“Vietnam is my lucky choice”

NDO – After joining many volunteer programmes in various fields and different regions around Vietnam, volunteers in the Australian Volunteers Programme always consider Vietnam as their most lucky.


Predestined relationship with Vietnam

Before beginning his life in Vietnam, Michael (Mike) Stephenstravelled around the “S-shaped country” in 2017. Impressed by the development of the capital city Hanoi, with its hustle and bustle lifestyle and the friendliness and kindness from the natives. Mike decided to return to the city in January 2018 for a 12-month volunteer project implemented by the Vietnam Representative Office of ChildFund – an Australia-based independent and secular international development organisation that works to reduce and hopefully eliminate poverty for children in the developing world. The Fund has been in operation in Vietnam since the turn of the millennium in 1999. He shared: “It was lucky for me. The nice things in the lands that I have travelled made me always think of this country”.

In addition to initial impressions like Mike, Rebekah (Bek) Thielemans, who is the media advisor of GreenHub (the Centre for Supporting Green Development that has operated in Vietnam since 2016), loves Vietnam more because he realised good qualities and sincere affection of Vietnamese people when he worked here. Bek has had many deep memories with his colleagues although he has lived in the country for just seven months.

“That was the first time I took part in a volunteer programabroad, but I will never forget the days I started working here. Vietnam has helped me promote my knowledge and skills that I have accumulated over the years. When I first came here, my colleagues asked me about my strengths to put me in a positionwhere I could put to use my advantages. Vietnam has brought me many good relationships. The relations between my colleagues and I were not related to our work. They were willing to share many things and difficulties in their life with me. Vietnamese partners are my great friends”, Bek said.

Contributions to second homeland

With their sympathy and compassion for the "S-shaped country", Australian volunteers decided to contribute to the nation which they considered to be their second homeland. Since his volunteer campaign began in May 2019, Bek has helped GreenHub bring about positive changes for the “green” development in Vietnam, focusing on four key areas: waste management, energy efficiency, sustainable agriculture and natural conservation. Bek said thatenvironmental protection is a “hot” issue around the world. However, the issue is more urgent in Vietnam as its most famous wonder, Ha Long Bay, is filled with rubbish while the Mekong River Delta is serious seawater levels rising.

Bek and his colleagues have implemented many practical projects, especially the communications of reducing plastic wastes. Under this project, they have developed an educational model to help students understand more about the current situation of plastic waste in Vietnam, which are causing serious consequences on the environment. Accordingly, Bek has proposed practical solutions to solve this problem.

Bek shared: “I, along with young Vietnamese people, travelled to the seas in the northern and central region around the country to see beautiful natural sceneries that were being devastated by plastic waste. Being aware of the seriousness of this vital issue, the students began taking simple actions, such as collecting plastic waste from the seas, and then formed habits to minimisetheir use of plastic products. The rapid and direct changes thanks to the projects in Vietnam made me feel the real value of my work and I am excited for more upcoming projects”. He is conducting surveys in 12 coastal provinces and cities in Vietnam to collect data for the development of an undersea ecosystem to protect it from environmental impacts.

Meanwhile, as a supporter for clean water and environmental sanitation of ChildFund Vietnam, Mike has worked with private businesses to improve water resources and the living environment for ethnic minority groups who live in remote areas. His main task was to contribute new ideas and to ensure that his initiatives could be implemented according to the criteria set out in the project. In the past year, Mike and his colleagues have framed a project titled “WASH for ALL” that is expected to be implemented in early 2020. The project will support around 4,000 people in Hoa Binh, Cao Bang and Bac Kan provinces to gain access to clean water and sanitation facilities as well as promote hygienic practices.

Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, Robyn Mudie, hailed thegreat spirit given by Australian volunteers, noting that they have contributed to the mutual understanding and relationship between Vietnam and Australia while helping the Australian Government achieve its development goals in Vietnam.