Vina Volunteer Service (VVS)

Program Reviews

Keith
Keith
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

The administration was very effective , with guidance when needed.
The homestay accommodation was very satisfactory , overlooking a beautiful thatched old house.

The food that Ms Xuan prepared was excellent and varied . My only regret was that she produced it in such vast amounts that I was unable to do it justice. She refused to reduce the servings because she said they had plenty but I dislike any waste. My only consolation was that at least my leftovers went to the pig!
I enjoyed the work although some activities had the feel of attempting to give me an experience rather than truly adding to the produce of the farm . For instance , when I was cutting forage for livestock sometimes there would be other people not being productive because we had only bought one tool.
In the second week much of the vegetable gardening had been completed. I volunteered myself to help a neighbour moving sacks , helped construct a buffalo shed and even worked on the foundations of a new house. Here I felt I was being useful and relished the variety,
The landscape around the homestay is stunning and I was happy to make my own discoveries. I found the 1000 steps cave in Mai Chau and was amazed. I visited the waterfalls of Go Loa which were also spectacular.
Although Ms Xuan gave me some local leaflets , it was pure chance I came across the caves and I only found out about Go Loa by talking to a tour guide who visited the homestay one night.

I rank the experience as 5 stars and the friendliness of the people I met certainly contributed to that. I was offered hospitality in people’s homes almost on first acquaintance.

Many thanks and Best wishes for the project

Default avatar
Hibi
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

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

Default avatar
Hibi
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

It’s Hibi from England. I’m here with Vina Volunteer Service. It was beautiful for 2 weeks. Living with the homestay family with Ms Xuan. Living with the family allow you go out, working in the field, collect the snails, fishing, local traditional fishing, visiting the market which is really convenient . With the homestay, you can live with the family and eat with them which is really fantastic, absolutely beautiful . I lost too much weigh. Very comfortable because the woman They usually get up very early to start their work and about 10.00, 11.00 o’clock they rest. And then go back out around 2, 3 o’clocks. Very very beautiful people, very friendly, patient teaching me the language, Thai language and Vietnamese. I really recommend doing this volunteer in Vietnam organic farming project

Default avatar
David
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

I really could not have asked for more from my two week trip to Vietnam for this internship. Everything was organised by Vina Volunteer Service from helping me with my visa to collecting me from the airport upon arrival which made me feel safe and relaxed about travelling to such an unfamiliar destination. The place I had chosen to visit was Mai Chau in Northern Vietnam where I was hoping to make a difference to local businesses and use my skills to help some of the members of the local community. As soon as I arrived, I was awestruck by the beauty of Mai Chau and it’s phenomenally green mountains and surroundings. Once I had found my bags, I was greeted by the friendly locals and shown to my accommodation where I was welcomed by a wonderful lady named Xuan. Every problem seemed too small for her, and Xuan insisted on making me meals and guiding me around the local area to show me the market and farm land before I began work for the day.

When I started work the next day I began getting to know the locals and what it was like living in a village like Mai Chau. Although their equipment was a little different to what I was used to, I was able to use my skills as a designer to help develop some interesting publications to promote Mai Chau and the area. Every day was a fantastic experience and the prospect of working with these people made me excited to go to work again the following day.

My work as graphic designer included designing creative blog templates, updating the Facebook page and website to entice more tourists and promote Mai Chau, and also work closely with the creative director on several marketing and sales projects that really helped me develop my skills as a graphic designer. The most exciting part of the internship was sketching and developing my own designs for a banner campaign which is now in the process of being printed. Initially I was very nervous about speaking in front of people and pitching my ideas for the campaigns but the creative director was so helpful and supportive that I have become so confident and relaxed when speaking in public about my work. Whilst we were working, I also got to hear a lot of interesting stories about the history of the White Thai people and their traditions including the origin of their group and the Vietnamese customs which I looked into a little more in depth at the local Thai museum.

My favourite experience of Mai Chau was the campfire celebrations where I witnessed the traditional ‘Xoe-Hoa’ dances and experienced authentic home cooked Thai cuisine which was some of the best food I have ever tasted. The Thai people are so warm and friendly that they made me feel like I was at home right away and an honorary member of their community. From the staff working in Mai Chau to the organisers at Vina Volunteer Service I really could find no fault in the trip they provided me with and I would absolutely recommend this internship to any designers who want to gain a unique experience that will help you stand out to prospective employers when applying for positions in the future.

Default avatar
Alexander
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Ms Xuan is the host of Home Stay , where I stayed for two weeks for organic farming placement with Vina Volunteer Service. You could not ask for a more generous and hospitable host.

With Ms Xuan guidance, I participated in the daily routine of “Thai Community Life” gaining a first hand and intimate experience of the Thai Culture.

Mai Chau is a truly tranquil and peaceful setting guaranteed to help you relax, slow down and connect with nature. The Thai people are very happy, peaceful and contented, welcoming you into their homes with offers of green tea or rice wine depending on the time of day.

Highlights for me were:

Working in the fields: cutting grass for buffalo – weeding corn – harvesting rice

Collecting snails – fishing

Learning and cooking Thai food

Tending buffalo

Exploring the community by bike

Learning more about Thai Culture at the local museum

Checking out the local and surrounding markets

Exploring the Limestone Cave

Practicing English/Vietnamese with girls from Hoa Ban (neighbors 2 doors down, weaving and embroidery of traditional Thai patterns and clothing)

David from Vina Volunteer Service did a fantastic job organising my entire trip, introducing me to the community, organising all transportation and was topped off with 2 day trip to Halong Bay at the end.

