About Vietnam

The Global Volunteer Network Vietnam volunteer program gives volunteers the chance to become involved in children's aid and education projects in Vietnam. This program has something to suit all skills and experience levels.

You have the opportunity to work in the Children's Program with orphans, street children and children with disabilities or in the Teaching Program with high schools, colleges and universities.

While sharing your knowledge and compassion you will gain an in-depth experience of the country and its culture that will stay with you the rest of your life.

For more information, please visit the Vietnam program page on the Global Volunteer Network website.

Recent Vietnam Journals:

Cai Be, Vinh Long and Can Tho- so this is the MeKong Delta

 Posted by Laurie Kanefsky at 11:27 am  Vietnam  Comments Off on Cai Be, Vinh Long and Can Tho- so this is the MeKong Delta
Aug 202013
 

MeKong Delta was a place that I remember from the VietNam War of my childhood and when I knew that I would be here I felt a strong need to visit.  Maybe it was driven by this early memory but the trip was not what I expected.  Then again this has been a trip that was beyond any expectations. This was a day of contrast and contradictions on so many different levels. Being a tourist is clearly not in my comfort zone.  I am being driven by one man and guided by another- It feels like “driving Miss Daisy” x’s 2 with a Viet Nam twist. So the day began with Cong and Mr.B picking me up at 8:30 to drive to Cai Be (105km from Saigon south).  Fortunately the roads were in far better repair than the ones that we too yesterday to the tunnels. The MeKong is lush with tropical fruits and vegetables-literally growing on trees. Longans, dragon fruit, mangos, coconuts and the sweetest most delicious bananas you can imagine.  When we got to Cai Be Cong had arranged a boat to take us on the river past the floating markets.  Our first stop was a factory, family owned, where they made by hand rice candy of all sorts.  There was a demonstration of how they puffed the rice that was amazing.  Of course they sold all the products and I am bringing home lots of treats.  Cong explained that there are probably 1000 factories making these products but most of them use machinery.  This was set up as a tourist attraction but that did not diminish its interest for me. Also, according to Cong, Viet Nam is only second to Thailand in rice production.   From there we went on the boat to lunch.  Another feast.  Clearly [click here to read more]

Chu Chi Tunnels and the Cao Dai Temple- August 19

 Posted by Laurie Kanefsky at 2:36 am  Vietnam  Comments Off on Chu Chi Tunnels and the Cao Dai Temple- August 19
Aug 192013
 

Cong came to pick me up at 7:30.  It took about 1 1/2 hours to get to Chu Chi.  I am always amazed at how quickly the urban congestion turns into quiet narrow roads with cows grazing and sometimes crossing.  When we got to the tunnels there was hardly anyone there.  It was fascinating and reinforced my belief that there is an enormous strength and resiliance in the Vietnamese people.  I took lots of photos of the various devices that they made to torture and trap the US soldiers.  They were extremely clever and motivated to keep their land.   I actually went down into the tunnel.  You may know that the real tunnels were too small for the average American.  There were soldiers in the army called tunnel rats who would scout the tunnels.  Not a job I would be applying for.  Anyway, it was extremely interesting and, by the time we left, the parking lot was full of buses bringing tourists from many countries speaking many different languages. We then drove another 1 1/2 hours to the Cao Dai noon service.  This is another experience that pictures will do greater justice to than the description with words. They followers are all dressed in white with the exception of several men in gold, blue and red who clearly are senior in some way.  This group has 2 million followers.  Apparently they combine Buddism, Taoism and Confusious  principles.  Sounds complicated to me.  The service was very beautiful.  There was a chorus of women singing.  They were accompanied by a group of musicians playing instruments I was unfamiliar with. By the time we left and stopped for lunch it was 2pm and we had a three hour drive back to Saigon.  If the roads were better and the traffic was not [click here to read more]

Touring Ho Chi Minh/ Saigon-August 18th

 Posted by Laurie Kanefsky at 1:56 am  Vietnam  Comments Off on Touring Ho Chi Minh/ Saigon-August 18th
Aug 182013
 

Well, I am not sure I am cut out to be an American tourist in Ho Chi Minh City.  Maybe I am better suited to be a working person.  I actually find being a tourist more tiring than the work I was doing at the Centre. You remember that I got to the hotel at about 6am after taking the day/night train from Hue.  I showered and had breakfast and was picked up at 9by my guide Lien.  She packed alot in from 9-3.  In the morning we went to theIndependence Palace a 1960’s designed structure where President Thieu lived until the North Vietnamese crashed through the gates on April 30, 1975.  This has been preserved as it was for people to see.  The most interesting aspect for me was the basement.  Set up as a bunker and rooms that were very similar to what I saw in London at the Churchill War Museum. From there we went to the War Remnants Museum.  The physical reaction I had to this was similar to Yad Vashem.  The horror of it was overwhelming to me.  I felt physically drained.  Yes, I was probably tired from all my train travel and lack of a proper nights sleep but I think it was more than that.  The museum is not large.  Two floors of photos and quotes and descriptions of the actions of war and the consequences.  The after math of the defoliants, agent orange,etc has continued to reak havoc on the people here and, as we know, in our own country.  I am now, more than ever, firm in my belief that a military should be for peace keeping NOT destruction.  Ok, I know that I digress.  So the bottom line is I was pretty drained after this museum and despite Lien’s effort [click here to read more]

