Vietnam has undergone rapid development over the past decade, but it still lags behind many of its Southeast Asian neighbors. There are many ways that volunteers can get involved and make a real and profound difference, not least through helping with projects that care for mentally and physically disabled children.
The stigma linked to mental illness and physical deformity is a problem all over the world, but its repercussions are especially strong in Vietnam. There are relatively few programs in place to care for people suffering from development illnesses, such as cerebral palsy, autism, Down Syndrome, and Japanese encephalitis. These programs that are in place are too often under-supported.
Unfortunately, public support for programs that assist the mentally ill is spotty in Vietnam. A study published by the Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal found that traditional beliefs often attrbute psychiatric disorder to past moral transgressions. While this is only one facet of a highly complex social response to disabilities, it at least illustrates the importance of raising awareness about the reality of mental and physical disabilities.
Volunteers who enroll in a two-week or longer project generally help out in one or more ways, including playing with and taking care of disabled children, lending a hand with feeding during lunchtime, assisting with gardening in the compound, organizing charity campaigns, and helping with networking and fundraising campaigns.
1. Volunteer in a children with disabilities project in Vietnam.
2. Help care for mentally and physically disabled children.
3. Organize charity campaigns for a variety of items, including books and clothing.
4. Assist with networking and fundraising campaigns.
5. Spend 2-4 weeks living and volunteering in the city of Hanoi.
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