I was really excited to be a part of CLinked and to contribute to the Phu Hiep Project. I am a Vietnamese American living and working in Singapore.
I worked with Junko (CLinked Founder) and Sung Hae (Education Advisor) for a few months to create a module about Hygiene so that we could go to Hue and train the trainers in Hue. I just finished a course in Instructional Design so I was eager to put my new skills to use, but it was not always easy. We worked through multiple drafts and talked through many logistical details. Sometimes it was hard to find a time for the 3 of us to meet. Sometimes it was hard to balance this against work. I knew in the end that it would be worth it, but nothing could prepare me for the emotions of the actual day I would spend in Hue.
My flight into Hue was delayed (and I learned that this is pretty common for domestic flights), so when I landed in Hue I went straight to the Phu Hiep community with no time to change. One of the artisans, Be, took me to her home so that I could change. When we made it to her home, she opened the door to an open shared area and pointed to the bedroom just a few feet ahead where I could change. There was no door, but rather a tin wall that separated the bedroom from the living room. I stepped behind the wall to find a small cushioned blanket which I believe served as a bed. I quickly got changed and headed into the community room with Be. Being physically in Phu Hiep made it so much more real than I expected.
That evening, I delivered the Hygiene Course to a group of young children ages 10 and under at the community center. The evening went as I would have expected. The children were were engaged, and we had many activities and icebreakers to keep their attention. I was so grateful to have Phuong, translate the course. I can speak Vietnamese but I did not want to deliver the course in Vietnamese so that the children could focus on the content rather than a foreign accent. The artisans observed my teaching in preparation for train the trainers the following day. They also had homework: they would pick a lesson and prepare to present one lesson to their peers the following day.
I spent the next day training the trainers at the jewelry studio. What amazed me about the artisans is the amount of dedication, effort, and motivation. I spent the whole day with them to train them to teach about Hygiene. Our agenda was so packed that sometimes even I felt a bit tired so I was surprised and pleased to find that they were constantly engaged throughout the whole day and their energy and enthusiasm to learn remained high until the end.
Initially when I met the artisans I was shy. I wasn’t sure how the day would go, how they would receive the material, and the type of impression that I would make on them. I could tell that most of them were shy as well. They were quiet and and would kindly chuckle at my broken Vietnamese. When I asked questions, they were not eager to raise their hands even though I could tell that they were paying attention. As I started to know them better throughout the day, I felt more connected to each one of them. For example, one of the activities was for each artisan to present a module to the group and receive feedback. There seemed to be different levels of preparation and confidence within the group, however I was amazed to find that when I had 1x1 time with the artisans and they presented to only me, that each person had a strong desire to learn and improve. I was surprised to find that the ones who seemed to be under prepared were able to present 10 times better 1x1, when they didn’t have their peers watching and observing. I was surprised to find that quietest and most shy person was in fact one of the strongest learners and presenters. I was so proud of them.
I knew what my mission was in working with CLinked and contributing to Phu Hiep, but I was surprised at my own emotions. At the end, each person shared feedback about the day. A few of the artisans said that they surprised themselves and that the the training helped them to gain confidence that they didn’t know had. They could not imagine ever presenting to a group, and they were proud of themselves. Hearing that made so happy and so proud of them but at the same time, I was sad because this very special group of young ladies not only have so much potential, but they also have a true desire to learn. It was difficult to know the reality was that they would not have the same education opportunities that I did.
My grandparents left Vietnam after the war. I could have easily in the same shoes as these beautiful artisans. I will forever be grateful to them for giving me so much of them during this visit to the Phu Hiep community in Hue.