Tag Archives: Vietnam 2017

Vietnam Day 5

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Paige ’17

Today as a group we volunteered this morning at the SOS Village for children who suffer from the effects of Agent Orange. In the classroom all of us were instantly greeted with hugs, waves, smiles, and in Justin’s case, a request to dance. Before I was even in the room for ten minutes, a small girl with a Disney princess shirt lept into my arms. Amused with my blonde braids, the girl who suffered from Downs syndrome repeated the word “princess” in Vietnamese over and over again. Convinced I was Elsa from “Frozen,” the girl had me sing “Let it Go” with her countless times. My heart is/was utterly and completely warmed by the seemingly  instantaneous love that this real life princess had for all of us. After a very detailed portrait of Devon, Julian, and I was scribbled by the future Picasso of a little girl, it was time for the kids to go home. With a big hug and kiss on the forehead from my new friend, I said my goodbyes and was left with a memory I know will never be lost.

In the afternoon, we all visited the Thang Long University English club. Eager to engage in English with us, they devised an afternoon of fun activities with us including a huge treasure hunt where we had to go all over an area of campus to find answers, dance the bamboo dance, play games and generally be ourselves in fun and silly ways with them. What a great group of university students! Their English was quite good and their enthusiasm for our visit was overwhelmingly positive.

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Vietnam Day 4

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By Noah 

Today we, Tommy and I, started our day with our host brother, Bruce, coming into our room to wake us up for breakfast. After breakfast, we went to meet up with the rest of the group. Four Vietnamese high school students had joined us to help with our service at the Friendship Village, a community where Vietnam veterans and kids affected by agent orange go to heal. When we got there, we stared our service by sprucing up their multiple gardens. Some of us collected trash while others cut hedges, raked leaves, and weeded. While working, a camera crew did a report on our service. At first, I was excited about the idea of being on TV, but after about an hour of work and individual interviews they began to bring us through the classrooms to get shots of us playing with the children of the Friendship Village. While I did enjoy playing with the kids, the crew would keep pushing us from room to room before we could really get to know the kids. We were also able to speak with the veterans, all who suffered varying degrees of the effects of the war. Most of them were still dealing with different effects of exposure to dioxin. They expressed their gratitude for our modest efforts to serve today; they showed their hope that the future generation would work hand in hand for the betterment of the world. There seemed to be no resentment towards Americans as individuals.

After lunch, we were able to really get more work done. Even though I spent about an hour scraping mud off the roads of the Village, I found the work to be very satisfying because, after all, we all contributed to make the environment better for these kids and veterans who like to spend time sitting and playing outside on a daily basis.

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Vietnam Day 3

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by Juliette Jeffers ’17

This morning after breakfast, Julian, Devon and I walked around the Old Quarter, but it was much hotter than usual and Devon and I decided to go back to the hotel. Julian stayed out with Noah and Gavin. We all left the hotel at 8:30 and drove to SOS Village. We met with the people of SOS Village and learned about the organization’s mission. SOS Village is an NGO where orphaned children are placed with foster mothers in the village. These mothers are fully committed to raising the children (normally 8-10 children per mother). The children live and go to the on-site school until they are 18. After learning about the organization (it is worldwide, with 133 SOS Villages), we went outside to play with the children. We played “Cat and Mouse.” We stood in a circle holding hands while the cat chased the mouse, weaving in and out of the circle.

After the game, we visited a classroom of 5 year-olds after which we were invited to tour the home of one of the mothers. We continued to play with the children during our tour. Everyone had a great experience bonding with the kids despite the language barrier and it was really inspiring to see the immense sense of community that the SOS Village created.

We said our good-byes, had a delicious lunch, and then headed out to the “Hanoi Hilton” or the Ha Lo Prison. It was a prison for the Vietnamese political prisoners during the French occupation of Vietnam and for the American POWs (mostly pilots) during the Vietnam War. Through the guided museum tour, I gained new insight into the atrocities of the French occupation.

