Volunteering in Vietnam. Before going to Thailand to teach English I was thinking for a long time which country of South-East Asia to choose. Except for Thailand I considered Myanmar – and Vietnam. In result, I decided to go for a country which many call “the easiest start into Asia”.
Renia, half of the Polish travel blog Przekraczając Granice made a different decision. She spent 6 months volunteering in Vietnam and exploring its attractions. She organized the trip via EVS – European Voluntary Service, one of European Union programs for people below 30 years old. It was a great opportunity and the EU covered majority of her expenses, including accommodation, food, transportation, insurance, vaccines and even some pocket money.
But these weren’t the main reasons why Renia decided to volunteer in Vietnam. Read her story and find out what it was like 🙂
Volunteering in Vietnam as EVS volunteer
Volunteering in Vietnam – how to become an EVS volunteer?
When I was a student, I felt a great need to go abroad and do something good on the other side of the world. While looking for inspiration, I found an information about EVS and the program amazed me. I decided to use this option after my studies.
I contacted many organizations and I browsed tons of offers. Eventually, in the Career Center of my university I found an offer of volunteer work in Vietnam.
I applied and two days later I had an interview with the organization. Eventually, they chose me!
The organization warned me that it is a project for people who are not afraid of basic life conditions, different climate and staying away from Poland for half a year. It sounded perfect for me – doing something useful and getting to know Vietnamese culture. It was one of the best and the most illuminating decisions of my life.
Tasks of an EVS volunteer, Vietnam
My tasks included teaching English in Vietnam and supporting administration of the hosting organization. I was the most engaged in coordinating social projects, together with other international and Vietnamese volunteers.
It was a challenge but also enormous satisfaction. These were projects made in student clubs, high schools, hospitals and even an orphanage.
One of the projects I remember the best was organizing a festival for one of the biggest holidays in Vietnam – Mid Autumn Mood Festival. The project was special because we went to a remote village in the mountains. I slept on bare, cold floor with no sleeping bag, no water, no electricity. And you know what – I was the happiest person in the world when I saw the smiles of local kids for whom we organized the festival.
We organized beautiful, colorful shows and games and at the end we gave them gifts. We collected the gifts during previous fundraising projects. Kids from this mountainous area spoke a different language, even our Vietnamese friends couldn’t understand them. That’s when I learned that Vietnam has over 50 official minority groups.
Smiles and body language are an international language and we communicated with the little ones with no problems.
Volunteering in Vietnam – more than work
Being a volunteer in Vietnam means meeting PEOPLE. Both other international volunteers and local community.
I am extremely grateful that Vietnamese volunteers invited me to their houses, explained cultural differences and showed me the traditions of their incredible country. I didn’t feel like a tourist. I was one of them.
Thanks to this experience, I could see and understand more. Like why some Vietnamese people (not all) eat dogs. In our western culture it is considered brutal but we don’t see the reasons behind it.
When I visited the above mentioned village in the mountains I saw how little variety of food is available. Then I understood. Dog meat is simply their only source of animal protein. In these conditions they can’t grow many plants. Other kinds of meat, like buffalo are too expensive for many families. Dogs are cheap to maintain and adapt perfectly to all conditions.
This tradition comes from regions with difficult conditions and currently is still cultivated by some people. I met Vietnamese people who consider dogs as family members and also ones who like the taste of their meat. It is a matter of tradition and different perspective on the world. Not a “bad” one though – just different and it is worth getting to know it before criticizing.
EVS in Vietnam – is it worth it?
Being an EVS volunteer in Vietnam isn’t all rainbows and unicorns. I had basic living conditions and I had to get used to South-East Asia’s climate. While traveling, I knocked many doors asking for a free bed and I constantly had to face communication barriers.
Volunteering in Vietnam taught me it is not an issue.
It’s worth being open and flexible. If you want to do something good, the change you’re making will make up for all the discomforts. I developed some skills that aren’t taught at universities – interpersonal skills, taking initiative, working in an international team and dealing with cultural differences. Except for work, an EVS volunteer has time to travel.
I used it and backpacked around Vietnam’s attractions from north to south. I also visited Laos and Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
What was I like after my volunteering time? Full of energy, able to motivate myself, even years later. Wishing to explore even more – but with no prejudice or judgements.
Just go volunteering, do something good for others and look into yourself.
About the author: Renia from Przekraczając Granice.
Passionate traveler and backpacker, especially to places recommended by locals, not by travel guides. Loves swimming and is crazy about everything that tastes or smells like mango. Together with Mikołaj, she writes a travel blog in Polish, Przekraczając Granice. Being roamers, obviously, they met on the road. You can follow Renia and Mikołaj on Facebook and Instagram.
And if you liked Renia’s post, note that I also invited others to share their volunteering stories 🙂
- Isabelle shared her story about volunteering in Tanzania
- James shared his story of house sitting on a farm of alpacas in France
- Elise shared her story of volunteering in Guatemala with kids
- Murat shared his story of volunteering in Kenya with kids
- Arleta shared her story of volunteering in Israel in a foundation
Remember to check this practical guide on volunteering abroad. It would also be great if you used the buttons below and shared it on Facebook or Twitter! Thanks! 🙂