From a very shy girl having a fear of crowds, Dan Y Lien Hoa, a Khmer resident in southern Vietnam, made a dramatic change after five years to win over the Admissions Council at Fulbright University Vietnam (FUV).
The girl overcame many obstacles and prejudices to get accepted as a freshman at FUV.
Overcoming prejudices against girl’s education
Growing up in Phong Thanh Commune, Cau Ke District, in the Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh, Hoa was often told that women did not have to receive higher education as sooner or later they would get married and become housewives.
Local people in her hometown also generally assumed that only men have to go to work as they are the breadwinner of their families, Hoa recalled.
Five years ago, Hoa was extremely timid and suffered from a fear of crowds.
Back when she first visited the EVG community library in her hometown and met a group of Singaporean volunteers there for an English teaching project, Hoa burst into tears due to her fear of the crowd.
At the time, she had no idea why she had to learn English, thus she disliked all the English classes.
Van Anh, a local teacher who founded the EVG community library, encouraged Hoa to try working as a volunteer like her Vietnamese peers who accompanied the Singaporean delegation, apart from being an English learner.
When the project was nearing its end, Hoa finally managed to overcome her fear of crowds as she got a chance to speak in front of her international friends, sharing with them her Khmer culture.
Her English also made progress thanks to her time working with foreign friends.
Lessons learned from failure in FUV’s Priority Cycle
Despite her tremendous efforts, Hoa could not make it to the Priority Cycle of FUV because her English fell short of the university’s requirements.
The unexpected result let her down.
During those gloomy days, her teachers and others working at the library were the ones that lifted her mood and told her to make a second attempt in the Spring Cycle.
Knowing that she was bad at listening skills, Hoa practiced listening to podcasts all day long to improve herself.
One time, when reading some reports about education, she was sad to learn that the Mekong Delta ranked third nationwide in terms of its dropout and early marriage rates.
Hoa joined the Interview Round, which takes place before the Spring Cycle, as a person full of aspirations.
Hoa said that she would like to serve the community, open more classes for children when she is at university, gradually narrow the education gap between the urban and rural areas, and promote the Khmer culture, which is believed to be steadily sinking into oblivion.
She won over the FUV Admissions Council through her stories and such aspirations.
Desire to contribute to her hometown
Hoa chose to wear the Khmer traditional clothes on the day she participated in the Interview Round.
The girl told stories about the Khmer people to the Admissions Council in a confident manner.
As shared by Huynh Quang Hieu, an admissions staff member at FUV who interviewed Hoa, the girl aspired to step out of her comfort zone and break down stereotypes and prejudices in her residence.
This does not mean that she wanted to go beyond the limit to isolate herself from the community.
This girl wished to achieve success to serve the community and return home to contribute and give back to the community and those who have guided her.
According to Le Thi Quynh Tram, director of Admissions and Financial Aid at FUV, Hoa is like a perfect puzzle piece in a multi-hue picture at FUV as she has shown herself as a potential Fulbrighter with her solid knowledge background, teamwork, and a high capablity to adapt to an all-English environment.
Pham Van Anh, founder of the EVG community library, shared that Hoa is a diligent person.
She has a can-do spirit as well as great responsibility for her family and community.
“I believe she will advance further and bring more values to society,” Anh said.
VNU-HCM High school for the Gifted has a volunteering project, named “Sẻ” (The meaning of Sẻ is sharing). Annually, they will organize the charity trip to the needy places for supporting and learning at the same time. This year, Sẻ and EVG have worked together for the trip to EVG Community Library No 1 at the Tra Vinh province.
some information of the project are below:
Time: 14/05 – 15/05/2022
Partnering organization: VNU- HCM High School for the Gifted.
Beneficiary: 80 kids
Organized English and STEM classes. The teaching topics are quite diverse: Families and Subjects, Balancing lesson ( through learning how to make the balanced dragonfly – one of the most famous toy/souvenir in Vietnam).
