My trip to Vietnam - memories I will always keep in my heart
My name is Yvonne. I am 34 years old and grew up in Eastern Germany. Approximately 10 years ago I moved to Switzerland, with my boyfriend and our dog. My educational background is in economics and finance. About one year ago I decided to leave the financial industry to build up my own business in the field of sports and food - my two true passions.
I really don’t want to spend too much time writing about myself but I want to give you a bit more background so you can relate to my thoughts throughout this blog.
As a little child I always wanted to see the world but since my parents and I grew up in Eastern Germany we were very limited in traveling to foreign countries. Of course as I grew older I was determined to see the world.
I have been fortunate enough to travel to a lot of beautiful places around the world and get to know great people. Having said that, no matter where I went, I was also confronted with poverty and misery especially of young kids. Therefore from very early on I decided to try to help underprivileged children.
I started with two girls in Sri Lanka and organized charity dinners but I soon realized that I was not sure if the way I was trying to help was the right way to move ahead. I talked to a number of people and organizations to understand different views and approaches. The result was that I was determine to continue my support of children in need but was not sure which organization to choose.
With this clear vision in mind I left Switzerland and went to see a good friend in Hong Kong. She told me about her friend Junko Yoda who is one founder of the non-profit organization CLinked. To say it with the words on the website - “CLinked’s vision is a world where all humans experience their fundamental rights. They focus on giving vulnerable girls and women the education and opportunities they deserve so they are able to develop to their full potential.” I was able to speak to Junko and she explained how and why CLinked was founded and introduced several projects to me. Junko’s energy and commitment to help these underprivileged girls and women impressed me, so I decided to work together with Junko and CLinked.
It didn’t take much longer and I started to work on the first project. Together with the CLinked team I got assigned the task to develop a lesson plan on “What it means to be a good worker” for a group of girls, ranging from ages 8 to 22 based in Vietnam, Phu Hiep.
That’s how everything started, though it actually started on the 19th of May 10.40 am in Zurich, when I left Switzerland for a long plane ride with final destination Hue in Vietnam. I landed in Hue at 10.30 am. The weather was very hot and humid. It felt like 40 degrees and 100% humidity. Of course I am exaggerating but that’s how it felt. During my ride in the taxi from the airport to the hotel I tried to take as many pictures as possible but it is always difficult to capture all impressions with a simple camera.
Having arrived in my hotel I had to relax for a bit, because it was so hot. I fully understand why people in southern countries have a longer break over lunch and continue working in the late afternoon.
Next morning Junko and I met up with (2 of founders of Phu Hiep Happy Project). Although we had never met before, I felt very welcomed and was so convinced and motivated that I was exactly doing the right thing.
Packed with a lot of good energy and excited to get to know the artisans and the kids, we left the hotel in the afternoon to meet up at the studio to see the artisans and plan the day. Again I felt so warmly welcomed. Although being in a foreign country, very different from my hometown, they didn’t treat me like a foreigner but a friend. We reviewed the workshop schedule so we would be prepared for the kids arrival. I was very impressed by the artisan’s attitude. Although it was very hot and humid they were very eager to understand and learn.
Later in the day we left the artisan’s studio and visited the Phu Hiep community. After a short through the community we went to the community center school building to see the kids and begin the workshop.
The kids were already in the school and welcomed us with their over-ecstatic energy. I only expected girls so I was positively surprised when little boys joined the workshop too.
In the beginning it was tough to handle the kids’ energy but when I introduced the first icebreaker and handed out candies everybody calmed down. All the kids had to introduce themselves briefly and with the help of the translators Phuong and No I was able to get a better picture of each child. The first game also helped to relax the crowd and helped the students to feel more comfortable, so we could actually start with the module.
We started with the topic trust. Talking about trust seemed to be a very sensitive topic. That’s why we focused on this topic first. We asked the kids to write down 2 truths and 1 lie about themselves. So we actually asked them to lie to see how they would react. Most of them were confused, started to giggle or even didn’t understand what we were asking them to do. In the end everybody came up with 2 truths and 1 lie but nobody felt good when lying. They all expressed their feelings differently but we were happy about their reaction. After having played this game we tried to link what they had learned to real life. We always mixed theory with games and applied the content to real work place. We didn’t want the kids to get lost in games and not understand the context in real life. After each game we handed out green and red colored cards, where we asked them to write down, in the case of the module trust, what a worker can gain by being honest and what happens if one is not being honest. We were quite impressed that all of them came up with good and valid examples. Although some kids were struggling with writing, thanks to the help of the artisans everybody felt part of the group.
After talking about trust we continued with the other two topics, responsibility and teamwork. To help the kids understand what it means to be a reliable worker, we played the game "Great Egg Drop“. Kids had to form teams and build a protective structure that would allow their egg to drop from a designated height without breaking. We handed out a lot of different materials like paper, tape and cotton balls. They had a limited amount of time to handle this task. Again I was very impressed by their creativity and ability to work together in a team. They came up with ideas, I hadn’t even thought about. Some built a nest and other ones even wrapped the egg with cotton balls and tape.
We ended the long day with the teamwork module.
I have to say that all kids really did a great job. They must have probably been exhausted from the high temperature and all this information, that’s at least how I felt too. So I was happy that most of them managed to stay until the end. For the three best performing kids we handed out a little present at the end.
Later in the evening we left the class and had delicious food in a nice restaurant. We reflected on the workshop and prepared for the next day workshop with the artisans.
Next day Junko and I went to see the founders and the artisans. We walked them through the whole lesson plan again and they got to play some of the games as well.
What I have learned during these two days is that the artisans have probably the most important role. They are closest to the kids in Phu Hiep and the better they understand what we want the kids to learn, the better the kids in the end will understand. If the artisans can convince the kids that they are doing something beneficial for them and others, more kids will join the workshop and maybe become artisans themselves in the future. So it was very important that we helped the artisans to understand the material of the workshop.
In the beginning some of them were very quiet and shy but as we actually started the games, they started to feel more comfortable and did a great job in preparing and presenting the games. We also added some acting games throughout the workshop. Each one got assigned a certain role to act in a play. That’s what most of them actually liked the most, because everybody could express themselves in the way that is characteristic of them. Also the shy ones were surprised about themselves that they had so much confidence to speak up.
I have to say that I really enjoyed teaching the artisans. They all have a lot of potential and if they kept their eagerness to learn, I am sure they will do great.
Before I had to get ready to leave I also got to spend some free time. One of the artisans took me and Sakura, who took all the incredible pictures, to a beautiful religious place on top of a hill. Later on we enjoyed dinner together at a local restaurant. It was great to spend a bit more time with the locals but at the same time I was sad, because I had to prepare for leaving Vietnam.
3 days in Vietnam is definitely too short for such a trip, but I hve a realistic picture of the situation and I am now even more convinced that I would like to continue helping the CLinked team grow and reach more kids - they really deserve it.
I also want to thank again everybody involved in the Phu Hiep Happy Project. They are doing a great job to help the kids. These young girls have so much potential and are eager to learn and help others. Let’s continue to work hard. We are doing exactly the right thing.