Alumni Spotlight: Anne Stuart Mitchener

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

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.