching and construction works, housework was also an essential part of our time in Hoa An. The living area needed to be kept clean and meals were to be prepared before everyone got home after work. Having received the warm instructions of the cook – the woman we were used to called “Co Hai”, we experienced preparing local special dishes. During that time, we together spent moments full of laughers. Also, we enhanced our knowledge and interest in the differences between two nation’s culture and living customs. All of these pieces of small things, little by little, brought us closer silently.
In addition to working hours, we also visited poor households, interacted with local officials and went to Khmer temple… Through practical activities, not only V-team but also S-team understood more about the Khmer lifestyle here, their difficulties and concerns as well as optimism about the lives and beautiful culture. There were tears in the afternoon at those old thatched houses where usually only the elderly and children stay in…
Hand-over Ceremony at Phong Thanh Province:
Hand-over ceremony of EVG’s projects, which was implemented by Eco Vietnam Group and students of NTU, took place in Phong Thanh commune, Cau Ke district, Tra Vinh province. The aims of the ceremony are to summed up achievements the two sides together obtained, consisting of completing Biogas systems and finishing a playground; also to consider the joint marked results and to look backward the passing time since EVG and NTU had been officially partners in 2009. The ceremony was even more meaningful because of the presence of lectures from NTU and Mr. Raymond Chow – The Singapore Deputy Director General of Foreign Affairs.
The volunteers were also served with Tra Vinh specialties. Then all together visited the community library and the playground constructed by a previous group of volunteers.
In Culture Night, we witnessed a lot of beautiful traditional performances with full of Vietnamese and Singaporean culture. The participation of local representatives, EVG volunteers, NTU students and local people has contributed to make an emotional night: excitement with local performances; enthusiasm with songs and dance from our Singaporean friends; gentleness and softness with the performances from Vietnam volunteers. We had to practice a lot to prepare for the performances but still worried that we would forget gesture. But when we came out in a long flowing Áo dài with enthusiastic encouragement from our beloved Singaporean friends, we eventually finished our performances, excellently. All the precious emotions transmitted into the flame when everyone gathered around the campfire. The flame reflected the days we had spent in Hoa An with happiness, sadness and lit up hope the next project.
Last day, we returned to the city to pay a visit to Cu Chi Tunnel and War Remnants Museum which marked an end of our memorable project.
III. Volunteers’ thoughts:
“Spread the changes” is the last project in the series of 6 projects with the main goal is to conduct Biogas systems for locals. This project, held by ECO Vietnam Group together with the help of Singaporean students from Nanyang Technological University, took place in Hoa An Commune, Cau Ke District, Tra Vinh Province. This project lasted for 14 days (from June 6 to June 20) in which we spent 12 days working and living together. On the very first day, we celebrated 25 students first landing in Vietnam; however, in the next 5 days, we welcomed one more Singaporean students to join us. From EVG’s side, there were 01 project manager and 05 volunteers living in HCM city that joined this project. After 02 weeks in commune, we completed 05 biogas systems for 05 households, taught English for 20 students as well as introduced Vietnam’s and Khmer’s traditional beauty for Singaporean friends through daily cooking, housekeeping, conducting biogas, visiting Khmer pagoda and sport exchanging with local youths….
During the 3-first days at Hoa An commune, most of us felt strange and unfamiliar with new working and living conditions. Consequently, we were in trouble with communication and understanding between each other. Biogas construction, perhaps, was the most challenging and difficult experience. In spite of Uncle Thanh’s generous help, we all had to cope with harsh environment conditions at the first household, which took us longer to complete our goals than expected. However, we could finally keep up the pace and maintain a stable process after the second household. The only difficulty we had to deal with was the Southern erratic weather. Teaching was much better than our expectation, a lot of students attended classes though they were on their summer vacation. Singaporean and Vietnamese volunteers together made all lessons full of laughter and meaningful.
After this project, we always wonder if we really could make a small change for locals. Instead of giving away, we are so lucky to receive more from this project. “Spread the changes” project officially ended but we believe that this is just a beginning of a new journey in our lives. Thank you for creating 1612 project and bringing us to Hoa An Commune. We are also thankful for hospitable local people who taught us how to serve others. Finally, thank you for giving us a chance to meet and become friends with many strangers. This project will always be a part of our college lives. Thank you!
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But not end of life! Keep moving forward! And you’ll see!