Hue-Ho Chi Minh- August 17-18

 Posted by Laurie Kanefsky at 2:00 pm  Vietnam  Comments Off on Hue-Ho Chi Minh- August 17-18
Aug 172013
 

Breakfast at the hotel.  Nghi picked me up as promised at 7:15 to go to the Thein Mu pagoda.  We were traveling by scooter and it was a beautiful ride along the perfume River.  This Pagoda is the only Pagoda on the river and it is the oldest dating back to the 1600’s.  There is a very large laughing Buddha and there was a couple with a new baby to have prayers and blessings.  It was quite beautiful. Also here is the baby blue Austin that drove the monk Thich Quag Due to Saigon where he set himself on fire and burned to death in protest of the excesses of the Diem regime.  The car is beautiful and kept in a covered space.  I took pictures if you are interested Another interesting thing about this pagoda is that it is a place whre young boys are left by their families to be cared for and educated by the monks.  At the age of 18 they are then given the choice to leave or stay and become a monk.  According to Nghi most of the boys will leave.  They were studying Chinese at the time we were there.  It was quite interresting.  Especially so since the physical surroundings are well kept and in great contrast to the conditions up at BaVi. From the pagoda we went to the very, very large market- everything imaginable from shoes and clothes to housewares and foods of all sorts.  The women with cleavers were wacking pigs, chicken and things that I do not know the names for.  It was quite wonderful. From there I checked out and was taken back to the train station which was much less chaotic than Hanoi.  When it was announced that the trian would be an hour late arriving everyone [click here to read more]

Night train and Hue- August 15-16

 Posted by Laurie Kanefsky at 7:53 am  Vietnam  Comments Off on Night train and Hue- August 15-16
Aug 162013
 

Leaving Hanoi I shared a soft sleeper air conditioned cabin with a German couple.  I was in one of the lower births and they were up top.  The train made several stops early in the night and at one point a young Vietnamese couple and a baby joined our cabin.  At some point they got off and a single Nietnamese woman with alot of syuff took the other lower birth for the evening.  My big anxiety was how was I going to get through the night without using the WC.  Well the answer is I did.  At least until 6am.  The train was supposed to arrive in Hue around 8 and I debated whether I could wait.  As it turned out I could not wait and I will report that without going into too many details I was able to have an am coffee.  It turned out that it was a very good thing that I braved the facilities because the train did not arrive in Hue until 11 AM!  So much for the schedule. It was with great relief that I saw a sign with my name on it being held by a young man who greeted me with excellent english.  He introduced himself as Nghi and told me that we would be meeting our driver and he would be my guide during my time in Hue.  During the brief car ride to the hotel Nghi made sure my room was ready.  The town was quite different than Hanoi.  It was smaller but in some ways grander.  The traffic was less and DEFINITELY less chaotic.  Significantly less horn honking.  If I was going to be around longer I might even consider renting a push bike.  We agreed that I would shower and change and have lunch before we began [click here to read more]

More goodbyes and leaving Hanoi-Thursday August 15th

 Posted by Laurie Kanefsky at 11:09 pm  Vietnam  Comments Off on More goodbyes and leaving Hanoi-Thursday August 15th
Aug 152013
 

On Wednesday, back at the Essence hotel was like coming home and seeing old friends.  It is such a warm and friendly staff and of course the room was great.  I organized stuff in preparation for the train to Hue and took a bath.  Heavenly!  I knew I had alot to do in the morning before Hoai, Hahn, Xi and Terry came to the hotel at noon to have lunch so I tried to get to sleep early.  As usual I woke early. I had finished breakfast before 8 but the electronic store that I needed to take my camera to did not open until nine So to not waste a minute I figured out how to get to the Spa that Paula had told us about.  Turns out it was 2 quick rights from my hotel and no streets to cross.  Even though it said open and they welcomed me in I saw that they really did not open until 9 but they found someone to give me the foot massage that I had been hearing about for two weeks.  Well, first of all it was better than I could have imagined and it was way more than just a foot massage.  Arms, neck, back and of course the legs.  I ended up being there for an hour and the cost was 250,000 dongs. FYI that translates to less than 20 dollars.  Of course I gave a nice tip.  Quite a contrast to the start of my days in BaVi.  But honestly I was enjoying it while at the same time missing the kids and the routine. I was also nervous about getting the camera either fixed or if necessary replaced.  As it turned out there was no need to worry.  The shop was right across from the Lake [click here to read more]

Last Day at the Centre-leaving BaVi

 Posted by Laurie Kanefsky at 10:10 am  Vietnam  Comments Off on Last Day at the Centre-leaving BaVi
Aug 142013
 

