Harmony Home Taiwan: 2014 Secret Santa Toy Drive

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I first heard about Harmony Home a few years ago on a Taiwan expat forum, Forumosa. I had been looking for somewhere to volunteer and it sounded perfect. Harmony Home has become very dear to my heart and I have such respect and admiration for the staff that work tirelessly to run the centre and to care for the kids.

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It all began in 1986…

 when Nicole Yang welcomed her friend, the renowned Taiwanese theater artist, Tian Chi-yuan to her home with her two children.  He had nowhere else to go because he was HIV positive. It was the time when there was no proper medical treatment available and there was insufficient understanding of the disease. The rapid increase of AIDS patients has caused negative responses in the society. This further induced withdrawal of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA) out of fear of being discriminated. Being aware of this sad situation, Nicole opened up her home to PLHA to provide them with a secure place to live in. Out of compassion, she established Harmony Home with the hope of fully reintegrating them to the society.
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As is usually the case, it took a couple of e-mails to get a reply but when I did, it was friendly and enthusiastic and I couldn’t wait to get involved. My first visit was a little chaotic, there were kids running around everywhere, my Chinese was almost non-existent and everyone looked far too busy to be bothered with me. It took a few visits to get used to the way things are done but every time I came the kids would jump up and come to hug me. I taught English there with two friends, one person with all those kids was just not enough!! They have a classroom upstairs with lots of arts and crafts supplies. After a few months, I decided to organize some outings for the kids. It would be a nice break for the nannies and great for the kids to get out and let off some steam! They are often cooped up inside and end up fighting over toys and the TV. Our first outing was a hike in Xin Yi and the kids absolutely loved it! A group of friends came, with their dogs and toddlers in tow and everyone had a great afternoon.

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After that, we started going to the park regularly. The kids had the freedom to run around and play with adult supervision. Some of the kids were curious about the volunteers, others were too shy but either way, they were out and about and getting fresh air and exercise. One particular Saturday, we had a lot of dogs with us and the kids loved them! They were fascinated and took turns walking them and feeding them snacks. For some of the kids, it was their first experience with a pet because they have grown up in the centre. It was so lovely to see!

My favourite outing, however, had to be the trip we took to the public swimming pool. It was in the middle of a melting summer and the park was just a bit too hot. The kids were exhausted and hiding under the slide for shade so we took them to the outdoor pool instead. The LOVED it! For a lot of the little kids, it was their first time swimming and they had so much fun.

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I have continued to be involved with Harmony Home as a fundraiser and coordinator even though I can’t go and see the kids any more and will keep doing so for as long as I can. Recently, Harmony Home have been on the receiving end of a horrible campaign to remove them from their centre on Xin Yi due to neighbours complaining and it is really heartbreaking to hear about it all. They really need support this year and thanks to my amazing friends and the Harmony Home volunteer network I think 2014 is going to end of a very positive note.

Throughout my time volunteering with Harmony Home we have had so many fun events, two VERY successful drag shows at Dalida, my Black and White birthday, two Halloween parties, Pride parade and two Christmas parties. On top of that, we have had more clothes, books and appliances than I can count as well as tons of new volunteers and patrons. The generosity of the community in Taipei never fails to amaze me!

Our current event is the annual Secret Santa event which is in its third, and what looks to be biggest, year! Here’s the basic idea:

Dear volunteers and supporters,

I am sure you are all familiar with “secret santa” concept. You pick a number out of a hat and buy an anonymous gift for that person.
I’d like to do something similar this year for the kids at Harmony Home.
It will be all the kids name in the hat and you guys will be buying a gift for one of them.
I have a list of each of their names, ages and genders.
All you have to do is let me know you would like to take part and I will allocate you a kid. I’ll give you the info and then you go and buy them a gift, wrap it and put their name on it.
This way, each kid in the centre will get a lovely gift, chosen just for them.
I’d like to set a spending limit because everyone has different budgets and we don’t want some kids to receive really extravagant gifts. Rather, if you would like to give more or you have extra cash, I can allocate you more children!

Lets say, around 500NT.

This year, we have had such an overwhelming response that we have so many more donors than kids!!! For anyone who wants to get involved from now, you can make a donation via PayPal or credit card here or make a donation in kind (list here)and drop it off either at the centre 1F No.262-1, Jiaxing St., Xinyi District, Taipei City 110 or at the Christmas show Santaland Diaries.

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VSO: The Volunteer Experts

VSO-logo1I’ve been thinking about adding a section with details on specific organisations. I’m going to start off with an excellent volunteer group- VSO. If you are a skilled professional and you are looking for a way to use your skills and expertise where it is needed most, VSO are a fantastic organisation to get involved with.

