Yee Sheau Ai-Yin - 2015 Program Participant
One of the children I took care of - her name is Coco and she is two years old
Why did you decide to volunteer abroad?
I've always been interested in serving people in my daily life. I wanted to gain experience doing so out of the country, and at the same time learn about their culture. I was also interested to meet international volunteers and exchange views on our traveling experiences.
Why did you choose Love Volunteers’ program in Vietnam?
I take care of adults in my profession, hence the reason to go out of my comfort zone and do something different. As I went through the organization list, I found Love Volunteers and decided to join the working with children in Ho Chi Minh City program.
What was your favorite part about Vietnam?
Vietnam is well known as the second largest coffee exporter; as a coffee lover, it is one of the countries I wanted to visit to explore their coffees. It is also famous for its historical locations. I have been to the Cu Chi Tunnel and the War Remnant Museum, and I have no other words but amazing to describe how Vietnamese people have lived through the days during the war, and they had such a strong determination and teamwork.
With the orphanage staff and children
What made your program experience unique?
I was posted to the Ky Quang Pagoda Orphanage in District Go Vap to help out with the care of disabled children. I learned from the local team that most of the children suffer as a result of the Vietnamese war that can still be seen until today (i.e hydrocephalus children). Seventy percent of the orphans are disabled, either physically or mentally, therefore they need extra care which they wouldn't have without the help of volunteers.
When I first saw the children, I felt nervous, whether I could perform well enough to take care of them. As a nurse who worked with adults previously, it was my first time working with disabled children. Most of the time spent there we would walk them or push their trolleys around, do some drawings, and play games with them. When it was meal time, I helped to feed them as well. I took quite some time to learn how to tackle their eating habit, and once I got it the daily routines became more and more enjoyable. These activities might seem very simple to some people; however, without us volunteers there would have been a huge difference in the children's development.
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
They are always open to any inquiries and got back to us as soon as possible.
Chinh, 13 years old - his gentle smile always made my day
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
I wish I could have volunteered longer. I enjoyed every minute of it!
Describe a day in the life of your program.
I woke up at 6:00 a.m., got myself ready, and took breakfast. I left at 7:00 a.m. for the bus and reached the orphanage at 8:15 a.m. Once I reached the orphanage, the children were ready to be walked. The staff, fellow volunteers, and I took our turns to walk them around in the Pagoda. Besides walking, we would also sit with the other children and do some coloring or play simple games with them until almost 10:00 a.m., when we got them ready in their seats and their bibs for the meal time.
Feeding would usually take half an hour and when it was done, we would clean them up and they took their nap until 2:00 p.m. The nap time was also my lunch break, so I was back to 2:00 p.m. The cycle of activities repeated until 4:00 p.m., when it was meal time, and after I would clean up everything. I left work at approximately 5:00 p.m. Then I returned to the Peace House, took my dinner, and exchanged stories with my roommates on our day at our respective programs. I went to bed at 10:00 p.m.
Hanh Nguyen, 5 years old - look at her beautiful smile!
What did you enjoy doing on your free time?
Coffee hunting! On weekends, I went to District 1 to explore the local attractions, such as the Fine Arts Gallery, War Remnant Museum, the Independent Palace, Central Post Office, and the Notre Dame. In between I would go for coffees in which I have found some interesting cafes, such as the Urban Station Coffee, ID Cafe, SHE cafe, M2C Cafe, and L'usine Cafe. I love drinking coffee after a long day out in a comfortable and cozy environment.
What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?
I lived in an apartment where volunteers lived together. I liked the idea of them calling it Peace House. It is where we would gather and exchange views on our past travel experiences and make friends, and I still stayed in touch even after our respective programs ended and we're back home.
Now that you're home, how has volunteering abroad impacted your life?
It gave me the sense of living in simplicity. It taught me not to expect much when giving out to others, and never expect anything in return. I'm back feeling contented and accomplished that all I have gave out during my volunteer program gave me priceless memories and happiness in return. I hope I have made a change, even if it's a small one, in the children's lives. I also hope to be able to continue giving out to the others who are in need in the future.