In the period from 09.16.2014 to 09.19.2014, the members of ECO Vietnam Group had a ‘Explore and Learning’ trip in Singapore. Throughout this trip, EVGers understand more about Singapore – EVG welcomes students from Singapore for various projects in Vietnam each year. This trip was not only a fun-filled trip. It acts as an opportunity for EVGers to discover our personal capacity, identify our knowledge gaps and reflect on personal skills that can be improved upon.
The ‘Explore and Learning’ trip was only for a few days, but the knowledge and lessons which EVGers gained were invaluable. Within these 4 days, EVGers visited the teachers, the students of Nanyang Girls’ School and Nanyang Technology University. EVGers learnt more about Singapore’s education, the learning spirit of Singapore student and the enthusiasm of the Singapore teachers. In additional, EVGers are also impressed with the country’s educational system. Education in Singapore is present everywhere, from schools to the subway. The public were educated with different reminder signboards that cultivate the ethical and cultural portion of Singapore. All of these were reflected in the lifestyle of Singaporean from the way of queuing; minimum rubbish on the streets, designated smoking area, as well as courtesy signboard to offer seat to the needy.
During the trip, EVGers also visited Little India, Chinatown, Merlion Park, Sentosa, Garden by the Bay, Orchard Road … From all these places, EVGers learnt more about the multi-ethnic cultures of Singapore, as well as overseeing the prosperous development of this Lion City.
After the trip, the members of EVG have an own reflections. EVG worked with many Singaporeans before coming to this trip, so we were eager to find out more about the place where we seemed to have plenty of imagination and knowledge of it, yet never once had we stepped into this island before. It was a pleasant surprise to witness the importance of education all over the country. It was also an admiration to be able to witness the successful development of a young country, Singapore. We were glad to be given this opportunity to learn and understand more about Singapore. Lastly, it is also a pride to know that Singapore had worked with EVG for many projects and EVG remains the top choice for Service-Learning, if they are coming to Vietnam. We are pleased to have many future opportunities to work with Singapore as EVG attempts to assert itself and bring the best to the society.
“I am a dreamer, but I’m not the only one”
The members of EVG realize the importance of globalization, and are keen to travel to different new places and see the world. The world is great and wonderful. This trip enhanced the knowledge and thinking of EVGers, helping EVGers to understand the role and mission of them in the organization, the society and the country. Each person has a role in the image of a country. Let’s mature each day, dream big, work hard for the country, for the world!
Building 50 rocket stove for ethnic people on mountainous area Gia Bac village, Di Linh district, Lam Dong province.
Teaching personal hygiene for children.
Giving gifts to 350 children of Gia Bac’s primary school.
‘Project Rocket Stove’ is one of the many EVG project with the partner, HSBC. In the past, we build many water tanks to save water for people who don’t have the money to build their own. This time, we come to Gia Bac village to help people to build Rocket stove.
Rocket Stove uses the concept of maximizing the heat from burning wood to for cooking purposes. It releases little exhausted air. The air it releases is CO, less poisonous than CO2, which normal stove release. Due to the lifestyle of the people in Gia Bac, their houses do not have window and the stoves are usually near to where they sleep. These normal stoves within the house are hazardous to health. Thus, the Rocket Stove will be a better alternative to people in Gia Bac.
On Sept 12, all EVG volunteers and partners departed from Ho Chi Minh City, arriving at Gia Bac village after 7 hours on bus. In spite of the tiredness from the long transport journey, we had our lunch and prepare for work immediately. We are highly motivated, to have the opportunity of serving the village, and make a difference to the villagers’ life.
“Never give up and keeping working hard” is the motto that the volunteers and our partners uphold throughout the work. In our life, we have been working long hours for the company, studying hard for the school, in the midst of all the hectic lifestyle, we tend to forget about a lot of basic life values. We forget about being passionate about our work, we become cold-hearted and do not give back to the community, and we no longer feel the youthful exuberance in us. Thankfully for this project, we discovered the spirit of giving back to the society and what it means to be aware of what is around us.