A while back, I featured Sarah Naughton, a friend of mine who volunteered in Rwanda a few years ago, in the ” volunteer experiences” section and she described her volunteer placement with VSO. I was really impressed with how Sarah described VSO, and I’ve always been a big fan of how they operate. Here’s why:

– they are dedicated to long term solutions

-they send experts in their fields, to ensure that projects succed

-they ask volunteers to commit for at least 6 months, non of this ” gap year” two week business.

VSO is one of the world largest volunteer networks in the world, and like the UN, they want the best of the best for the projects. They advertise their placements the same way the advertise paid positions and if you want to apply, you will need to send you CV and a covering letter. It is competitive and they want the right person for each position. You must commit to at least 6 months, and fundraise for your trip. This is volunteering done right.

If you cannot commit to a longer term placement overseas, VSO encourage you to volunteer for them at home where you can campaign and fundraise. They have lots of ideas on the website to help get you started.

Do you know another great volunteer group that you would recommend for someone wanting to volunteer overseas? Please comment or e-mail me volunteerasia@hotmail.com

Volunteer Stories: Lindy Mei

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Lindy Mei: USA
I met Lindy a couple of years ago when we both volunteered for TSPCA walking and caring for dogs. Lindy joined an excursion I planned for the kids at Harmony Home Taiwan and was amazing. The kids took to her immediately and had so much fun, Since then, Lindy goes to help out with the kids in the Xin Yi centre whenever she can. You can read her advice here. 
I have volunteered with Harmony Home for almost three years and continue to be involved with them from the UK. We will be continuing out “Secret Santa” toy drive this year so I’ll be updating you all about that soon.
If you are interested in volunteering at Harmony Home, you can e-mail me at volunteerasia@hotmail.com and I will send you an application form and guidelines.

Time to Say Goodbye

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My last day in Saigon was bittersweet. I am excited to see my friends and get back to my life in Taipei but saying goodbye is never easy. It has been a rollercoaster ride! Sometimes it been very challenging but overall, an amazing trip. I have learned so much about development and fundraising and feel more determined than ever to pursue a job the charity sector. For the past few weeks I have been so excited to get home to Taipei but as it drew closer and the reality of what I’m leaving behind set in, I began to feel sad. I have met some really wonderful people here and will really miss them, and of course, all the projects I’ve had the privilege of working on.

This morning I bid farewell to my gorgeous class at Phú Nhuận  and introduced them to their new teacher, Michael, a teacher from Galway. They wrote me some beautiful letters, and the teacher made me a gorgeous bracelet. I also got a new keyring, a chicken. So, now I have a flower, a bag, a shoe and a chicken! (the chicken is my fave for sure!). I did get a little choked up but I held it together well and all in all it was a nice farewell with lots of smiles and hugs!

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  my assorted hand-made keyrings!

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my new arm candy

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saying goodbye!

After English class, I rode my bike to Little Rose to say good bye and to give them my bike as a gift. Ms. Thien said that she would give it to a girl who has just started vocational training and will need a bike to get to and from there. So, I’m really happy that they will get such good use out of it!

Ms Thien gathered all the girls into the office to say goodbye and thank you to me. I was totally overwhelmed and didn’t expect such a fuss! They sang a song and all said thank you.  I will really miss everyone at Little Rose and feel so honoured to have been part of their team for three months.

Our crowdfunding campaign is almost ready to be launched, to raise money to keep the shelter going of the coming financial year. I will be updating A LOT to make sure these girls get their funding and the centre can continue the amazing work they do!

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bye bye bicycle!

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with the girls from Little Rose

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purple fish! A gift from the girls at Little Rose

I often meet people who tell me they would love to go away somewhere and volunteer for a month/three months/ a year but work and life in general gets in the way. This is the third time I have gone on a extended trip to volunteer and I cannot emphasise how much good you can do if you do a little research. It doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg and the results can be incredible. Bite the bullet, book a flight and make a difference to someones life.

Teacher’s Day

Teacher’s Day in Vietnam is on November 20th and I received a lovely girt this morning from my cuties in Phú Nhuận!

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One from each kid and they made them themselves. So cute!

I’m really going to miss these guys when I head back to Taiwan next week. They brighten up my week, every time I see them.

 

Happy Halloween from Phú Nhuận English class!!!!

This morning I brought some candy and masks to school, they went crazy for them!