Organized the reading activities as well as helped arranging books in the library.
Organized the puppet activities for the kids at the library.
Football friendly match and culture night exchange.
Besides, teachers of VNU has successfully raised more than 40 millions Vietnam Dong to support EVG Community Fund. Most of the supports are from the colleagues and the parents of the members of Sẻ.
The trip not only left some impact on the children at the library, but also the students of VNU- HCM High School for the Gifted , through the refection on teamwork, accessibility in education, human kind and empathy.
This year, 2022, ECO Vietnam Group and Hong Kong PolyU has collaborated to offer the Service-Learning Course for lecturers and teachers in Vietnam. This SL training course will be offered in Vietnamese and English at the same time.
ECO Vietnam Group has worked closely with HK PolyU to bring this course to Vietnam with the aim to raise awareness of Service-Learning educational model as well as create the Community of Practice among the educators in Vietnam.
Service-Learning in Higher Education: Teacher Development Course 2022.
This year, we will have a Vietnamese version of Teacher Development Course which is special designed for academics and practitioners in Vietnam. ECO Vietnam Group is the co-organiser of this Vietnamese version. The course fee will be only US$99 if you apply the course through ECO Vietnam Group.
The Service-Learning in Higher Education: Teacher Development Course 2022 will be held from 20 June to 9 July 2022 for all academic and teaching staff from higher education institutions. About the course We started the Teacher Development Course in 2014, aiming to provide systematic and on-site SL training. Since then, about 100 teachers from Hong Kong, Mainland China and other Asian regions have graduated from the course. We have received numerous positive feedback from participants and the course is refined every year to better fit the expectations and needs of teachers.
This year, the course will consist of three phrases:
On March 2022, ECO Vietnam Group and Van Lang University (VLU) have signed the MOU for developing Service-Learning courses and programs for Honor program in specifically and for entire students at VLU.
ECO Vietnam Group – One of the pioneers in Service-Learning will support VLU to integrate SL into:
(1) Developing and teaching Service-Learning course for year 2 students at Honor program.
(2) Providing the training for faculty staff and creating the Community of Practice of Service-Learning
(3) Developing International Service-Learning among three parties: ECO Vietnam Group – VLU and overseas partner.
The MOU is signed for three years with full of excitement from both parties.
Service-Learning, is still a new concept for Vietnamese, even though it is a well-developed method of learning in several developed countries’ university syllabus. On the middle of September 2014, Hong Kong Polytechnic University hosted a conference; attracting a hundred of professionals, as well as doctors of universities all over the world to talk about Service-Learning in each of their university.
This event is organized periodically for every 2 years. This year is ‘The Second Summit on University Social Responsibility cum Inaugural International Conference on Service – Learning’. Experts talked to each other about advantages, disadvantages and point out notes of Service-Learning. The way in which that Service-Learning is being applied in different educational system is also shared to all.
The conference discussed a lot about the sharing of social responsibility of schools for the community. The objectives of the university are to train students to excel in their main subject and to be responsible to community. Besides educating the students, the university should organize more volunteering activities for both students and teachers to form the general awareness for main issues of problems in the society. This will act as a form of sustainable development for the entire society.
All conferences aim to develop Service-Learning on a bigger scale and to be more effective through sharing and researches of universities, NGO. We will learn more from other people’s experiences. Overseas Service-Learning continue to be promoted in every needy places around the world, no matter how far it is, how lacking it is in living condition, and differences in languages and color.
ECO Vietnam Group is honor to be one of two NGO/NPO invited for conference this time. EVG is on the right track as we bring the true values for students and communities, and we will remain the head of Service-Learning in Vietnam. Some universities from Hong Kong, Taiwan, US had already contacted us to work together in some of the projects in the near future.
Other than the conference, we spend some time observing the students’ street protest in Hongkong for democratic rights. We see youth taking ownership for their own rights, and the spirit of the students is something for us to learn from.