We worked as a team to build stove step by step, starting from constructing of frames to mixing of concrete, build stove, gathering of bricks… etc. We changed our job scope with another one so that everyone gets to experience the different job scope.
Besides building stove, one part of the project was to educate the children with personal hygiene. They were very excited to attend the lessons, and gain a lot of useful knowledge from the sessions. We used reward system, to encourage them to participate more during the lessons.
After teaching, we gave them 350 token of gifts. We hoped that these gifts will encourage them, to study hard and be optimistic about life. We gave them from the bottom of our heart, and we want them to know that they are not alone despite their hardships. There are many out there, who wants to share the love with them, they have to be confident that the world is full of opportunities. They got to keep the belief, and only then, they will have the strength to overcome all challenges.
At the end of the project, we all learned our useful life skills, forging new friendship, and gave a hand in helping to improve the society, and ensure sustainability in the life of Gia Bac Village.
“A Simple Wish Arup” is one of the company- partnered projects that ECO Vietnam Group has implemented in 2014. The project was completed as expected under the cooperation of the ARUP company- Singapore during the period from 28/5 / 2014- 06/01/2014.
in An Hiep commune, Ba Tri district, Ben Tre province. We have successfully completed the initial target set that is to cement 900m2 elementary school yard for the children.
Unlike other OSL projects, project S1 took place for a short period of time but it still had positive effects to the community. We gave knowledge to the children through the lively lectures; helped them to be more confident and engage proactive communication in learning. Besides teaching activities, the project had a festival-cultural exchange which people can exchange and, learn from each other, unleashing the talents of each individual through songs and dance, theater acting and storytelling. These activities pull people closer together, helping children and students to better understanding the culture and people of Vietnam.
EVG still hold a particular view about volunteering in any of our projects. ‘We are not simply going to give, to bestow. We volunteer to “serve and learn”, and to learn from the people we met.’ With that, we organized the visit, gifts and hold close conversation with people here. As for the participants themselves, they feel and write reflection on the experiences.
We can see the values that the project brings to the community. We do not just help the children with difficult lives, but educate them with soft skills training that are useful for the students. EVG provides a chance for youth to have direct access to the Service Learning model and foster many friendships with international youths.
ECO Vietnam Group hopes that in the future, we will cooperate with many more parties to work together , to build a beautiful country.
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.
Place: Phuong Thinh Commune, Cao Lanh District, Dong Thap Province.
Participants: 22 students of Nanyang Technological University – OVE (Overseas Volunteer Expedition); 5 Vietnamese volunteers and others members of ECO Vietnam Group.
Completing the Kindergarten with an open ceremony
Making “Non la” for auction selling
Warm Smiles is the fifth project in 2014, in cooperation with Nanyang Technological University (Singapore), 5 Vietnamese volunteers and the help of other EVG members. The project aims to improve the standard of living of the villagers, specifically the children in Phuong Thinh commune, Dong Thap province.
The main activities of the project would be the building of the kindergarten in Phuong Thinh, teaching English for a primary school in Phuong Thinh, visiting the poor in the community, organizing the Culture Night for the community.
Our jobs here for 10 days are mainly: 1) building the kindergarten; 2) housework; 3) teaching every afternoon in Phuong Thinh commune. Adding on to that, we had one afternoon to make auction items together with the Singapore students and children in Phuong Thinh.
Building of Kindergarten
With regards to the physical construction works, the previous project in Phuong Thinh had laid the foundation and built up the wall. Our job was to mainly finish the floor and paint the wall. For the first 5 days, the main work was to mix cement and scattered rock on the ground to build the floor. From 27/7 onwards, NTU SCE(another team which was also hosted by EVG) joined in. The speed of the construction work increased tremendously with the help of more people. We completed laying tiles on the floor and moved on to paint the wall. The entire building required a lot work, with each task requiring different skills. We needed strength and precision when we are mixing the cement. As for painting work, we needed craftsmanship. Thanks to the detailed instructions of the construction workers and the enthusiasm of all NTU students and Vietnamese volunteers, we were able to complete the kindergarten and handed it over to the people of Phuong Thinh on 2/8. From now on, parents in Phuong Thinh will have a better place to send their children to.
