Volunteering at Mai Chau was an amazing experience for me. I joined the Vina Volunteer Services which led by a group of young people who are full of energy and passion. The registration process was informal. I was a bit concerned about the safety before my arrival. I realized my worry is unnecessary. Mr. Nam Nguyen greeted me at the airport who is friendly, thorough and very well managed. The plus is that he speaks English very well. He explained the projects and provided valuable information. We had a pleasant and friendly conversation.
The next day I was transposed to Mai Chau. I was stunned by the view as I stepped out from the bus. I was surrounded by the green (rice fields) the blue (sky) and the smoky mountains (fog). The view was breathtaking and colorful. It is the true beauty of nature.
Ms. Xuan, the host of this stilt house where I stayed during the volunteer was waiting for me. Her husband helped me to carry the luggage to my room. Ms. Xuan is such a friendly woman. She speaks very little English but she tried everything to make sure I was comfortable and had what I need. A lunch was already prepared for me. After a long ride, I had no appetite to eat but the welcoming from Ms. Xuan and her husband, plus the fragrant from rice, I just couldn’t resist.
My assignment was to teach English in Mai Chau Elementary school. I was a bit nervous on the first day. I have no background of teaching so didn’t know what to teach or how to start. The kids speak minimum English but they were energetic and adorable. I bought some art supplies from home and so decided to let them do some art works. The works came out impressive. Their ideas were about friendships and loves. Some wanted to express their loves to teachers, some wished their parents didn’t have to work too hard, and some prayed the friendship could be forever. I touch them English words during the exercise. I biked to the school every Morning. I enjoyed spending time with these kids and I hope they had a happy moment with me too.
My other assignment was to teach English at the Hoa Ban shop. At first, I didn’t know who the students were. Ms. Xuan introduced me to a young lady, Ms. Cuc, she then introduced me to a group of young ladies. I was asked to teach them some English so they can socialize with tourists. The group had about six or seven girls who are disable. They were all living in one stilt house. Their daily works are sewing, weaving and selling products at Hoa Ban shop. I spent one hour every night with them. I touch them some basic English. They told me they use face expression and gesture to communicate to foreigners. These girls are lovely and hardworking. They shared some stories with me. I would never forget that beautiful smile from Hien, a young lady who lost her leg from the car accident happened just a month after her engagement. I believe she was 18. The groom’s family cancelled the marriage. I wonder what came through her mind when she heard the news. She moved to this stilt house so she can make a living with her weaving and sewing skills. Perhaps, accepting the fact helped ease the pain. Nonetheless, these ladies are brave and admirable. They told me some funny stories that when they misunderstood the foreigners said. I want to thank them for sharing their stories with me and I hope the positive things will come to their lives.
During the stays, Ms. Xuan was kind enough to show me around the neighborhood and explain the daily works of the farmers. I find it is interesting of learning the culture and tradition from others. I witnessed an arranged marriage when I was there. The boy’s family wanted him to settle down with a marriage. The girl that they wanted for arrangement lives on the other side of the valley. The distance is about 2 hours ride motorcycle. So, that early Morning, the boy’s family, (myself) went to the girl’s family for offering a deal. Two older woman did the talking. One told, they were negotiating. After a long conversation, the family members walked out with smile. Both families had reached a happy deal. The girl who was just turned 18, prepared a big meal to all members. I congratulated her. She looked shy and said “Thank you” with her pretty smile. I wished the happy deal brought the happiness to the couple forever.
Throughout these activities, I definitely earned many memorable experiences and they have changed me in the positive way. I believe, big contribution is great but small contribution makes the difference. Although this organization is small, the experiences I gained are great and the tasks were more than volunteering. I wanted to thank Vina Volunteer Service for giving me this opportunity. I truly hope the beauty of Mai Chau, both nature and the people will soon be recognized by the world