The 2015/16 project was the second year of a 2-year project partnering with “The Children’s Initiative” (TCI). The project destination was once again Catdang – a small village 2 hours away from the city of Hanoi in Vietnam.
By working closely with TCI, we were able to successfully hold our 9-day service trip from 3rd – 11th September, 2016. 28 volunteers took part in the trip, and spent the week teaching in the village. We are immensely pleased to see that many of our volunteers were inspired by their week of teaching experience. Students and teachers at Catdang also enjoyed our presence throughout the week, and appreciated the unique opportunity to practice their English with foreigners.
Before the service trip, the committee went on a pre-trip in early August. Committee members visited the schools in Catdang to finalize teaching plans with the teachers, and confirmed that the arrangements for accommodation, sightseeing, transport and catering were ready for the actual trip.
Two pre-trip workshops were held in Hong Kong. In these workshops, committee members briefed the volunteers on the logistics of the trip, and volunteers spent time preparing a 2-hour teaching plan on a subject of their own choice. This included water rockets, egg-drop parachutes, map reading, sports, team building, music and arts. Each teaching plan comprises of a teaching component, to give students the theoretical grounding, and a set of hands-on activity, to put the taught material into action. Through these lessons, we hope to enrich the students’ knowledge and teach them English from an angle different to their usual English classes.
When it came to the service trip in September, we were invited to the schools’ opening ceremonies on the first day of our visit, as it was also the first day of the school year at Vietnam. Our volunteers sat through the ceremonies as guests, and thoroughly enjoyed the students’ music and dance performances.
During the week, volunteers were split into groups to teach at three Middle Schools and one High School. At the Middle Schools, volunteers assisted teachers in Grade 6 to 9 English classes in the morning. Teachers and students made use of this opportunity to listen to our volunteers’ pronunciation of English words. In the afternoon, our volunteers conducted the extra-curricular lessons they prepared. On the other hand, mornings at the High School were spent teaching students grammar and conducting further exercises in pronunciation. Volunteers then held Public Speaking workshops in the afternoon, targeting to boost the students’ confidence in speaking English in front of an audience.
Fundraising: Building a Library
In addition to a week of teaching, we also completed CHOICE’s two-year fundraising project for the construction of a library at a local Primary School. Every year, CHOICE aims to provide infrastructural support to villages we visit, and having liaised TCI, the previous committee found out that the Primary School in Catdang was in much need of a library. A total of USD16,950 was raised by the previous and current committees to build the library complex from scratch, covering the cost of building materials, labour and furniture. The library is now fully furbished and ready for use.
All volunteers visited the library during the trip and were warmly welcomed by the headmaster, teachers, and students. We sincerely hope that the establishment of library would make their school a better learning environment and could encourage students to read more and become enthusiastic, self-motivated learners.
Although we had only spent a week teaching students at Catdang, we believe our short stay can make a lasting impact.
For the local students at Vietnam, as they follow a rigid syllabus set by Vietnam’s Ministry of Education, they see education as a rushed, daily routine, with the only goal being to do well in exams. We hope that our teaching demonstrated that education could be an enjoyable experience, and thus inspire them to take their education more seriously.
Teachers were keen to learn from CHOICE volunteers too. They carefully observed our innovative teaching techniques and noticed how it helped to engage the class in a fun way, and how it improved the quality and efficiency of teaching. They expressed that they will try to adopt some of our methods in their future lessons.
A learning experience
As for our CHOICE volunteers, it was rewarding experience for us all; everyone was inspired in some way. Many came to understand the importance of children’s education in developing countries, and are happy to support similar charity work in the future. Some volunteers also came to realize how simple happiness can actually be – many students at Catdang can enjoy themselves from launching water rockets for an entire afternoon with friends, without mobile phones or any other forms of technology.
The success of this service trip is the fruition of the tremendous amount effort put in by committee members and volunteers, as well as all the support we received in the past year. Whilst the trip may have come to an end, CHOICE’s endeavor to make a positive influence to international children’s education does not stop here. As the saying goes, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, this is but our first baby steps towards making wider-reaching and more sustainable impacts in the future.