BUT, the absolute highlight was 10mins after class was over, spotting someone’s Grandma in one of the side streets wearing a mask and creeping up on her family. SOOO funny!

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What’s New at The Little Rose Shelter?

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The Little Rose Shelter actually belongs to a partnership called The Shelter Collection. It consists of two shelters here in Saigon; The Little Rose Warm Shelter (for girls who have been victims of abuse) and The Green Bamboo Warm Shelter (a similar set up for young boys who have been street children).  http://www.sheltercollection.org/

Currently, there is enough money for the next 15 months, but after that, the current funds from the Danish Vietnamese Association (DVA), will have run out. So, it is time to find new donors! Mr Ole Riis, of The Shelter Collection is here in Vietnam to do just that and I am helping as much as I can.

Tomorrow we will start the first phase of our fundraising initiative. We will be making phone calls to Danish businesses in Vietnam to first verify details and make sure we have the correct person of contact and we will also give a brief run down on The Shelter Collection and ask if it would then be ok to send some information in the mail. This is a great way to break the ice and introduce ourselves, especially on a Friday when everyone is in a good mood! Once we have contacted all of the Danish contacts on the list, we will begin on the other companies. The first step is to establish a good rapport with the right people, and to send them some basic information. After that, we will speak with the interested parties, hopefully at one event, and give a more detailed presentation.

The new leaflets are being printed at the moment and look great. If you’d like to have a look, I have included the link below.

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The next thing we need to do is organise some kind of fundraising event which I am excited to get started on once we have mailed all the leaflets. This will most likely be aimed at expats here and will happen some time in November. We are brainstorming at the moment and I have hopefully found a few venues interested in helping out.

Watch this space……:D

Versatile Blogger Award-Thank you for the nomination!!!!

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THE RULES:

1. Display the Award on your Blog.
2. Announce your win with a post and thank the Blogger who nominated you.
3. Present 15 deserving Bloggers with the Award.
4. Link your nominees in the post and let them know of their nomination with a comment.
5. Post 7 interesting things about yourself

A big thank you to Deborah, http://myriad234.wordpress.com/, for the nomination!!!

7 things about me 

1.  I have lived and worked in 5 countries. Most recently, as an ESL teacher in Taipei, Taiwan.

2. I am currently in Vietnam volunteering, and have previous experience in Cambodia, Australia and Taiwan.

3. I studied Dance Studies at the University of Wolverhamption in England. I still love to dance as a hobby, and recently had some salsa lessons!

4. I love to travel and have visited almost 20 countries, I hope to add at least two new places a year!

5. I am new to blogging, and writing in general and finding it both challenging and rewarding. 

6. I love tattoos, I have three but want lots more! 

7. I love music, epecially going to concerts and festivals.

Since I am so new to this I have chosen my Top 5 Blogs (instead of 15), all focusing on development and volunteering;

1.http://orphanagetourismcambodia.wordpress.com/?wref=bif

2.http://littleroseshelter.wordpress.com/

3. http://aidspeak.wordpress.com/

4.http://kimnguyenbrowne.wordpress.com/

5. http://how-to-volunteer-overseas.com/

Congrats to the nominees!

Best Volunteer Teaching Programs in the World

Best Volunteer Teaching Programs in the World

Thousands of individuals are looking for volunteer teaching positions in areas around the world. Volunteering abroad not only exposes you to a different culture, but it also allows individuals to explore the world and give back to the communities that support them. Volunteer teaching, in particular, is a popular option for many people who are looking at breaking into the international volunteering arena because teaching is a valuable and rewarding career. Many employers also see it as a valuable job skill.

Here are some of our favorite volunteer teaching programs from around the world, in no particular order:

Experience the Republic of Georgia through Teach and Learn in Georgia

Why it’s the best: Experiencing local culture and making a real difference. Georgia is also one of the few places where non-native English speakers can find teaching jobs.

In recent years, Georgia has been working hard to reform itself into a modern and competitive nation. To further its progress, it has made English education a top priority. Schools throughout the country, from the urban and hip capital city of Tbilisi, to the rustic and rural mountain villages are looking for English speakers to come and teach English in Georgia. This is one of the few places where anyone who can demonstrate fluency in English—regardless of their home country and native language—can easily and legally find a teaching job.

Benefits include paid flights, and in-country assistance. Plus, there is a visa-free entry for up to one-year, that’s one less hassle that you have to worry about. Most teachers here live in a home-stay with a Georgian family. You won’t make a large sum of money teaching English in Georgia (teachers are compensated with what amounts to a typical Georgian salary), you’ll make enough to get by, as well as fund some travels during weekends and breaks. Most importantly, you will have a unique chance to be immersed in this culture and to be working in schools that really need qualified teachers.

