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Food Outreach Volunteer Program in Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City

Food Outreach Volunteer Program in Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh City

Inspired to be a Food Outreach volunteer in Vietnam? International Volunteer HQ’s Food Outreach project is a great opportunity for volunteers to make a meaningful difference to the lives of people in Ho Chi Minh City who aren’t able to feed themselves and their families. Volunteers gain community outreach and cooking experience while working at a soup kitchen where low-income workers, the elderly and others choose to pay what little they can afford for a hearty lunch.

Highlights:
  • Programs start every Monday
  • Affordable fees from £337 for 1 week
  • Includes accommodation, meals, airport pick up, orientation and 24/7 support
  • Serve cheap, nutritious food to locals who couldn’t otherwise afford it

  • Get to know the friendly people of Vietnam

  • Stay with other volunteers in a vibrant district of Ho Chi Minh

Key information

Support low-income communities
Based in soup kitchens
Dormitory-style volunteer accommodation
Volunteers aged 16+ and families
Fully hosted experience from £337 for 1 week
Durations from 1 - 12 weeks
Introduction Week orientation available
Up to 6 hours volunteering a day

This program is ideal for:

Energetic volunteers with good initiative will be well suited to the fast pace of the busy soup kitchen at lunchtime. As you will be volunteering alongside our local team and placement staff, you do not need to have prior food preparation or hospitality experience to participate on this project.
Who is this program suited to?

What to expect and how you'll make an impact

For many locals in Ho Chi Minh City, food is expensive and unaffordable. However, local soup kitchens are available to all and provide a high value meal every lunchtime. Volunteer assistance is important to help keep these kitchens open and serving meals to those who need them.

Meals are available for a fraction of the price of other options. Locals prefer to pay for meals, even if it’s a very low price, to avoid the stigma of accepting free food. The soup kitchen is popular and busy, serving up to 800 meals to low-income workers, the elderly and anyone else who requires lunch.

As a Food Outreach volunteer your role is to provide assistance with:

  • Food preparation
  • Cooking meals
  • Serving customers
  • Cleaning up after meal times

It is important to note that the Food Outreach project is disrupted from the 29th of January to the 24th of February due to the celebration of the Vietnamese New Year (TET) in 2024. During this time, volunteers will make food for the at-risk community (mainly young children in the community who have been diagnosed with cancer). The local team will arrange activities for the children including, dancing, singing, playing and the volunteers will also spend some time teaching them English.

The local team will buy all the food and materials for volunteers to help with preparation of the food, cooking the food and serving for that center. The center is about a 45 minute bus ride from the accommodation and you can expect to volunteer from 8am to 1pm. Alternatively, volunteers can use the time to travel and join in on the local festivities.

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #2: Zero Hunger

Contributes to United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal #2: Zero Hunger

Current estimates show that 8.9% of the population are hungry, with the global pandemic threatening to double that number. Swift action needs to be taken to provide food and humanitarian relief, whilst agriculture and food production must become more sustainable.

Why do Food Outreach volunteering in Ho Chi Minh with IVHQ?

When you volunteer in Vietnam you’ll be adding value to the local community, while also developing personally and professionally by:

  • Improving access to food sources for disadvantaged communities
  • Supporting local initiatives to increase food security
  • Developing your communication skills
  • Gaining cooking and food preparation experience
  • Immersing yourself in Vietnamese culture
  • Exploring Ho Chi Minh City

Volunteer requirements

  • Volunteers under the age of 16 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to participate in this program
  • Volunteers aged 16 or 17 on their program start date are required to provide IVHQ with parental consent in order to participate on the program, and may be asked to provide additional document to the local team.
  • All volunteers aged 13+ are required to provide a criminal background check to IVHQ prior to departure. Those aged 13-17, if unable to obtain a criminal background check, can provide two character reference letters instead
  • All volunteers are required to have adequate volunteer travel insurance
  • To respect the local culture and customs in Vietnam, volunteers should be aware that they’re unable to have anything obstructing their face while at their volunteer placement.
  • All volunteers must speak fluent English.
Are you eligible to volunteer?

