Volunteer experience at CVTD Vietnam

I stayed and worked here for several weeks and had a very fun and rewarding experience. The students are great! The staff is friendly and the food is good. You’ll typically have roommates from Vietnam, whom work for the organization, and then volunteers from all over the Western world (I lived with 2 Vietnamese girls; a German guy; and a girl from each France, England and Spain); super fun group atmosphere.

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If you’re looking to spend a few weeks or months saving money and/or doing some service work this is a nice place. The organization has a great mission beyond just the school and I suggest you look into helping them get their vision off the ground there in Northern Vietnam. Be aware that the volunteer apartment is about 45 minutes outside of Hanoi city, but the bus stop isn’t far.

Eric Warren Moffet

Teaching English experience

Whoops and cheers greeted us as we walked into the high school classroom. The wall of sound could have easily been for a rock star or the latest boy band. But it wasn’t – it was for us.To the students we were complete strangers from the West there to teach English. That, though, didn’t seem to matter in the slightest judging by the volume. Once the noise finally abated it was straight into the ice-breaking introduction. They say it is always good to start with a joke, so that is what I did. On the blackboard I wrote, ‘My name is Tom, not tôm.’

I am over six-foot tall (183cm). The Vietnamese word ‘Tôm’ means shrimp, so that line was guaranteed to raise a laugh. The hidden irony is that I am allergic to shrimp. The next move was to write-up on the board three statements about myself. Two were false and one was true. It was then up to the class to ask me questions and ascertain which of the statements was true. I won that game. Nobody believed I had two grown up daughters or that I had celebrated my 50th birthday. The most flattering estimate of my age was 25. Clearly, no one here has much practice with ageing Westerners.

After that it was onto the describing game where students took it in turns to pick out a slip of paper. On each slip was the name of an everyday object that the student had to describe to the class without saying the word or miming. That was fun and the class got quickly engaged in that activity and developing their speaking skills.

Lesson over it was time to pose for what seemed like dozens of photographs with students whom I towered over. Several of these pictures, I am quite sure, turned up on Facebook captioned, ‘This is me with a giant, sweaty Scotsman.’ I had a total blast. I was buzzing afterwards at what is probably the closest I will ever get to feeling like a celebrity!

It’s not all work and no play at CVTD Vietnam. Time off is more than ample to go exploring the local area or travelling together to places of interest. While I was with CVTD Vietnam (late 2014) we visited a pagoda as a group and had a chilled out time in the ornate gardens. As soon as you cross through the gateway there is an aura of peace and calm. It is like stepping from everyday reality into another gentler realm where the mundane concerns of life are banished and there’s a deep sense of tranquility.

After teaching English from kindergarten to teens and factory workers, it was refreshing to have some down time with my fellow volunteers to simply clear our heads and relax. Feeding the fish and watching butterflies dance from flower to flower became our focus. Sauntering through the gardens revealed a new haven of blissful retreat at every turn. Indeed, the whole experience was intensely uplifting and quite spiritual.

I struck up a friendship with one of the Buddhist monks. He is indisputably the calmest, wisest person I have ever met. He exuded a serenity and
imperturbability you rarely, if ever, encounter in today’s full throttle,  high pressure consumerist era of modern living. There was much to learn from him. I suspect I may now be on a personal quest for inner peace. Even if it is only a fraction of the calmness I witnessed within that monk, I will, I am sure, have grown into a better person thanks to him and the opportunities afforded to me by the CVTD Vietnam.

Thomas Edgar


A voluntary work at Hanoi, Vietnam

There are places that have a too strong history and a so different culture from your own that could not be discover only on a journey.

That was what I felt about Vietnam. I wanted to know Southeast Asia and Vietnam was the place that most caught my attention. Anyway, I doubted if this was the place that suited me to spend some time living, considering how rich and interesting is the culture in Southeast Asia and the amount of wonderful places that have to be discovered.


One day, while I was planing my future months somewhere in the south of Asia, I received an email from a portal with international programs in which I was pointed saying ‘VOLUNTARY WORK IN VIETNAM‘ as the subject. In the mail there were more offers of interesting projects, and all of them in Europe and was such a chance that what it came prominent in the email subject was Vietnam, that I decided to contact with the organization that was proposing this voluntary work program.

The deal offered by this NGO in Hanoi city was that volunteers helped children and youth in the suburbs of the city to learn English and in exchange, the organization gave you a place to sleep and food. Actually, they gave something more important that they did not say in the offer of the project: the opportunity to learn the Vietnamese culture. And I, as a journalist I am, there is nothing that fascinates me more when I go to a new place than knowing well the local customs.

After convincing myself for the opportunity, I flew towards Hanoi, where I stayed with a family, the sister of one of the members of the organization, with her husband and her three young children. I don’t deny that it wasn’t hard at the beginning. The cultural shock was strong. In Vietnam there are few people who speak English and, what is more difficult is that many basic gestures with hands don’t always mean the same in all cultures, so most of the time was impossible to understand.

And in many cases, voluntary workers felt strongly that the woman from the family where we lived didn’t want to have us there, until one day, thanks to a neighbor who worked as a translator, we realized that it was not like that at all. There were many more cultural shocks, inevitably, and uncomfortable in many occasions.
Nevertheless, the experience payed off. I had 12 years old students learning very fast, and another group of adults who, with time (it was not so easy to know things when you questioned them by the large language barrier that exists in Vietnam) I knew that they were young rural immigrants from Vietnam, and they had moved to the outskirts of Hanoi, where they studied at night at a school created for workers.

They worked in large factories as Panasonic or Canon creating cameras and smartphones for consumption in the West. In other words, these workers, exploited in the name of communism, which appear on television and we are shocked by their working conditions, were my students, young adorable teenagers, all under 20, with their heads full of dreams and to reach a better future. It was like this because after 10 or 12 hours of daily work, always stood, were attending to night school and were searching three hours free in their weekends to learn English.

In other words, although what the organization proposed to me was that I would teach in exchange for a room and food, what I got was much more: new friends, knowledge of new customs and cultures, learning to handle different situations and, above all, the unconditional love of a people born in other points of the globe, with whom I still keep in touch.

Bárbara Becares
(CVTD’s volunteer)