OCIP, CSC, Vietnam
From 14 to 21 November 2014, a group of seventeen Year 5 students and three teachers went to Long Thuan Commune, Vietnam. This overseas community involvement trip is a collaboration effort between Dunman High School Community Service Club (DHS CSC), Deks Air Travel & Tours and the International Youth Club (IYC) of the Vietnam Youth Federation. The IYC is an organization with the aim of developing Vietnamese youths through international cultural exchange activities, volunteering opportunities and skills training programmes. This is the first time that Dunman High has worked with this organization and it is also the first visit to Long Thuan Commune. This village is located about 10 km away from the Vietnam-Cambodia border at Moc Bai. It is a 3-hour ride west of Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC).
Before the trip, the students collected new toothbrushes, tubes of toothpaste and soaps from family and friends. They also prepared teaching materials (like posters and cards), games and gifts for the children of Long Thuan. Several pre-trip sessions were also conducted for the students to familiarize them with the elements of service learning and also to better prepare them for what to expect in the village.
Upon arrival in HCMC, the OCIP group was received by the Vietnamese volunteers from the IYC. A coach was immediately organized to bring the whole group to Long Thuan Commune so that they would not reach the village too late in the evening. For the next 6 days, the entire group of Singaporean students and Vietnamese volunteers stayed in campus C of the Long Thuan Primary School. Every evening, three of the classrooms would be converted to bedrooms after the children had their lessons.
Under the supervision and guidance of a professional construction worker, the students helped to build a concrete walkway from the main road to the entrance of the village kindergarten. For the students, this was the first time they handled shovels, trowels, cement and bricks. They had to learn fast and work as best as they could with the tools. Working as a team and with help from the construction worker uncle, they managed to complete the walkway in two days. For the next few days, they also extended a corridor and painted the window grills of the primary school.
The students also delighted the children of the village primary school by playing games and football with them after school. The Principal of the Primary School also allocated a few timeslots for the students to conduct lessons for the children. With one of the Vietnamese volunteers acting as a translator, the students taught the children simple balloon sculpturing and origami. With the use of posters and songs, the students also shared good habits of hygiene like washing hands and brushing teeth with the children.
The OCIP group had a chance to visit three households of the village. They brought along gifts of rice, sugar, oil, toothbrushes and toothpaste. Some of the children in these households were students of Long Thuan Primary School. Through these visits, the students got a look into the living quarters and ways of life of their new friends.
During the village stay, the students took turns to perform daily duties like washing toilets, washing dishes, helping out in the kitchen and cleaning up the compound of the primary school.
On the way back to HCMC, the OCIP group visited the tunnels of Cu Chi. The guide was excellent, providing the group with much information on how the tunnels were formed and used in the Vietnam War. His narratives were littered with stories and jokes, giving the visitors an educational yet light-hearted overview of the war. On the last day in Vietnam, the group visited the War Remnants Museum, the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica and the Saigon Central Post Office before heading to the airport for the flight home.
Throughout the 8 days, the Vietnamese volunteers took care of all the logistics (transport, accommodation, food, etc.) of the trip. The students and teachers of Dunman High School really appreciated the warm hospitality and friendship of the Vietnamese volunteers. Without them, this trip would not be possible.
Below are excerpts of the reflections of some of the participants of this trip:
“Many of them do not have money to build proper houses, let alone get an education. We should not take what we have for granted.”
14Y5C33 Lim Guan Jie Oliver
“Most importantly, we should always be content with everything we have as that is the only real way to be at peace in this world that is in a constant pursuit of the newer and better.”
14Y5C42 Loi Xin Yi Audrey
“Without technology, I found that the pace of life was slower, and I got to interact and bond more with my friends.”
14Y5C42 Lau Tin Yi
“On the last two days in Ho Chih Minh City, I learnt more about the painful history of the Vietnam War from our visit to the War Remnants Museum while our tour around the Cu Chi Tunnels allowed me to marvel at the ingenuity of the tunnels and traps built by the Vietnamese.”
14Y5C41 Chan Shao Mun
“From the trip, I learnt that we should see learning as an opportunity, rather than a burden. I personally feel that in Singapore, students always complain a lot about school and the huge amount of information we have to memorise and understand for our exams. However, during the trip, the kids there were really eager to learn new information and paid close attention during their classes with the teachers.”
14Y5C33 Cheong Jiarong