Results: Officially inaugurated the kindergarten with toilet and 2 water tank. Everybody felt happy and satisfied with the results. We learnt about 1) being patient in our work, 2) not being afraid of difficulties, 3) ever- ready to solve problems, 4) listen to others more and 5)solidarity between volunteers.
The NTU-OVE team taught English to children of Phuong Thinh 1 primary school. The syllabus was designed by Singapore students and Vietnamese volunteers help them with the translation for the children to better understand the English lessons. We had classes on all afternoon, except Saturday and Sunday. The children of Phuong Thinh were very fond of the lessons and attended classes eagerly. After two week, we realize the importance is not what the children had learnt but the close-knitted bonds that had been forged between the children (and people of Phuong Thinh in general as well) and all the volunteers. All the children and volunteers were very disappointed when it was time to part goodbye.
Results: What we achieved so far is knowledge and hope we can act as an inspiration to the children of Phuong Thinh and, with the hope that they will encourage them to fulfil their dream.
On 1/8, The Sing-team, V-team and children of Phuong Thinh decorated a ‘Non La’ together to sell in a fundraising auction which will take place later in Ho Chi Minh City.
Results: The ‘Non La’ was beautifully decorated with the help of all Singapore volunteers and children of Phuong Thinh.
This was done by a team of 4 to 5 Singaporean volunteers and 1 Vietnamese volunteer. We would change the team doing housework everyday so that they could try other work too. All we had to do was to: set up the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner, wash dishes, clean up the sleeping area and toilet twice a day. Moreover, we would help the cook to prepare the food, dessert, replacing of the garbage bags and collect the garbage around the house and library.
All the logistics needed were provided. The different job scopes were divided to the team clearly. As the S-team was not used to washing dishes or cleaning up areas, the cleaning up was not of the best results in the first day. After a few tries, we got used to the cleaning work, cooperated well with each other and the work was done more efficiently. All the areas required being clean for accommodation and activity met the intended expectations.
Results: Everybody cooperated very well, and the cleaning up was done with ease.
The culture night was from 6.30 pm to 8.00 pm, with the performance by the people of Phuong Thinh, students from NTU, Vietnamese volunteers and members of EVG. After the culture night, it was campfire, all of us were enjoying, and we had a great time together.
Results: The performances occurred in a warm and friendly atmosphere with a lot of laughs from everybody. Everybody enjoyed the show. It was a successful night.
Thoughts about the project
These words are on the behalf of all Vietnamese volunteers for this project:
After two weeks in Phuong Thinh, we had gained great experience. We learned how to work together as a team in order to complete the project. We learned how to find joy in our everyday tasks by keeping the morale high when the construction work was tiring. We learned how take care of ourselves and also to take care of each other in a place far away from home. We learned about the lives of people in a situation that are less fortunate than us and what we can do, more or less, to have a positively impact on their lives. We learned the value of serving the community, not only for those people we helped but for ourselves as well.
Above all, we learn about love and friendship with strangers that we had just met. That will be the most valuable thing that will etch in our hearts. The project has ended, but the memory forge lives on.
Participants: 33 students of NTU; 6 Vietnam volunteers and members of ECO Vietnam Group
– Teaching children at Phuong Thinh (teaching English, thinking skills – creativity) – Curriculum prepared by NTU Hall13, volunteer translators and administrative support classes
– Building 1 class room for Kindergarten
– House Works (Clean accommodation, toilet, preparing meals,)
– Visit the poor (5 households)
– Organize night cultural exchange – Culture Night
Sunflower Project is on the 4th project of 2014, carried out by Eco Vietnam Group, in collaboration with Nanyang Technological University (Singapore). The main objective of this project is to improve the lives of people, especially the children at Phuong Thinh, Dong Thap. The project is spearheaded by 33 students from NTU, 6 volunteers from Vietnam and the support of members of EVG.
Sunflower Project is the first project in the series of 3 construction projects in the village pre-school room roof lamp, Phuong Thinh commune, Dong Thap province.