We had an hour for walking around the Old Quarter (shopping!) after which time we met our host families. Devon and I are in the same family. Our host mother’s name is Lan and she is a journalist. Our host father works in television and used to be the host for the Vietnamese version of The Wheel of Fortune! They have two children and a poodle. Their older daughter is 17 and is studying in Australia while their younger daughter is 13 and lives at home. They like to travel a lot and they seem very close. Lan’s sister came over for dinner and we met her daughter who is 8, and a is a completely bubbly and funny kid. Lan, her sister and the housekeeper cooked us a wonderful dinner. We ate and talked about our families and just generally made ourselves at home. It was a very full day!

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Vietnam Day 2

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by Cheri

We started out our day with a super breakfast (pho, made-to-order eggs, fruits, homemade yogurt, and other hot items) and got ourselves geared up for our four meetings (!).

The first was with VAVA (Vietnam Association of Victims of Agent Orange) where we learned all about the efforts of this organization in regards to not only the people affected by dioxin, but also in regards to plans for continued cleanup, education about afflictions, how dioxin contaminated land and water, and much more. The talk was fascinating and the students asked insightful questions!

Next we drove to the Friendship Village, a place where Vietnam vets go for one month at a time to receive services aligned with their suffering from the Vietnam War (called by the Vietnamese the “American War”). The vets share the space with children affected by Agent Orange who also receive services on site. We got an introduction to this place where we would be working for two days.

After lunch, we met Chuck Searcy, a Vietnam vet who has spent much of his adult life in Vietnam trying to make it safer for civilians. He is head of Project RENEW (Restoring the Environment and Neutralizing the Effects of the War), which finds and disarms land mines in Vietnam. His life story was captivating, as he told us about how he was drafted and how his perspective on the war changed as he served in 1966-68, how it affected his life and how he returned to Vietnam to give back to the place where he had had a part in a terrible mistake. Again, the students asked pointed, thoughtful questions and we were very proud of them!

Meeting #4 was an introduction to the VUSA (Vietnam-USA Society), the group which brought us here. They are the major force behind all cultural exchanges which take place in Vietnam or in other countries with Vietnamese nationals.

It was actually tiring for us to sit in four meetings in a row, although these meetings were really informative. After dinner in a Korean Barbecue restaurant where the students ate a record-winning amount of meat…., we went back to our hotel. Students packed their bags for tomorrow when they would meet their host families in the afternoon. Great day, indeed!

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by | June 14, 2017 · 11:52 am

Vietnam Day 1

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by Devon DeBari ’18

After 36 hours of travelling, more or less, but leaning towards the “more” side because we arrived to JFK six hours early, we have made it to the oppressively humid and hot city of Hanoi. It is definitely heat like no other. Most of my tripmates are experiencing a wide array of  symptoms already, but not from dehydration or anything else (we are constantly drinking bottled water), but from sleep deprivation after the 6.75 hour, 11 hour, and 3 hour plane rides. Have no fear, they will be fine tomorrow and I was able to sleep well, so while everyone else is already asleep, I am writing to you.

The first thing that I would like to say is that Cheri was not kidding when she said that it would be extremely hot. Unlike the burning sensation of being too hot in the States, Vietnam feels like a massive sauna. However, we are lucky enough to travel in a new, air-conditioned bus. My girls’ room has also been set to 16 (61) degrees with the AC fan setting on high. Our room is perfect! Juliette, Paige and I were also pleased to see that our hotel room was comfortable and clean. Like everyone else on the trip, we realized, however, that we were not clean. We all showered, met in the lobby, and the group went on our way to explore the nearby Old Quarter neighborhood. After running around and trying to not get hit by the scooters and cars, we returned to the hotel, and soon left again for a water puppet show. The show was a nice introduction to Vietnamese culture and a calming first-day excursion.

Finally, we went to dinner and immediately, food began to flow out of the kitchen. Without knowing what the dishes were, the table, consisting of Gavin, Noah, Rex, and Julian tried each dish. Paige and Tommy at the other table were also trying everything! Delirium started kicking in for the boys and so we all agreed that our 8:00 p.m. bedroom check-in was more than reasonable. We parted ways and my roommates quickly fell asleep. Tomorrow is our first day visiting the Friendship Village, where we will do service in a few days, which I am personally really excited about. These first days were already a lot of fun, so I cannot wait for you to hear about the rest!

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