I can not recommend an organic farming project in Mai Chau enough, this is one of the unique places in the world where you can come to recharge your soul.

Default avatar
Rachael
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

My trip to Mai Chau was my first time in Vietnam and also my first volunteering experience which turned into a memorable adventure. Everything was taken care of by David at Vina Volunteers who made sure I had my visa, transportation and accommodation taken care of as well as making sure someone met me to take me to my hotel in Hanoi upon arrival in Vietnam. David also made sure I had plenty of information regarding Vietnamese culture and general advice on visiting Vietnam.
I stayed with Xuan during my Ecotourism and Community Development program after spending a few days sightseeing in Hanoi and was pleased to be welcomed into her clean, comfortable home in the beautiful green village of Ban Luc. I spent several days with David and Xuan on treks to remote areas outside of Mai Chau where we met and ate with Thai and Hmong people in their villages before returning back to Mai Chau to work on writing content for my project. I particularly enjoyed taking part in the daily routine where I got the chance to eat meals with Xuan, take time out with the locals after lunch and explore the local areas on foot in the afternoon.
For anyone wishing to truly experience Vietnam and participate in living like a local, I would absolutely recommend choosing this homestay project. The families are welcoming and will quickly introduce you to their way of living which will provide you with a true insight into Vietnamese people and their customs.

Default avatar
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

This was my first experience working as a volunteer and it did not disappoint. David from Vina Volunteer is an enthusiastic and intelligent man who ensured the entire process ran smoothly. He arranged for my visa, ensured I was greeted at the airport and transferred to my hotel in Hanoi and provided a lot of helpful advice regarding visiting Vietnam.

I undertook the “Ecotourism and Community Development”. After having a few days to explore Hanoi I was met by David at my hotel and we took a bus to the village of Mai Chau to begin our work. Upon arrival at our homestay I met Xuan, a forty eight year old woman who would be my host. Her homestay is clean and comfortable and I was made to feel at home immediately.

The next five days were spent trekking to more remote areas; David, Xuan and I visited different villages of ethnic minority groups including White Thai and Hmong people. David is passionate about developing tourism in the region in a way that benefits the local people. We enjoyed the warm hospitality of the village people and shared many beautiful meals on our journey.

Once the trekking was completed we returned to Mai Chau where I spent the next week editing various documents. David is in the process of developing a website to promote the homestays and treks. I was able to settle into a routine of working on writing content in the mornings, enjoying lunch with Xuan, partaking in the customary post lunch siesta, and taking strolls around the village in the late afternoon.

I highly recommend this program for anyone wishing to immerse themself in the culture of Vietnam. It is rare to be able to live like a local and I enjoyed the experience greatly.

Default avatar
Melinda
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Dear David and Trong

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to learn about the real Vietnam. Of all the tours we went on this was the best. We really liked the personal nature of our guides and how all the experiences were hands-on. Please thank the host family for their generosity; it was fantastic to share a day in their life. They were extremely friendly and patient while we learned and practiced farming, travelling and cooking techniques. We especially enjoyed the bicycle ride, working in the rice fields, preparing a Vietnamese meal and laughing with our hosts. We hope your tours continue to be successful. We will definitely recommend this tour to our friends.

Best wishes,

Melinda and Julie

Wagga Wagga, Australia

7th January 2013

Default avatar
Akiko
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

From the end of October to the beginning of November, I joined a volunteer program “Preserve natural Resources and help communities in Sapa” organized by Vina Volunteer Service for 7 days.

The reason why I decided to join the program was that I was interested in a volunteer work in overseas as well as I wanted to visit Sapa after I saw a beautiful picture of Sapa on the Internet.

In Sapa, I stayed with a local family in Tavan Village. The family welcomed me warmly. They served three meals of local food for me which were so delicious. Sometimes I helped them prepare the meals, which was a good experience for me.

From Hanoi to Sapa, and during my stay in Sapa, a supporter from VVS helped me all the way (interpreting, planning a daily schedule ete.) It was very helpful for me as I can’t speak Vietnamese and I wasn’t familiar with the area.

My typical daily life was that trekking in the morning (in and around the village), and volunteer work in the afternoon.

As for the trekking, one of the family members guided for us. During trekking, I met local people from several ethnic groups, and saw local houses, many kinds of flowers, trees, animals and so on. Thanks to the family member and the supporter, I was able to see the inside of several houses and to know their life closely.

And importantly, I enjoyed Sapa’s very beautiful scenery. The area is surrounded by mountains and many terraced fields pictures I had seen. This is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to.

As for the volunteer work, I planted trees and vegetables, and watered them. Also, I picked fruits and vegetables.

During the stay, I realized the local’s life is very simple. They build their house by themselves, grow vegetables, fruits and rice, feed animals, and catch fish for their meal. I thought they are very good at taking dvantage of natural resources and I respect it. Although quite a few families seemed poor, their house are small and unclean, some of them have no electricity or water in the house; they still have nice smiles and warm hearts, which are missing in people living in big cities.

I hope more volunteers join this program to help these people live better life.

Lastly, I was satisfied with this volunteer program and I’d like to join again whenever I can take a vacation. I think this program helps the communities as well as gives volunteers a very valuable experience.

From 28 October to 3 November 2012