Submit a free application so we can confirm your eligibility and check availability for your preferred dates.

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What recent volunteers said about their IVHQ experience

JG
Jane Gafa
22 Feb 2024

Don’t hesitate, jump right in and get started meeting amazing people from all corners of the world.

...
IT
Indira Gandhi Tamayo Quintero
20 Feb 2024

Being alone more than 30 hours from home was an amazing experience. Being a 18 year old, volunteering changed me in a good way, I was expecting a normal trip during my gap year but Vietnam was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I met lovely people from every single part of the world and the best part was that we share the same purpose of volunteering.

...
JF
Jolene Fry
16 Jan 2024

I have gained so much joy in helping others through the programs I have volunteered with. I would recommend anyone of any age to sign up and volunteer. I have completed my programs solo each time and have met so many friends along the way. My first time volunteering was in Guatemala in an after-school program; I was 38 years old and loved it so much that I went to China and volunteered with Special needs there the same year. Since then, I have been to Ecuador to work with street kids, and my last one was in Vietnam, working with special needs children. I have loved every minute of each. I am 48 years old now, but there is no age limit for volunteering and helping others. You are never too old to lend a helping hand when needed. I will continue to volunteer worldwide and try to make a difference where I can.

...
TS
Thomas Sanders
19 Dec 2023

Being immersed in Vietnamese culture, doing meaningful work and being surrounded by a team of people who make you smile everyday. I was initially nervous about joining the programme but it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life so I would suggest to anyone considering it to step out of their comfort zone and go right ahead!

...
JG
Jeremy Grove
18 Dec 2023

As an older person in their 40’s I’d encourage others my age to not be afraid to explore and volunteer.

...
HR
Hoana Renau
10 Oct 2023

Ashlee was amazing from start to finish. I was able to navigate my way around the portal and even managed to switch my placements up and added a week in the food outreach program.

The local team were great to deal with. They were friendly and welcoming!

I found it interesting in the food outreach program as you could see instant gratification whereas working with the children is a long game as such. Which is not a bad thing as you know the work you put in will contribute to ongoing work by future volunteers.

I liked the idea the food was prepared and served by the hospitality school. So it was a double flip of giving back as the students were learning as they went too with not only the food prep and serving but with their English as well. :)

I would highly recommend any program with IVHQ in Asia as they are a well oiled machine. They were helpful and friendly the whole time I was there.

...

To read all reviews, visit our reviews page.

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Volunteer Abroad in Vietnam with IVHQ

Location

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon, is home to IVHQ’s Vietnam program. With high-tech industry, upmarket hotels, skyscrapers, shopping malls and buzzing nightlife, the city has a modern, dynamic atmosphere tempered by reminders of its history under French colonial rule and of its fall during the Vietnam War. While Vietnam has made great economic strides since then, the country is still recovering from the war and many people, especially ethnic minorities and those in rural areas, live without the basic necessities of life or find them difficult to access. Volunteers are needed to support efforts that help to further reduce poverty and hunger for these vulnerable people.

Arrival and orientation

The program orientation begins every Monday, and volunteers need to arrive in Ho Chi Minh City on the Sunday before orientation.

After you have registered for the program, please book your flights to arrive at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN) in Ho Chi Minh City. Your airport pick-up is included in your Program Fee.

When you arrive, you will be greeted at the airport by a member of the local team and transported to the volunteer accommodation in Ho Chi Minh City. Your accommodation is covered by your Program Fee and includes the night before your program orientation.

If you are travelling in Vietnam prior to your volunteer program, you will need to make your own way to the volunteer accommodation on the day before your program orientation.

There are two options for orientation in Vietnam, a One-day Orientation and the Introduction Week Orientation.

