GVN - Vietnam Volunteer Program

By GVN   Reviews (6)   90% Rating

Are you crazy about kids? Do you want to support them in building a brighter future?

The Global Volunteer Network currently has volunteer opportunities for you to care for street children, orphans, and children with disabilities.

Placements start on the 1st and 15th of every month and include a range of projects to suit all interests, skills and experience.

In the Children's Program, volunteers will help with the day-to-day care of children living in homes in Hanoi. This includes teaching English, bathing, feeding, dressing, playing with and general interaction. There is also the opportunity in this program for volunteers to run extra-curricular activities where appropriate.

Volunteers in the Teaching Program will be teaching English to students and teachers at various levels.

A number of our programs work with disabled children and people, so our programs are always in need of those with skills in occupational therapy, physiotherapy and nursing.

Program Info

  • VietnamHanoi
Program Length: 
2-4 weeks
1-3 months
3-6 months
See site for details.
See Additional Information
Cost Description: 

It is free to apply with GVN. If your application is successful you we will then get to work organizing your placement and we will send further detail on your placement with information on how to prepare for your trip abroad. A variety of payment options up to 8 weeks before your placement starts.

The in-country fee covers administrative charge, placement arrangement, accommodation, food, transportation for volunteers, and supervision.

Guest House
Participants travel to the program independently (not in a group with other participants).
Online Application
Language Requirement

Program Reviews (6)

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  • Luke
    Age: 31-50
    Chicago, Illinois
    University of Colorado- Boulder
    Ba Vi Vietnam

    I spent 11 weeks at the orphanage in Ba Vi. The orphanage is home to some 200 disabled kids of all ages.

    The local program staff are excellent. They are committed to helping the kids at the center and are willing to help volunteeres with all questions or concerns, no matter how small or big. They are concerned about volunteers' experience and work hard to help overcome any challenges volunteers encounter. They are also very helpful to arrange for any travel around Vietnam and to recommend where to visit.

    I spent most of my time at the center feeding, changing, playing with, teaching, and building relationships with the kids. Volunteers are able to take on some bigger projects, such as taking children with serious health issues to see doctors nearby in Hanoi, but all of these projects require approval from the government appointed directors of the orphanage.

    Overall the experience was unforgettable and extremely positive. Despite some difficult living conditions, the kids are eager to get to know new people and try new things. They find happiness and love for each other and for incoming volunteers. It is among the most inspirational things I have ever seen.

    Difficulties encountered included the initial shock of seeing the condition of the kids -- some of whom are very underdeveloped for their age -- and the conditions at the center -- the center has few resources to treat kids with severe disabilities. After the initial shock faded, the conditions only made the experience more important and more valuable. It's clear that the center needs all the help it can get, and whatever volunteers are willing to give is gratefully received by the kids.

    I would recommend visiting Ba Vi if you want a volunteer experience that requires you to step outside yourself and experience a way of life that is far different from what most volunteers are used to. The love you give and work you do for the kids will be rewarded ten-fold through their joy.

    How could this program be improved?

    I would ask that more information be provided before the program begins about the current state of the country. The information provided about the weather, services available, food, water, lodging, etc. was great but I found a deficit of information about Vietnamese culture and the mental attitudes that shape the country. It's not easy to explain these issues but some primer before arriving would be very helpful.

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  • Ellie_W
    Age: 19-24
    University of Adelaide
    A truely amazing experience

    I first visited Vietnam in 2011 where I met a guy who had been volunteering with GVN. Just seeing the work that they were doing made a huge impression on me and I always said I would go back. Two years later I was given that opportunity. Teaching English in Vietnam with no previous teaching experience was an incredibly challenging experience but well worth it! The in country staff are so helpful and are always there when you need them. Even now, I am still getting updates on the progress of the students that I taught and how they are progressing. You will be surprised at just how much of a difference one person can make. I'm still just as inspired as I was my first trip and hope that one day I may return and volunteer again.

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  • BJ
    Age: 31-50
    hong kong (but french nationality)
    Everyone can contribute!