Service Learning Reflection for Hoa Sen University Students
On 12th November, 2014, Mr. Pham Van Anh, Harry did a Reflection session for Hoa Sen University Students as one of the many approaches that ECO Vietnam Group is undergoing to spread Service Learning to Vietnamese youth.
Mr Phạm Văn Anh said: “Group of students from Hoa Sen University participated in Service Learning projects: They were sent to teach English for a few orphanages in Ho Chi Minh City. After 4 months of serving people here, I conducted a reflection session for them to share, as well as to link to their current life and people around them.
It was a successful session. For me, I hope they will remember what they shared and what they promised to be a good son/daughter, good student to teachers as well as being a good citizen.
That will be the only reason why I love what I am doing.”
1.1. Information about the Orphanage
Hoa Mau Don Orphanage
– Address: 25 Doan Gioi Street, Tan Phu District, HCM city.
– This orphanage was formed in 1998 by Ms. Pham Thien Don, who aims to receive, nurture, and protect children with special circumstances. These children face deficiencies in terms of having the lack of proper housing support, as well as access to various educational resources, compared with other children. As a private non- governmental organization, Hoa Mau Don Community’s operation is based on charitable contribution, and relies on support from the domestic and foreign community organizations and individuals.
Nguyễn Ngọc Trúc Lam said:
“As I reported, my main task during this course was to teach English for my student – Vang A Giang. Every week, I will come to Hoa Mau Don on Thursday, from 1400 to 1600 to teach him. At the beginning of the classes, I will review the previous lessons that I had taught him. After that, I will begin on the new lesson in his textbook. I will do my best to explain the exercises or grammar that he did not understand, until he got it. On some days, I will help him with his homework. While on other days, I taught him some common grammar structures and daily expressions. I made use of many different teaching methodologies during the lessons:
– Asking and answering
– Explaining new vocabulary
– Correcting pronunciation”
The effectiveness of my methods varies in different lessons. There were some sessions that he learned really well, but he looked tired and did not pay attention to my lessons sometimes. There could be many internal and external factors leading to this situation. The internal factors might be the lesson plan that I prepared for each lesson, the health conditions and feelings of my student. The external factors were related to the noise of the community, the interactions between other children and staffs in there, the weather, the difficulty of the lessons, etc.
Other than the classes, we also organized some extra activities for the students. All of our extra activities gave us many opportunities to forge a closer relationship with each other. Through such activities, we brought simple joy to the children as well as, useful soft skills.
During this internship, my intended targets are: giving a helping hand to unfortunate children, have a chance to practice my teaching ability and to be more confident and mature.
This is a great place for me to hone my teaching skills. As many of these children do not have the opportunity to learn the language due to their background, I must seek for suitable and effective method to educate them. It was by no means an easy task. Through teaching these children, my teaching skills improve.
Hoa Sen University in Ho Chi Minh City has a center that trains student about the concept of Service-Learning, named The Service-Learning Center. This is a great step ahead in Vietnam’s education system. Service-Learning concept is still relatively new in Vietnam, despite being used in many countries like the United States, Hongkong and Singapore, etc for some time. It is our honor to have EVG’s founder; Mr Harry to be invited to be the director of the Service-Learning Center. He made use of his experiences studying in Singapore, in conjunction with the knowledge from international forums such as Indonesia, Hong Kong, to inspire the next generation, who are studying in the university. The Vietnamese students from Hoa Sen University benefit a lot from such a program. Hopefully, with Service-Learning, they are able to work hand in hand, striving to further develop the country together.
Students in Hoa Sen University are very enthusiastic during the Service Learning lessons. Mr Harry used interactive method during the sessions for them to understand the concept of Service-Learning on their own. In one of the activity, they were divided into groups. Through a situational game, Mr Harry ensured the students reflect over the activity and the students would be the one who would figure out the learning points from the activities on their own. After the entire session, Mr Harry would guide them to conceptualize the theoretical portion behind Service-Learning, and through this approach, the students would truly understand the entire meaning and values behind Service-Learning.
