Where to Volunteer during Your Internship in Vietnam [HCMC]
Vietnam has been developing at a tremendously fast speed in the last few years. Skyscrapers are rising one after another in the center districts, local shopping malls are filled with fancy shops such as Prada, Rolex, and gorgeous hotels such as Sheraton or Intercontinental. The backpackers street are lit up at night with bars/clubs and luxury restaurants can be spotted just about every corner of this city. As a foreigner coming to the city for the first time, you can get too caught up with the must visit places and must try foods, checking off your checklist as we explore everything Vietnam has to offer. However, with the considerable amount of time you have during your internship in Vietnam, you might want to move on from the usual fun sightseeings to getting down and dirty with some volunteer works to learn more about the country and give back to the community. Here are some of the biggest and most impactful destinations/organizations in Ho Chi Minh City where you can come to volunteer during your internship in Vietnam.
1. Peace Village – Tu Du Obstetric and Gynaecological Hospital
Hoa Binh Peace Village is located at Tu Du Obstetric and Gynaecological Hospital in Ho Chi Minh City. The modest facility has since been home to some 400 children, most of them suffering from the effects of Agent Orange, the deadly chemical sprayed to defoliate the forest regions by the Americans during the American/Vietnam war. The chemical, dioxin, has had catastrophic effects on the Vietnamese people, contaminating land and rivers and causing birth defects and medical problems for up tp three generations of survivors.
Students from the University of Newcastle visit the Peace Village and spend time hanging out with the children
At present, there are 60 children living in the village, mostly between the ages of 0 and 15 years. Many of the children here suffer from brain damage, as well as physical disabilities, some of which are incredibly severe. It is estimated that there are 3 million people suffering from the effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam today, and it is some of the most severely affected children who reside in the Peace Village. The Village provide shelter for these children, medical treatment, schooling and vocational training. Some children are orphans, and others are so severely disabled that they could not be cared for by their families at home. Some children have been abandoned in the grounds of the hospital by desperate families who are incapable of copping with several children suffering from disabilities.
It is estimated that today still 1.5% of babies born at this hospital are affected by Agent Orange, and there is a special room at Tu Du hospital which contains the preserved bodies of about 150 deformed babies, born dead to their mothers. Some have two heads; some have unbelievably deformed bodies and twisted limbs. They are kept as a record of the terrible consequences of chemical weaponry.
Students from University of California, San Diego visiting the Village
Putting the heavy memories and the children’s handicap aside, Peace village is a place filled with laughter and happiness where the children are loved and well cared for. There is also a large volume of visitors, donors and volunteer coming to learn about the children’s stories and suffering as well as provide some of the aids that they need (for example books, notebooks and other necessities). Although Tu Du is a high-profile hospital in Ho Chi Minh City, there is still a definite need for modern equipments and facilities. The Village’s activities rely heavily on public funding as well as donations from groups and individuals. For example, the Village has been receiving aids from the Medical and Scientific Aid for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodi Charity Group and has recently been provided with an Ultrasonic Therapy machine, wheelchairs, tables and bath aids.
Peave Village Address: 284 Cống Quỳnh, Phạm Ngũ Lão, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City.
2. Quán cơm Nụ Cười (Smile Cafeteria)
One of the many reasons why Vietnam has become an ideal travel destination is because of its affordability. Tourists gush over a delicious $2 bowl of Pho or a healthy fresh fruit smoothies worth of $1. It’s great to be a tourist in Vietnam. But only if one is making a minimum wage of $10 per hour. However, a big number of poor Vietnamese rely on a monthly salary of only $100 USD ($2.2M VND) on average, a $2 for a bowl of pho turns out not so cheap afterall since you have so many other things to care for such as your rent, children’s tuitions, transportation and so on. For this reason, many poor Vietnamese living in the supposed heaven of cheap eats that is Ho Chi Minh City struggle to find themselves proper meals every day.
A foreign volunteer at Smile Cafeteria. Photo: tuthientinhthuong.org
Fortunately, there are non-profit organizations established to help these individuals. Please note, these individuals aren’t all homeless, they don’t sit around on the sidewalks doing nothing all day. They work hard, from early mornings to late nights, hoping to make enough to take care of their family and pay for their children’s schooling. Limited by their skills, they can only find physical labor jobs making only about VND2.000.000 to VND3.000.000 per month (around $100 to $150 USD). One of these amazing charity places that offer next-to-nothing meals in many districts of Ho Chi Minh City is “Quán cơm Nụ Cười” (Smile Cafeteria). Each day, volunteers come to help this place cook and distribute around 400 entrees of food to the underprivileged. The simple meal with rice, meat and soup costs only VND2.000 which is a bit more than 8 U.S. cents. Such a low price helps bring a nutritious and full-filled lunch to these hard working individuals that they otherwise couldn’t afford.
The average cost each day to run the non-profit cafeteria, from grocery shopping to venue rent to cleaning utensils is obviously not cheap. Moreover, there is a big demand for volunteers who to cook, package or clean the dishes are very muched needed every day. Therefore, the organization relies heavily on donations and supports from volunteers to continue its efforts.
3. SOS Children Village internship in vietnam
Children at SOS Village in Go Vap district. Photo: vietstock.vn
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