Make a Difference with the English Opens Doors Program in Chile

Why it’s the best: Make a difference, jobs easy to find

Adventure, beautiful scenery, and friendly people all await ESL teachers in Chile. Opportunities to teach English are plentiful here, and often involve meaningful work with schools in rural areas. Chile’s unique dialect of Spanish is a big draw for those interested in linguistics, or just for those looking to improve their Spanish. Salaries for teaching English in Chile are not high, but you can easily make enough to live on, and still have some left over to travel around the country.

Travel A World Away – Teach in Bhutan

Why it’s the best: Getting paid to volunteer in the happiest country in Asia

Teaching in Bhutan works in partnership with the Ministry of Education in Bhutan to send certified native English speaking teachers to public schools across the country. Teachers are responsible for paying for their airfare, travel and medical insurance, visa and work permit and start-up costs. As an employee of the Government of Bhutan, you will be paid a local Bhutanese salary of 20,000 Nu ($400USD) at the end of each month. This salary is more than enough to cover your living expenses for the month, including your accommodation, food, and travel. Volunteer opportunities in Bhutan include positions in urban and rural settings. This beautiful Himalayan kingdom may be landlocked, but the beautiful mountain scenery, a strong sense of national identity and an isolated culture are bound to make your experience out of this world. Besides, what could be better than volunteering in the happiest country in Asia?

Teachers Without Borders

Why it’s the best: A variety of programs to choose from

Teachers Without Borders is an international non-profit organization that enhances human welfare by connecting teachers around the world with communities in need of help. TWB offers programs in Asia, Africa, South America and North America. They’re looking for teachers who can support, inspire and share information within communities across the world.

WorldTeach

Why it’s the best: WorldTeach is often considered as an alternative to the Peace Corps.

Where in the world do you want to teach? WorldTeach offers programs all over the world. They accept applicants of all nationalities who speak a native level of English. They also accept married couples and friends, which is a draw for many young volunteers who are looking to get into the international volunteering arena. In short, WorldTeach is an excellent non-profit organization that can put you on the right path to volunteering abroad.

About Carrie Kellenberger

A Canadian expat that has been living abroad in Asia since 2003, Carrie began her career with Reach To Teach Recruiting in 2006 as an ESL teacher in Taiwan. Today, she and her husband are co-owners of Reach To Teach. In her free time, Carrie works as a freelance travel writer and photographer, providing regular content to several publishing companies and travel publications in Asia and North America. She writes about her personal travel adventures on Travel Asia – My Several Worlds. Follow Carrie on Google+ or on Twitter @globetrotteri.

The Little Rose Warm Shelter

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I first learned about Little Rose through a friend that I met in Taiwan. I was telling her about my plans to volunteer in Saigon and she recommended them as a reputable charity doing a great job.

Sexual abuse of young girls in South East Asia is a huge problem, and Vietnam is no exception. The Little Rose Shelter, established in 1992, is a safe place for young girls who have been victims of abuse. Here they can go to school, learn English, learn real skills to help them get better jobs and most importantly, feel safe and secure. There is a huge focus on helping these girls recover mentally and physically from the horrors they have faced, and rebuilding their confidence.

This documentary was made by a volunteer who was at The Little Rose Shelter.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGCBxFHIN2Q

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After a few attempts to get in touch I was finally able to visit the director Mai and discuss volunteering. We had a conversation about what they needed and how I could help. My main role will be as a fundraiser, which am really excited about! I have done fundraising before, in Taiwan and Australia and have been brainstorming ideas and researching for the past couple of weeks.

I also teach English to some of the adult staff twice a week, which is going really well. They are very eager to improve their English and I feel it will be in invaluable for them when dealing with new volunteers, or potential sponsors. I dont have much direct contact with the girls, as the volunteers who work directly with them need to be properly qualified  but I do see them going about their daily chores, cooking, homework, all the normal stuff. They are sweet girls and always greet me with a smile and a few phrases in English.

I hope to also help the office staff to keep their websites up to date so that future volunteer and benefactors can keep up with the goings on at Little Rose, and so that Little Rose is always in the front of peoples minds.

I met with a fundraiser from the Danish Vietnamese Association the other day and we had a great talk about Little Rose. I hope to be involved in some upcoming fundraising events and feel as though I will learn a lot from him. Big things coming up in the near future!!

a mural done by some of the girls
a mural done by some of the girls