After that, many groups constructed plans on their very own Service Learning Project. They raised funds and used them to support orphanage, children with disabilities…doing projects at mountainous area in Ta Nung village in Lam Dong province. After each projects, they would share to each other about what they learnt and what they felt. They would also share their experiences with other friends, along with different life values. Lastly, they would try to link the lessons with their life and the people around them.
Students are required to talk, ask questions and also to reflect about what they have done. These are the methods they used to understand more about the communities.
Mr. Harry encouraged students to improve on the knowledge about their major, knowing the things needed for life, works, and learn about Service Learning abroad for their own personal growth. By doing all these, the students would learn more values for themselves and benefit more for those who need.
Since the establishment of The Service Learning Center, it has attracted so many curious students and teachers. Teachers usually ask about the situation of the project or group, and engage them to think about various issues. It is pleasant to know that Service-Learning is already well-accepted by teachers within the university. On the official information page of the center, students now are more than willing to receive new projects and invite more friends to be aware of Service Learning.
We all hope that someday, Service Learning will take on an important role for students and universities in Vietnam. Hopefully by then, villages, communes, from mountainous area to seaside area, anywhere that needs help, will receive help from the society through such a program.
Service-Learning (SL) is a method under which students or participants apply and develop what they have learnt in school through active participation in thoughtfully organized service that is conducted to meet certain needs of a community. In other words, in Service Learning, participants not only learn the practical applications of their studies, they also actively contribute to their community.
Why is Service Learning?
To use your knowledge effectively and not wasting it
To emerge yourself in new challenges, new environments
To learn and serve at the same time for yourself and your community
Where is it in Vietnam?
The motto of education in Vietnam emphasizes “Study must be accompanied by practice” as a guideline for all education activities .However, as the matter of fact; Vietnamese universities’ programs are still limited in the application of theory into practice. Consequently, graduate students often do not meet the actual needs of the society; their lack of practical skills becomes their barriers to further success. On the other hand, there is very few social or educational researches mention about education on community responsibility for Vietnamese students. Meanwhile, in many schools and universities’ programs around the world, both education on civic consciousness- community services and the application of theory in real life are compulsory to students. In fact, they combine these two concepts to one method called: Service Learning.
Since the 1960s, SL has been applied in many universities around the world, in the United States has more than 1,000 universities and colleges that apply this method to more than 6 million students .For years, SL has proven itself as a sufficient strategy for sustainable development in a country.
Service Learning nowadays is a common study method in America, Europe and Australia; it is spreading in Asian starts with Singapore since more than 10 years ago and recently in Vietnam since 2009.
Service Learning 101
Service Learning is usually mistaken with soft skills courses or volunteer works where they either focus only Service or Learning. It is a misconception that can only be clarified once you actually involve in a real Service Learning Program.
Research shows that students learn by doing. Unlike those soft skill and life skill courses, Service Learning projects/courses are designed strongly close to real life. Some of the skills that can be developed through Service Learning are management skills, communication skills, team-works skills, etc. While some of these skills can be taught in a classroom or a course through class activities and team projects, they will not have as much of a long term effect, because through Service Learning there is a more personal and hands-on experiences.
Reflection is the most important process in Service Learning, where participant are becoming aware of what they are studying, they explore and link their experiences to their academic knowledge for self-criticism and learn from it. This is the Big L in Service Learning: acquiring and constructing knowledge.
Moreover, Service Learning projects are usually organized in needy places so the participants must solve the unexpected, inconvenient condition. Through Service Learning projects, they instill their civil responsibility and serve their community’s needs. This is the Big S in Service Learning: Serve disadvantaged community.
The outcome of a good Service Learning program is Big S together with Big L for both the students and the community that they come to serve.