One-day Orientation: This begins on your selected start date and all volunteers will attend. It covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Vietnam, including an introduction to the Vietnam program, the local team, general rules and a class on the local culture and language. In the afternoon, you’ll learn about the local projects, go on a walking tour of the local area, and arrange your SIM card. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socialising.

Introduction Week Orientation: The Introduction Week begins on your selected start date and runs for five days. This option is very popular among IVHQ volunteers as you’ll gain a deeper understanding of the Vietnamese culture, a true appreciation of local life and have extra time to bond with your fellow volunteers. You’ll also get to see some of Ho Chi Minh’s notable landmarks, visit markets and take a Vietnamese cooking class. Plus, it’s a great way to help settle the culture shock you can face when arriving in Vietnam.

Introduction Week does incur an additional Add on for US$400 (approximately £337) to cover the additional costs. If you wish to participate in the Introduction Week, you can indicate this on your application form or let your Program Manager know once you have been accepted.

Volunteer schedule example

Weekdays

After the initial orientation day or week, you will work for approximately 4 to 6 hours per day. A typical schedule:

7:30 AM Breakfast at the college restaurant.
8:00 AM Volunteers leave home and travel to their placements. Work and hours are dependent on the project and placement that each volunteer is working at.
12:00 PM Lunch break. Lunch is served at the college restaurant or at the placement. However; volunteers are free to buy their own lunch​ at their expense​, which will usually cost between £1 - £3.
2:00 - 5:00 PM Work at the placement usually ends. Volunteers are free to travel home, prepare for the next day or do some shopping and sightseeing.
6:00 PM Dinner at the volunteer accommodation.

Weekends

During the weekends, volunteers have spare time and usually just relax or take the opportunity to explore other parts of Ho Chi Minh City or Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh itself boasts an incredible number of things to see and do. You could find yourself gazing up at the famous Notre Dame Cathedral, or down at the lights of the city below from a bar on the rooftop of a towering skyscraper. You might pick your way through the local morning markets, sample the city’s mind-blowingly delicious street food, squeeze through the underground Cu Chi tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the war or admire a selection of ornate temples and pagodas.

Long weekends can be taken to travel further afield to engage in tourist activities, such as trekking, joining Vietnamese history tours and visiting the Mekong Delta.

Accommodation and WiFi

You’ll stay in an IVHQ volunteer dormitory at ​a tourism college which is a 30-minute drive from the tourist area of Ho Chi Minh City.

You can expect to share a room ​with up to 8 other volunteers, all sleeping in bunk beds. Living conditions are basic; however, there is air conditioning and fans for the hotter months. The showers are with cold running water (nice and refreshing in the hot weather!) While bedding is provided, it is recommended that you bring your own sleeping bag/silk liner (these can be purchased in Vietnam) and a mosquito net if you wish to travel during the weekends.

WiFi is available in the volunteer dormitory, however the connection can be slow so we recommend bringing an unlocked mobile phone and purchasing a local SIM card when you arrive in Vietnam. The local team can assist you with this during your program orientation.

Some placements are located relatively close to the volunteer accommodation, however in some instances, volunteers may need to travel by public bus for 30​ to 40​ minutes to their placements. If this is the case, you will be accompanied by a member of the local team for the first 2 or 3 days to ensure that you know where to go and can find your way around easily.

Meals

Volunteers in Ho Chi Minh City are served three meals per day during the week.

Breakfast is usually toast, cereal, fruit, tea and coffee. Lunch and dinner are typically traditional Vietnamese fare and include a wide variety of rice, noodle and soup dishes with plenty of vegetables, meats and fresh herbs. On the weekends volunteers are only served brunch and dinner.

If you have any special dietary requirements, please let us know when you apply for the program so we can make arrangements for you.