    I was worried before going that I may not have relevant skills to really contribute to the projects or to the well being of local kids, but the program volunteers were very helpful to find the right placements for me and match my expectations and constraints (only two weeks in Hanoi / 3 months pregnant) with the needs of the different programs. I spent time at school with young children facing challenge of autism, and taught english at another school for young adults facing divers challenges in life. I also visited on week end an orphanage to bring them some second hand plush, musical toys from my daughter and some other toys I had bought in the local supermarkets. I couldn't do a lot in only two weeks but I am very sure that all kids, teens, teachers and volunteers do appreciate any kind of help and support. I think that they can see the other participant's appreciation of their contribution, they feel stronger in their own commitment and continue this critical work long after short term volunteers like me have left. I also learnt a lot from other volunteers I met: their passion, their generosity, their strength were a great lesson to me.

    How could this program be improved?

    not much follow up after program is possible. For those who got involved a long time, maybe it's frustrating not having a blog or facebook page to keep receiving news from the local team but also from the local program, know how the kids are doing, what's the status of this or that project... that could also be a way to encourage donation or ad hoc support when needed after the placement and possibly encourage the volunteers to join again.

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  • asmitchener
    Age: 19-24
    Spartanburg, South Carolina
    Best Experience of my Life

    I first volunteered with GVN in Vietnam when I was 18 years old. I was fresh out of high school and was about to embark on a trip of a lifetime. I had no idea what to expect and had never traveled abroad alone before. As my plane left the ground at home in America I immediately became nervous about the journey I was about to start. After flight delays, illnesses and one hell of a long flight I was finally in DaNang where I was to be picked up by GVN. The second I was entered the house in DaNang all of my anxiety went away and I immediately felt at home. Little did I know I was beginning a life changing experience. I would recommend GVN to anyone. I have since been back to vietnam twice and am about to go back this summer for a third time. Vietnam holds a special place in my heart and I have GVN to thank for that.

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  • Aroha
    Age: 31-50
    Tuy Hoa Vietnam

    The operations staff at GVN's partner organization were fantastic. So welcoming and empathetic and incredibly hard working. The staff in NZ were great too but sometimes a little slow to reply to requests for information or help once i was out in Vietnam. I could have done without the 40 odd emails that were sent to me by GVN prior to departure...not enough time to read them all! The main difficulty i encountered were lack of other volunteers to bond with. There were only 2 volunteers there (a couple) who were not very social and spent most of their time locked in their room. Thank goodness for the Vietnamese staff who were great company! Overall a fantastic experience and even though i initially felt thrown in at the deep end (thought i would be looking after babies but ended up mostly teaching) i am really glad i did it and it has inspired me to find a job within the chairty sector. Keep up the great work GVN!

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  • Michelle
    Age: 31-50
    Nelson, New Zealand
    University of Otago
    Vietnam - Love you long time

    I went with GVN to vietnam back in 2005 when the program was in it's early stages. Now in 2011 6 years later I still think of the kids and my time in vietnam and the people that I spent that time with. The housing was basic in NZ standards, but high in Vietnam. We were well looked after, driven to our placements, all our meals paid for and the weekends off. All the staff of GVN were amazing and the other poeple from all around the world were fantastic as we all had the same reasons for being there, doing our little part for the better of the world. GVN is a great way to back pack around the world with a differnce and the feeling that you are getting ivolved and learning more of the society you are in than just travelling through. I still think of the kids and wonder where they are now, and how the programis going. I miss you all and will love you all forever, the experience will remain with me till the end of my time. I just hope that I can do it all again in the future.

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Alumni Interviews

  • What led you to volunteer with GVN in Vietnam?

    Luke Glisan with child at GVN orphanage in Ba Vi in Vietnam

    Luke: I wanted to visit Vietnam and do something other than a tourist sightseeing experience. I had enough time to travel where I felt I could try to settle in somewhere and do volunteer work. A friend suggested I look into GVN and everything I found online looked good.