“A good service-learning program helps participants see their [service] questions in the larger context of issues of social justice and social policy — rather than in the context of charity”
(Jane Kendall, 1990)
“Serve to learn. Serve to give back. But most importantly, serve to be an instrument of your gifts and talents, and to help where help is needed.”
EVG and Service Learning
Since establishment in 2009, EVG has embraced the values of service learning in all of our projects, EVG is the first non-governmental organization (NGO) that introduced this method in Ho Chi Minh City. We believe that every community service has to be accompanied by learning about the community’s needs and implementing our talents to further enhancement of future services. Many young people in Ho Chi Minh served the community for wrong motivations, such as a good resume or simply looking for interesting activities. EVG aims to change their mind-sets by imparting an understanding of the benefits of Service Learning Projects for their personal development and the community as well. With the never-ending supports from counterparts in Singapore, EVG has managed to slowly, but surely; bring the concept of Service Learning to other NGOs, clubs, and some universities in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
EVG’s Service Learning Conferences
1. Youth For Causes (YFC)
EVG organized the very first conference about Service Learning on June 2011. The theme for this conference is “What are community service and youths’ roles responsibilities in it?”. Based on this theme, EVG invited many representatives from various clubs and NGOs in Ho Chi Minh City to share their Service Learning: A method under which students or participants learn and develop through active participation in thoughtfully organized service that is conducted in and meets the needs of a community. Sustained by nature, sustained by talent stories in serving the community and how they have learnt from those experiences. Also, EVG invited some students and teachers from Singapore to share about how Service Learning Project is strongly enforced in Singapore education system and how it has benefited the participants tremendously. The first Youth For Causes opened up door of opportunities for these young leaders to build connections and better understand the values of service they are doing.
2. Youth For Causes II
The success of the first YFC has encouraged EVG to make YFC an annual event for young people in Ho Chi Minh. On June 2012, EVG arranged YFC II with the theme “Building Leadership Through Community Service”. Similar to the first YFC, EVG again invited many NGOs and clubs from Vietnam and Singapore to share about deeper issues, such as, their motivation in doing community service and how it has changed their lives. Through these sharing sessions, the youth are able to understand that community service encompasses two main components of Service and Learning about ourselves and things around us. Service Leaning
Projects move beyond simple act of service, they empower future generations to be leaders in doing community works through the learning process as well
3. Service Learning in Vietnam
After introducing the concept of Service Learning (SL), EVG desires to deepen the understanding of young Vietnamese on how to apply this concept into various community projects. In August 2012, around 70 Vietnamese students attended our “Service Learning in Vietnam” workshop , from which, they were introduced to Service Learning case studies from schools in Singapore and America and run a mini Service Learning project themselves. This workshop was very beneficial for the participants as they learnt about the benefits of SL Projects in developing their talents to serve the community more effectively. It also allows EVG to build stronger connection with Hoa Sen University and start discussions about bringing SL into academic curriculum.
4. Servant Leader Training Course
In December 2012, EVG closed this significant year by inviting a professional trainer and inspiring teacher from Saint Andrew’s Junior College, Singapore, Mr. Louis Ho, to held a three days training course for Hoa Sen University’s lecturers and 40 young Vietnamese leaders. This interactive and meaningful training is modelled from Youth Expedition Project (YEP) in Singapore. Participants in this course were prepared to be agents that will advocate the concept of Service Learning in Vietnam. From Mr. Louis Ho’s wisdom and passion, these youth were set on fire to arrange and lead SL Projects with deep understanding of the benefits to the society.
5. On-going Projects
EVG is working closely with Hoa Sen University’s Faculty of Languages and Cultural Studies to infuse SL into the academic curriculum. Lecturers in Hoa Sen University are extremely interested in the concept of SL and understand the importance of emphasizing SL Projects in developing a holistic education for their students. EVG also desires that more universities and schools in Vietnam can understand the importance of SL and work together with EVG to introduce SL into academic curriculum to nurture holistic future generations.