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Ellen's Vietnam Visit

As you may have seen from our Facebook and Twitter updates, IVHQ's Ellen Varoy has just returned to the office after visiting our programs in Vietnam and Cambodia. Here's a rundown of Ellen’s Vietnam Visit…

"After four connecting flights and one set of swollen travel ankles (note to self: buy compression socks), I arrived in Hanoi on Sunday 17 June. Greeted by an IVHQ sign with my name on it, our local co-ordinators collected me from the airport, sympathised with the state of my ankles and escorted me back to the volunteer house, where I would be staying for the next few nights.

As this was my first trip to Vietnam, I was taken for a city tour to get a taste of what our volunteers are shown during their program orientation. Highlights included walking along West Lake at sunset, dining on street food in the Old Quarter and sipping on lemon tea from the sidewalk.

The following three days in Hanoi were packed with projects visits, feedback sessions with volunteers, report writing and meetings with our local team and project staff.

It was a real privilege to see first-hand the inspiring work our volunteers are involved in – from caring for groups of children challenged with a range of disabilities to teaching classes of enthusiastic students keen to learn English from native speakers.

The feedback the volunteers shared proved invaluable in helping me understand from a volunteer perspective how the program was performing. In turn, I was able to prepare an insightful program analysis and offer informed recommendations to our Hanoi team - to ensure we are providing the best possible program for IVHQ volunteers.

After a final meeting with the Hanoi staff, I made the move to Ho Chi Minh to catch up with our program in Vietnam’s largest city. 

Here in Ho Chi Minh, I had the opportunity to observe our volunteers at their projects, at the volunteer house, and returning home from their weekend adventures to the mountains of Da Lat, to the beaches of Vung Tau and to biological treasure trove of Mekong Delta. 

Feedback sessions with volunteers over a glass of Vietnamese iced coffee (cà phê đá) went down well. As did stories shared between volunteers of packed bus rides in peak hour traffic to and from projects, which they referred to as “all part of the experience."

Crossing the road between the millions of motorcycles in Vietnam was an experience in itself, which many of the volunteers appeared to have mastered nicely. I on the other hand, required some local assistance.

I was impressed by the engaging lessons our Teaching volunteers had prepared for their students, as I was by the inspiring stories our Caring volunteers shared of their interactions with the disabled children they were working with. I had the privilege of being introduced to Long, who took me by the hand and led me over to a world map and gestured for me to point to where I was from. The volunteers assured me that if I visited again next week, Long would remember I was from New Zealand (and be able to point it out) without a doubt.

From the extensive feedback I gathered from our volunteers and from what I observed at the volunteer house and projects I visited, I was able to prepare a detailed analysis to draw recommendations for our Ho Chi Minh team. Ensuring the quality of our programs and satisfaction of our volunteers is maintained at a high level is the main purpose of IVHQ staff visits and I am grateful to the helpfulness of the local team and volunteers in facilitating my visit.

Before my flight out of Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh, we managed to slip in a city tour, where I caught sight of the impressive Saigon Opera House and Post Office, took a stroll through the Reunification Palace and wandered through the Benh Tanh markets. So much more to see, but so little time, so here’s hoping I’ll be back!"

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