    GVN put me in touch with the local group that runs the volunteer program, and I felt really good from all the interaction I had with them. They got back to me quickly answering all of my questions, were really friendly, and were clearly dedicated to all of their projects.

    The local partner said their highest need opportunity was at an orphanage in Ba Vi about 60 km west of Hanoi that is home to about 200 disabled children. Since I was going to a totally new place across the world I figured why not go for it and I signed up for Ba Vi.

    I signed up for 4 weeks. I ended up staying for 11. Going to Ba Vi was a really great decision that led to so many new friends and amazing experiences.

    What was the most rewarding moment of the experience?

    Two of the kids hugging when one had a bad day
    Two of the kids hugging when one had a bad day

    Luke: It's so hard to pick one moment from having holiday dinners at local families' homes, making friends from all over the world, and the morning dance parties with the kids to start our day. But right at the top of the list has to be the day Nam, a 19 year old boy at the orphanage, walked on his own while he smiled and clapped his hands.

    Nam has severe cerebral palsy, and possibly other mental or physical disabilities. He's probably a little under 5 feet tall and weighs about 60 lbs. He had been able to walk a few steps on his own before, and more than a few steps with help from a volunteer. But he hadn't been able to make much progress.

    Then one warm sunny day, as I was holding Nam up while he slowly walked outside his room, he let go of my hand and started walking on his own. Nam's face lit up. I could feel his pride.

    Then he started clapping as he walked. It was pure joy and we were both loving the moment.

    Another memorable experience was arranging to take Baby Duong, a 3 month old with a seriously oversized cranium, to a hospital in Hanoi to see a neurosurgeon. Duong was a trooper undergoing x rays, blood tests, a physical exam, and an MRI to determine if he was a candidate for surgery.

    Unfortunately he was diagnosed with a rare condition not appropriate for surgery or other life extending treatment (hydranencyphaly). While Duong won't get helpful medical care, we learned how to help make him comfortable, and his spirit was so powerful that doctors in Hanoi now know about the orphanage and have offered to see other kids.

    Duong offered more hope for better medical care in the future and inspired many people around him to give what time, money, or skills they have to help other kids at the orphanage. I think of these moments often -- the good and the bad -- and feel an overwhelming desire to go back to Ba Vi the next chance I get.

    Tell us about one person you met you will never forget.

    An unstoppable smile and joy of playing outside
    An unstoppable smile and joy of playing outside

    Luke: Ngoc, a 21 year old girl who lives at the orphanage, is a friend for life. Ngoc is more capable than the 18 roommates she lives with at the center and she goes out of her way every day to help them.

    Be it changing, feeding, helping to use the bathroom, or having fun outside while they play, Ngoc loves her roommates and devotedly tries to makes their lives a little brighter.

    Every day I looked forward to arriving at the center and seeing Ngoc's smile, usually when she ran down the entry path to meet me.

    Ngoc and I don't speak the same language (not much of it anyway) and grew up in very different places but we have a very deep friendship. I stay in touch with Ngoc through other volunteers at the orphanage and even halfway across the world she still puts a huge smile on my face.

    Has your worldview changed as a result of this experience?

    A young girl improving her walking as others cheer
    A young girl improving her walking as others cheer

    Luke: Most definitely. The volunteer experience immersed me in the culture and allowed me to get to know many Vietnamese people and learn about their lives. I can't think of a better way to experience another country.

    I learned that even though we have a lot of differences in our day-to-day lives, at the core, I am so similar to my Vietnamese friends.

    I also learned more than a few things about overcoming challenges. I was shocked to see some of the severe physical and mental disabilities the kids have. That feeling quickly changed to complete awe at how the kids make the most of everything they have.

    Living in a disability orphanage in Vietnam doesn't allow for much complaining. It also doesn't allow for pity. Neither of those emotions do much good.

    The kids showed me incredible strength that I had never seen before to make the most of any situation and find the good in your surroundings. I think of them often for guidance when I have a decision to make and it helps me focus on what is really important to me.

    Any tips for first-time volunteers in Vietnam?

