Vietnam 2015-16 Trip


 

The Vietnam Workcamp 28th December 2015 – 14th January 2016

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Usually workcamps or service projects involve roughly 20 young men from high school and university who are willing to give of their time and money to build, educate and interact with a community in need somewhere in the world.

This year however due to a lack of people power to organise multiple workcamps for the summer holidays of 2015-2016 various centres looked after by the Education Development Association teamed together.
So in total we had a group of 39 guys from high school, university along with a few organisers and a Catholic priest.
We spent a few months in late 2015 trying to raise close to 15,000 AUD so we would have enough money to complete our projects which were to build four public toilet blocks in Southern Vietnam close to the border of Cambodia and then 3 toilet blocks and 3 small houses/villas in another village about 300 km north-east of Ho Chi Minh City.
Unfortunately on our way to our first project, after landing at Ho Chi Minh City airport, our bus broke down; well one of the back tires popped and shredded. Thankfully we were quite close to our destination so we could hitchhike the rest of the way. But when we arrived after settling down for the evening the local police spoke to our group leaders and told us we were not welcome. So they asked us to leave but due to our bus being out of action they allowed us to stay under ‘house arrest’ for a night. They took our passports and came and checked on us in the middle of the night after we had gone to bed.
So we left the next morning and quickly found an alternative project for the first few days of the camp. This involved refurbishing a church in a remote village in the Mekong Delta.
We only stayed one night in the Mekong which happened to be New Year’s Eve! So we called the local community together for a special vigil Mass before welcoming in 2016 with a dinner, music and dancing.
We then went north to a village called K’Long. Nairana Study Centre with the support of Reledev, a non-for-profit charity, had done three trips to K’Long before this one. So some of the leaders of the group including Sebastian James and Fr Felix Navarro were familiar with the location.
The group stayed in a retreat centre looked after by the Salesians – a St John Bosco initiative.
The work for the 39 of us consisted in building three toilet blocks for three separate families and similarly three houses for another three families.
The houses were more like small villas; two to three rooms; what would be considered sub-standard in Australia but middle class in Vietnam.
We only spent a week in K’Long so we didn’t actually finish the houses, however we finished the three toilet blocks.
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We also had an opportunity to visit some of the local sites, tourist attractions including a day trip to a town called Da’Lat. It’s one of the highest towns in the country which makes it a lot cooler than most cities and towns. When the country was occupied by the French they built up Da’Lat as a place to go for a holiday. It’s natural surroundings along with the interesting mix of Vietnamese and French architecture make the town a ‘must’ for all tourists.
The highlights of the trip are always the same for the boys. Generally the boys said one of the highlights is learning how to live from the locals. One thing the locals demonstrate is that happiness does not entirely depend upon material wealth. Many of the locals have very little yet were super cheerful. Of course we went to provide a standard of living which leads to some form of happiness but the Vietnamese taught our group that you only need the bear minimum to be happy. Superficial items don’t lead to happiness.
Secondly the boys made new life long friends. One of the positives of having such a large group travelling together is that many guys spent a lot of time with people they didn’t know before the camp. But when thrown into an environment where you’re helping others and doing it as a team these friendships generally become unbreakable bonds.
If you would like more information on workcamps or would like to make a donation for future projects please contact one of the centres. Nairana, Mirrabooka, Drummond and Warrane College’s details can be found at  EDA’s website – http://eda.edu.au/
Or Reledev Australia – http://reledev.org.au/