It is not easy to summarize this last day in BaVi.  I would like to find a way to describe the mix of emotions not just about the children that I have grown so attached to but the staff and of course the many volunteers. Let me start with the volunteers. What comes to mind when I think about the strong connections I have felt with each one of them even though we were from many different countries, cultures, languages and over all life experiences we all came with the same committment to the children.  I keep thinking about soldiers in battle.  I do not mean to overstate the circumstances , nor do I want to be overly dramatic, but there were moments at the end of the day that as I reflected on the experience , it did feel like we were commrades in the trenches.  Certainly I smelled like it.  Not to get too graphic, but I often left in the blazing sun to ride my push bike home smelling like sweat and pee. Sadly, I got used to it.  The pleasure of getting back to the hotel and taking a shower was enormous.  But, I can honestly say, that by 6am the next morning I was looking forward to seeing the kids and getting all sweaty and smelly again.  As I write this I realize to some that may be reading this it sounds crazy. So getting back to my feelings about the volunteers I was privileged to share this experience with.  Many I have already mentioned and the work they began before I got there led the way for me and enabled me to guide those that came after me.  I hope that Paula will enjoy her last few weeks working with Nicole and Matilda (from [click here to read more]

Monday and Tuesday at the Centre

 Posted by Laurie Kanefsky at 1:36 am  Vietnam  Comments Off on Monday and Tuesday at the Centre
Aug 132013
 

The days are hot and humid but the ride to the centre is beautiful and I only have to walk one hill with my new cushy bike seat. Room one and two in the morning with a lot of help from Matilda and Nicole.  They have jumped in and taken over where the Spanish volunteers left off.  They bring their music and passion for the kids.  Melanie’s girl we now call MG and she is  like a different child.  She is up and about all day happy, smiling and dancing.  Of course this is all in a wheelchair but that is far better than her previous state of lying all day in her crib. Monday afternoon at the cafe Hahn and Terrry came to meet with us to talk about our experience and the future plans for volunteers. On Tuesday morning I was chatting with Ian, a volunteer at the other centre .  I was telling him that Matilda had tried to buy bubbles last night and they did not have them.  He opened up his knap sack and took out three containers of bubbles.  I teared up in joy.  Really,  if you can imagine how little it  takes to bring a smile to the face of these kids you would understand.  If you talk to them, touch them or sing and dance with them they smile with joy.  So I knew the bubbles would be a huge hit. And they were.  I actually took them to room 4 after I brought back the children I had taken to the classroom.  I am not sure I have described this room to you.  There are about 20 children who sit in wood chairs lining two sides of the room facing each other.  They sit there all day.  It is beyond sad. [click here to read more]

Halon Bay- Sat-Sunday

 Posted by Laurie Kanefsky at 11:26 pm  Vietnam  Comments Off on Halon Bay- Sat-Sunday
Aug 112013
 

In order to get the bus to the boat we had to leave BaVi at 6am.  The taxi was there but the trip was another harrowing adventure.  Paula, Xi and I were not sure why, but the driver took a “scenic” route to Hanoi that made us questoin whether we would end up there or Ho Chi Minh city!  At one point the driver stopped to ask directions of a bunch of school boys on bicycles!  Crazy.  We did  get there and were met by the tour person.  We them had a four hour drive to Halon Bay to get the boat- Treasure Junk.  It was a beautiful boat.  Very  luxurious with way too much food.  We were able to kayak and go to the fishing village and pearl factory.  The weather was beautiful and we took lots of pictures.  The only downside was the very long 4 hour drive to and from Hanoi but it was worth it.  It was a nice break but we were all glad to get back to BaVi.

FRIDAY AUGUST 9. THE LAST DAY WITH THE SPANISH VOLUNTEERS

 Posted by Laurie Kanefsky at 10:05 pm  Vietnam  Comments Off on FRIDAY AUGUST 9. THE LAST DAY WITH THE SPANISH VOLUNTEERS
Aug 102013
 

ANOTHER RAINY DAY!  Taxi to the centre but we tried to bring the music and dancing indoors.  I have settled into a routine with several of the children in room 1 and 2.  We have an eating group.  Several of the kids that are able to feed themselves mixed with a couple that need to be fed.  It is supported by the staff who continue to feed the remaining children lying in their cribs.  We set up a straw mat and   and it is a very relaxing time for me and the kids that are feeding themselves are so proud of of themselves. Mid morning the volunteers were invited to a party with some of the older children and staff.  There was a big spread of food and music.  Following the party we made our way to the restaurant for lunch.  The rain seemed to be lighting up ans when we came back we stopped in at the older girls room.  They have been making beautiful jewelry that they are selling.  Several of the girls have both physical and emotional handicaps but they have a really good handle on the “business”.  One of the residents is the business manager and the other girls make the bracelets and necklaces.  I, of course, want to support the efforts and have already  bought several bracelets and plan to bring a bunch home for friends and family.  They are colorful and will always be a reminder of the time I have spent here in BaVi. In the afternoon Laura and I went to room 4 and took several kids to the classroom including Phan who was once again able to read the english words on the flashcards.  We also had a bunch of toddlers from the nursery piping in.  These little ones are [click here to read more]

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