    Luke: Vietnam has a strong culture built on more than 1,000 years of history. I recommend traveling to Vietnam with an open mind willing to learn and try new things.

    You'll definitely have an opportunity to share your culture with new friends but it goes both ways. If you have an open mind going in, you'll be able to get so much more out of the experience.

    Also, don't eat the little hot peppers that you see in sauce jars on most restaurant tables. And whatever you do, take the homemade rice wine in small servings.

  • Tell us a little about yourself.

    Anne: I am from Charlotte, North Carolina. I currently attend Wofford Colelge in Spartanburg, South Carolina and am working to finish up my Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology. I first volunteered in the summer of 2009 when I was 18 years old. I am now 21 years old and go back to Vietnam as much as I can. It holds a special place in my heart and I have GVN to thank for helping me find that piece of my heart.

    volunteer in Vietnam with GVN
    Anne had a great time volunteering with children

    Why did you decide to volunteer with GVN in Vietnam?

    Anne: I had heard about GVN through a few friends and knew someone who had been to Vietnam with GVN the summer before. I really wanted to go abroad for the summer and immerse myself into something completely unknown and unfamiliar so I chose Vietnam. It was an amazing experience and I am SO glad I chose GVN Vietnam.

    Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.

    Anne: I have been to Vietnam through GVN twice. The first time I went I was in the Tuy Hoa placement which is a small fishing village about 8 hours from DaNang. Volunteers were all placed in a house together and every day we alternated going to various placements in Tuy Hoa. Our placements were: Social Protection Center (SPC), Highschool, Little School, Fishing Village School, College and a Special Needs school.

    SPC was an orphanage for kids with Cerebral Palsy and Hydrocephalus and other life altering diseases. We would go get the kids out of bed and do physical therapy and just play with them and help out the house-mothers. At the High school and College we taught English classes. Little School and Fishing Village school were elementary schools we went to teach basic English to the kids and provide them with a healthy snack and milk as well as just play fun games with them. At the special needs school, majority of the kids were deaf and very interested in art. We taught art classes and helped them express themselves through various projects. Every night, all of the volunteers went together to teach an English class at a building downtown to the local street children and provided them with a healthy snack, we called this "Home of Affection."

    What advice do you have for future volunteers?

    Anne: If you are debating whether or not to volunteer through GVN, or any program really... DO IT. It was the best experience of my life and I am truly a completely changed person because of it.

    As far as advice for your actual time volunteering I would say don't be timid or shy, go into it with full force and make the biggest difference you can with the short time you are there for. Time goes by fast, and you don't want to feel any sort of regrets.

    How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?

    Anne: Volunteering with GVN Vietnam has completely changed my life. I first volunteered with them in the summer of 2009. It is now 2012 and I am still close with the people I volunteered with, or even some local friends I met while in Vietnam and continue to go back to Vietnam regularly. When people ask me to describe my volunteer experience all I can say is that it has changed me forever. My decision to volunteer summer of 2009 was just to do something fun for the summer; I had NO IDEA what an impact it was going to have on my life.

    Professionally it has also impacted my future. I am a psychology major, focusing on clinical and child psychology. After undergrad and grad school I hope to return to Vietnam and help the kids there even more. I also hope to one day work for a non profit or a youth volunteer program.

About the provider

Our vision is to connect people with communities in need. We do this by supporting the work of local community organisations in countries through the placement of international volunteers.

At GVN we align with the idea of 'local solutions to local problems', so we work with local community organizations in each country. We believe that local communities are in the best position to determine their needs, and we provide volunteers to help them achieve their goals.

The Global Volunteer Network (GVN) is a New Zealand Charitable Trust (non-profit NGO) based in Wellington, New Zealand.

Why do we do it?
"We believe in inspiring learning, innovation, and action to unlock the potential of vulnerable communities around the world."

GVN places volunteers in Asia, South America, and Africa and has fundraising treks to Everest Base Camp, Mt Kilimanjaro, and Machu Picchu; along with specialist tours such as the Youth Tour for 15-17 year olds, and our Young At Heart Tour.