1 preschool classroom, 1 reservoir, and 1 toilet. The total value of all these projects is around 270 million.
All of these were built by the students of Vietnam and Singapore, with the guidance and support of the local construction team.
The first day of the construction was the most difficult, as the methods of evacuation is extremely rigorous. Many students described the process as a ‘never-ending chore’. Singaporean students and Vietnam volunteers were overwhelmed by the work on the first day. However, everyone was very happy, patient and enthusiastic to get the work done.
The first day construction of the Kindergarten was the most difficult day. Firstly, we have to do excavation work, which many of the students described as a ‘never-ending chore’. Singaporean students and Vietnam volunteers were shocked with the amount of construction work that had to be done on the first day. However, everyone was very happy, patient and enthusiastic to get the work done.
Teachings always bring joy and excitement to all Singaporean and Vietnam volunteers because of the enthusiasm and the friendliness of the children here. In the project, the children learnt to sing in English and fold origami.
Constructing of the classroom became easier after the tough excavation stage. We were very lucky to have the enthusiastic support of local construction worker to work together with us.
The next day, we continue with the mission of construction such as mixing tank, loading bricks. One of the Singaporean participants shared that she was most interested to learn the setting up of telegraph poles.
Night Cultural exchange was filled with a series of sophisticated repertoire of local, NTU and Vietnamese volunteers’ performance. It was certainly a memorable night, as we forged unforgettable experiences together with the people in The Thinh commune.
After the project, the group went on to Cu Chi tunnels tour. Throughout the tour, the group explored and learnt about the illustrious history of Vietnam.
At the end of the journey, we went separate ways, and what remained were the memories shared together with the volunteers, friendship and experiences etched into our heart forever.
Place: Phuong Thinh Commune, Cao Lanh District, Dong Thap Province.
Participants: 37 students of SMU (Singapore Management University); 5 Vietnamese volunteers and others members of ECO Vietnam Group.
Completing a EVG love house
Finance Teaching for local youth
Constructing 1km road
Meetings – Tonight, we are young.
Although we are prepared to not sleep before midnight during our project, the actual feeling of having minimum sleep was really a test to us mentally and physically. It was 5.5hours of sleep on the first night. 4.5 hours of sleep on the second night and 3.5 hours of sleep on the third night. Sometimes, we could not even recognize our faces in the mirror, what was all these hard work for? It was the legendary Reflection Night, with the Sing-team and Viet-team, ending off with the leader meeting.
Tears – What is pressure?
I was crushed under pressure for the very first time in my life. Mr Harry was not there, he was my helping hand, my support for every mistake I made in the previous projects, but he was not there. This was my first time being a project manager, and I can feel the huge responsibility on my shoulders. I had to deal with Sing-team when they called off the Finance-class for the local youth, I had to deal with both team to break the ice and overcome the invisible wall, I had to fix thing right. I asked myself, ‘Why did I have to do all of this? Why should I take all of this pressure for nothing?’ I answered that question myself, ‘It is because I am young, because this is my community, I wanted to grow, to learn, and to give as much as I can, since life is short.’ Nevertheless, I realized I was only 21, and suddenly I felt powerless. I cried, cried for every little hardship I have to deal with daily. However, many told me to persevere on: “No pain, no gain.”
V team Members – Warm from inside
I am lucky to be in this project, I have an amazing team. We supported each other, we care for each other. No matter how stressful it was during reflection time, they still paid attention to their teammate, they helped whenever and wherever it was possible. We were a strong team. I felt so warm inside despite the rainy season then.
Sing team leaders
I was impressed by their leader, 4 different individuals, 4 different characters, but they had something in common which truly inspired me: detail planning, fantastic leadership and being meticulous to every team member. It was the dry season in Phuong Thinh, and water supply was cut off from us every night. There was once, the 6 of us stayed up late till 3am just to discuss the solution for bathing.
5. Last project night
I always enjoy Culture Night at the end of every project. We danced around the camp fire along with stream of music. I felt young, I felt alive. THIS IS LIFE. It is now or never, I am not going to live forever, I just want to live when I am alive.
I want to join project like this, time to time, just to feel young forever.