Pricing

  • USD
Duration
Program Fee
Due 30 days before you start, or within 48 hours if you register inside of 30 days. Covers the cost of hosting you.
  • USD
1 week £337 Equivalent to £48/day
2 weeks £464 Equivalent to £33/day
3 weeks £625 Equivalent to £30/day
4 weeks £768 Equivalent to £27/day
5 weeks £912 Equivalent to £26/day
6 weeks £1056 Equivalent to £25/day
8 weeks £1343 Equivalent to £24/day
10 weeks £1630 Equivalent to £23/day
12 weeks £1917 Equivalent to £23/day
  • Accommodation
  • Meals
  • 24/7 in-country support
  • In-country program orientation
  • Pre-departure support from your Program Manager
  • Airport pick-up
  • Personalised preparation tools, guides and check lists
  • Access to IVHQ’s preferred insurance and flights partners
  • Discounts on travel and tour add-ons
  • Certificate of International Volunteer Service

Learn more about what's included in your IVHQ Registration Fee and Program Fee.

  • All programs attract a Registration Fee of US$329 (approximately £277) in addition to the Program Fee. This covers all pre-departure support services. IVHQ fees are priced in USD but you may elect to pay in GBP.
  • A 5% international banking fee is added at point of payment.
  • Additional things to budget for include: Visa, flights, travel insurance (mandatory), vaccinations, transport to and from your volunteer placement. criminal background check and return to the airport when your program finishes.
  • Recommended spending money: Volunteers in Vietnam - Ho Chi Minh generally find US$50 per week to be sufficient for expenses.

Free-time experiences & tours in Vietnam

Take your volunteer experience to the next level with IVHQ's affordable activity and tour add-ons in Vietnam! Explore your options below and learn how to book them once you've been accepted onto the IVHQ Vietnam program.

Cu Chi Tunnel
Cu Chi Tunnel

Embark on a captivating journey through history with our Cu Chi Tunnels Half Day Tour. Delve into the wartime significance of this underground network, crawl through tunnels once used by guerrilla fighters, and soak in the lush green scenery en route. Departing from Ho Chi Minh City, our luxury transport takes you on a scenic 1.5-hour ride to the tunnels. Explore the intricate passageways and even witness remnants of battle. With all-inclusive amenities and expert guides, it’s a memorable adventure back in time. Please note that the Cu Chi tunnels tour is included in the introduction week so you will not need to add this to your itinerary if you are already joining the introduction week.

£130
Vietnam Introduction Week
Vietnam Introduction Week

Gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Vietnamese culture.

£337
Cu Chi Tunnel
Cu Chi Tunnel

Embark on a captivating journey through history with our Cu Chi Tunnels Half Day Tour. Delve into the wartime significance of this underground network, crawl through tunnels once used by guerrilla fighters, and soak in the lush green scenery en route. Departing from Ho Chi Minh City, our luxury transport takes you on a scenic 1.5-hour ride to the tunnels. Explore the intricate passageways and even witness remnants of battle. With all-inclusive amenities and expert guides, it’s a memorable adventure back in time. Please note that the Cu Chi tunnels tour is included in the introduction week so you will not need to add this to your itinerary if you are already joining the introduction week.

£130
Vietnam Introduction Week
Vietnam Introduction Week

Gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Vietnamese culture.

£337

Check what's required to visit Vietnam

Safety and support with IVHQ

Safety and support

IVHQ follows best practice and industry-leading health and safety procedures, which are regularly reviewed and optimized as part of the B Corporation recertification.

  • All volunteers encouraged to complete our interactive pre-departure training.
  • All local teams trained on best practice volunteer management & First Aid.
  • All IVHQ programs are required to adhere to IVHQ's Risk Management Policy.
  • All volunteers have access to 24/7 in-country support from our local team.
Learn more about IVHQ's safety

Essential country information

Capital Hanoi
Population 96 million
Languages Vietnamese
Currency Vietnamese Dong (VND)
Time zone (UTC+7)

Weather and climate

Vietnam has a tropical monsoon climate, with humidity averaging 84 per cent throughout the year. However, because of differences in latitude and diverse geography, the climate tends to vary considerably from place to place.

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How to get started

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