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.