Volunteering in Vietnam

Over winter break, I spent 3 weeks traveling in Thailand and Vietnam. While in Vietnam, I was able to spend a day getting to know local high school students who receive educational scholarships through the Young Dreamer Network, a non-profit organization that I just started an internship with.

The Young Dreamer Network was founded alongside Dream Volunteers in 2007 by a super cool and inspiring guy named Brian Buntz. The Young Dreamer Network currently provides scholarships to students in India, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Vietnam and Ghana. Last year, during the WorldStamp gap year program, I worked with students in India, Guatemala and Costa Rica each for three months. My experiences with these amazing kids were so wonderful that I decided to visit the Young Dreamers in Vietnam during my vacation there this January.

So far there are four Young Dreamers in Ho Chi Minh City: two girls (Hân and Trần) and two boys (Thiên and Vi). These students are extremely dedicated, studying ten different subjects in school from 6:45 am to 5:30 pm, including a supplementary English conversation program after school. They were very eager to practice their English with me, as well as hear about my experiences both in Ho Chi Minh and at home in the U.S. They also showed their dedication and initiative by asking me for tips to improve their English skills. I was so impressed!

All four Young Dreamers plan to attend university upon completing high school. This is especially impressive considering their family backgrounds. Thiên’s mother is a maid, and his father’s job is to watch a parking lot of motorcycles. Trần’s father is a day laborer in construction, and her mother cannot currently find work. Hân’s parents make a living selling sugar cane juice out of their home, unable to afford even a food-vending stall on the street. Vi has no mother or father. He and his four-year-old sister live with his friend’s mother and her three children. She has to support all five kids by working as a maid.

It was especially heart wrenching to hear the stories of these students because I am staying with a friend here in Ho Chi Minh who is quite well off. Her family hires a maid to work all day every weekday in their home, and I’m sure this woman’s story is very much the same as the mothers of these students.

I had a wonderful time with the Young Dreamers today, but it left me with a pit in my stomach. That uncomfortable, sad feeling I always get when I confront the reality that I am SO lucky for everything I have in life. I did nothing to deserve all of this - it was just luck that I was born into this life.

This feeling definitely isn’t pleasant, but it’s good to be reminded of how privileged I am, and it motivates me to be a change-maker in our world.