Presents!

You know your friendship with your students is for life when they bring you PSY drawings!

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Friday morning English class @ Phú Nhuận

I taught my first English class this morning! After just over a week in Vietnam, I’m finally getting some work done and it feels really good! I now have a regular Friday morning class for an hour with some super cute kids.

The class is made up of about 15 students, between 7 and 13 and they don’t speak any English. Some of the older kids know some basics but it’s mostly just complete beginners.

The kids at this school either can’t afford to go to regular school, or have some learning difficulties which make it hard for them to keep with their classmates. The teachers there receive a small salary, but it is very small and they are basically volunteers too. The government covers the cost of water and electricity but everything else comes from donations.

I taught them some basics, the days of the week, kinds of weather, what’s your name and we sang a few songs. It was all very simple and they picked it up really fast. I had heard from a few people that Vietnamese students are really nice to teach, and they weren’t wrong. They were a little shy of course, but unlike my students of their age in Taiwan, they still made an effort to raise their hand and answer with a loud, clear voice.They are really eager to learn and very interested. They asked me a lot of questions! I think I’m going to love teaching them.  I have no teaching assistant so I had to make sure I asked all the necessary questions today! Their supplies are pretty limited. They have a black board and chalk, some pencils and notebooks and some crayons to share. I will definitely bring some speakers and my phone for music next week!

I’d also like to help them kit up their classroom a little with some posters and teaching aids in the coming weeks. Really looking forward to the next few months 😀

My First Week in Saigon

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It has certainly been an interesting week! Saigon is a sensory overload! The sights and smells, the noises, the sheer volume of people, cars and scooters. It was a little crazy at first, but I now that I know my way around at least one area it is a lot less scary. I’ve always been a big fan of Vietnamese food, my favourite restaurant in Taipei is Pho Hoa so I was very excited to try the local cuisine. And I have not been disappointed, I even tried snails! They were delicious, and go very well with beer! I have had some really good Vietnamese sandwiches, or Ban Mi, vegetarian Pho and some great spring rolls.

So, back to volunteering. My original plan was to ride around the city and try to find places. This, in hindsight, was a terrible idea. The city is HUGE, the traffic is treacherous, its rainy season and I had only one address that I actually knew! So, I did what I do best and went on a Facebook/Wordpress binge. I joined Saigon groups, liked pages, sent messages, collected phone numbers and followed blogs. On Thursday night, I went for some beers with a friend of a friend (who lives here) who gave me some more websites to look at and let me know about a fundraising event with happens every month. Now, I’m making some headway. I also found an event to volunteer at next week where I am hoping to meet a lot more volunteers and find out about placement opportunities.

Yesterday was a tough day. I absolutely went for it on my night out and I paid dearly, with a raging hangover and an empty wallet. I had no idea Saigon had so many clubs, and I attempted to go to all of them :0. More about that in another post ! 🙂

But, I pulled myself together late afternoon and went to meet a girl I’d been put in touch with who used to do lots of volunteering here in Saigon. And, as luck would have it, while I was on my way home, I got an e-mail from another group. So I am feeling good, things are beginning to fall into place.

Today, I went to meet the people at Little Rose House, and they have asked me to teach come of the staff English and also to help them with fundraising. I am very excited to help out and have already started researching the ways I can help them generate more funds. You can help me a little, by looking at the “Blogs I Follow” and clicking on The Little Rose Shelter. Please follow their blog, as well as mine!

I have a possible English class with another group, on Friday morning with a group of first graders and on Sunday I am going to a fundraiser where I hope to meet some like minded people and really get some hard work done!!

Fresh spring rolls with shrimp. I LOVE coriander and there is plenty with every meal in Vietnam, yum!

Fresh spring rolls with shrimp. I LOVE coriander and there is plenty with every meal in Vietnam, yum!

Fast becoming one of my favourite things to eat here. Served with chili oil and lemongrass.

Fast becoming one of my favourite things to eat here. Served with chili oil and lemongrass.

 

New Challenges

After an unsuccessful application to study at NCCU in Taipei, and with my job contract finishing in August, I was left feeling a bit lost. I had prepared myself for life as a student in Taiwan and naively (or just stupidly!) forgot to think about a Plan B. So, I had a choice, find another job exactly the same as the one I was about to leave and continue teaching for another year, or come up with something a little more challenging and exciting. As much as I enjoy teaching, it was beginning to become a little mundane and I felt I was losing my enthusiasm. I had been thinking about volunteering for the summer between semesters at university, so it was the obvious choice to just go and do that now. I figured since I couldn’t study right now (I had applied for a Master in International Development), some on the job training was the next best thing-if not better! I had money saved for university fees, no job and was ready to travel again, so I booked a flight and started packing! I decided to leave this trip relatively unplanned and just to go with the flow, which has proved to be the perfect plan so far.

Why Vietnam? (apart from the fact that I have never been here but have only heard amazing things!)

(from http://www.globalvolunteernetwork.org/vietnam/)

Development in Vietnam

Vietnam launched an economic reform programme in 1986. The core of Vietnam’s economic strategy has been rapid integration into the world economy.  Despite an initial improvement, with integration into the global market Vietnam struggles with strengthening its resilience to global fluctuations.

The Vietnamese economy suffers from inflation, which increases the price of goods and services putting further pressure on families.

Fifty per cent of the population still lives on less than US$2 a day. On top of this, large portions of the population remain vulnerable to sliding back into poverty as a result of either economic shocks or natural disasters such as typhoons and flooding.

Education of Vietnamese youth is an extremely important foundation for lifting their generation and their family out of poverty.

Volunteer Impact

The mission of our partner in Vietnam is to reduce poverty and provide better quality of life for disadvantaged children in Vietnam. This builds cross-cultural education and understanding between Vietnamese people and people around the world.

Volunteers provide assistance to disadvantaged socio-economic groups within Vietnamese communities, focusing primarily on displaced, destitute, disabled and orphaned children.

As a volunteer in Vietnam you can provide love, affection, education and support to orphaned children.  You will help to improve their living facilities allowing them to be self-sufficient and providing a safe and secure environment in which they flourish. 

I was due to arrive in Saigon on September 1st, but I was having such a great time in Chiang Mai, Thailand visiting a friend that I decided to stay a couple of days longer. I was also burning through money quite quickly I took the long way here, Bangkok->Siem Reap->Saigon. After an awesome week of massages, beers, buses, various flights, sightseeing and delicious food, I have finally arrived. Now what? To be honest, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the size of the city!

I decided to dedicate 3 months of my life to volunteer in Vietnam (although, I am three days late now :P…). When I was still in Taiwan, I sent e-mails to four different agencies, and to my surprise, heard nothing back. I even e-mailed one of them four times! So, I’m off out to the city to talk to as many people as I can and find an organization who needs my help. Wish me luck!!