Boys choose to give rather than take in Vietnam

In Australia ‘schoolies’ is a welcomed phenomenon; a place where recent high school graduates can go to ‘lose themselves’ to partying and everything in between.

But fear not, change is in the air. I recently experienced this change when a group of 14 high school students decided to save up some cash and instead of ‘losing themselves’ they traveled to Vietnam for three weeks to give of their time to a few poor communities.

Not only did they save money to pay for their plane tickets, they paid for a few houses to be built in two separate villages.The first stop was a hot and humid village in the Mekong Delta, My Son, and the second was a cold, dry town in the highlands outside of Saigon, K’Long.

 

A few of the boys helped fix a road in the poor village in K'Long

A few of the boys helped fix a road in the poor village in K’Long

In My Son, we worked closely with Fr. Joseph, an energetic parish priest who among his countless duties looks after extensive repairs needed for the houses of poorer residents.The harsh conditions of the Mekong quickly weather away the poor quality wood used in the more basic houses. Indeed, one house we repaired had partially collapsed! Using money which the boys had raised throughout the year, we purchased timber corrugated aluminium and built new exteriors for five houses. This far more durable material will last many decades longer than the original flimsy timber walls.
Dom Digi

Dom uses a pipe as a didgeridoo.

Group Waterfall

The group poses in front of a waterfall near Da’Lat.

We were more ambitious when in the cool mountain town of K’Long. There we set about building a whole new house for one of the poorer residents, in addition to two amenities blocks for general use. We recruited the help of some local artisans, and with them built and rendered the walls for the new house, constructed the roof, and built a bathroom.

For the last two days of the camp we headed back to Saigon. Preparations for the Tet Festival (the Vietnamese Lunar New Year celebration) were in full swing. We saw many of the amazing floats and floral displays being prepared in the main streets, though unfortunately we had to leave before the big day itself.

As we all know Vietnam lacked certain freedoms for many years and to some extent still does. Facebook is officially banned (although most people still use it) and when it comes to a lack of freedom of religion, the Catholic Church is told how many men it can ordain each year.

So it’s still worth keeping the vibrant country in your thoughts and prayers.

By  Xavier Symons (Seb James added a few gems).

Dom Sitting
Dom O’Brien leads the way in the poor village of K’Long.

 

Landscape

Natural surrounds of K’Long.

Spiteri in Hole

Michael Spiteri posing inside one of the septic tanks we were building.