I volunteered two weeks at a pagoda in Ho Chi Minh City painting walls and fences and organizing activities for children. It all sounds like such a rewarding activity and a great way to give back to the comunity. However, the organization of this workcamp was a complete disaster.
The campleader was very unorganized and very close minded. We wasted time every single morning waiting for materials. We would get to the pagoda by 9 am and we would wait for him to bring breakfast. Then we would wait for him to bring the paint. Then we would work for an hour or so and we would eat at 11:30am. Have rest time until 2 pm. Wait for more materials, work some more, be at the hotel by 4:30 and stay there until dinner time which was at 7 pm. We had so much time doing absolutely nothing just because he did not have the materials ready for us.
Not only that, but on our first day with the children, we were very unorganized and we felt very stupid in front of them. So after that first day we had a meeting with the camp leader and organized a whole lesson for first grade (because that's the grade that we had that first day). Next morning, we show up and we have a new set of 4-5 graders instead of the 1st graders that we had the day before. The campleader worked with us organizing the lesson and never told us that we would be working with bigger kids. Imagine our frustration!!
On our other activities with the children, the volunteers would share ideas about what kind of activities to do with the children, but he would just do it his way and not even consider the ideas that we presented.
We (volunteers) tried to stay very positive and at times I thought that maybe it was some kind of cultural difference. But we had two local vietnamese volunteers and there was tension and frustration within them too. After the first week, I emailed the workcamp coordinator expressing our frustration. She said that she will come by the next day, and so she did. But nothing changed. She was very rude and didn't even say: "Hi! How's everyone doing?" She just stood there talking in Vietnamese with other people and didn't even look at us.
I STRONGLY DO NOT RECOMMEND ANYONE TO VOLUNTEER WITH SJ VIETNAM.
But please do so with other organizations or in other countries because working with children and helping them is a great way to give back to the community. I am planning on doing another workcamp in the future. It was a terrible experience for some of the volunteers because they do not want to ever do another workcamp, but I think that this workcamp was just a very bad first impression for a first time workcamper.