A short drive from the central city of Danang, Hoi An has rightly earned a reputation as one of Vietnam's most picturesque towns. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Hoi An draws visitors to its lovingly preserved mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese and French architecture - evidence of the town's fascinating past as a major trading port. From the 17th to the 19th century, Phai Pho which is Hoi An's old name riverside port was frequented by trader from as far away as Holland, China, Japan and India , who came for Vietnam's silk. porcelain, pepper, cinnamon and medicinal plants. While the trade dried up when the river filled with silt, the town distinctive architecture remains intact, having miraculously survived the wars of the 20th century. Hoi An's quarter features traditional shop - houses, the facades of which are made from carved ironwood. The front rooms of these houses served as shops, while the families lived on the second floors. Central and back courtyards allowed both sunlight and fresh air to penetrate. To this day, many houses have a pair of carved wooden yin yang symbols are thought to protect the house's inhabitants from ghosts and bad luck. The officially Socialist government, run by the Communist party, has made recent reforms which open the economy for trade and some building wealth. Volunteers will see, however, that the old and new Revolutions have left many rural peasants behind in their idealism of minimum living standards. Our projects help these people.
Volunteers, depending on number of volunteers per group, will be engaged in a variety of projects, from teaching English pronunciation and colloquialisms, the building of playgrounds and better homes to replace substandard housing, refurbishment of buildings for use as schools, work on kindergarten and primary schools, as well as village markets and other infrastructure to help raise the standards of living throughout rural Vietnam. (Kindergartens are not currently funded by the Vietnamese government). Disadvantaged youths living in rural areas outside of town are allowed to attend the schools we work on at no cost. All volunteers will teach Basic English and play games with the children, and assist with our new Portable Mobile Libraries Projects, called "Books to Live." This program is most appropriate for those over 18, unless traveling with a parent or guaradian, and those who feel reasonably confident about their overall fitness level. The work can be demanding and the climate is hot. As part of this project:
a) We're so grateful to anyone who can bring some children coloring books and crayons and anything that have to do with the libraries with them when they come. Books that can teach the teachers how to educate the children from grades 2-9, and about the world at large (such as geography). Other good things for the teachers and students are things like: good pens, nice note books, arts and school supplies, used or new.
b) Visit with several schools. After visiting the schools, we have been asked to help write "evaluations" to indicate how, what and why they may to improve the education system in the Vietnamese countryside, and how to use these new "Portable Libraries Project" in schools in Vietnam successfully. This report will be a very important for the Vietnam Education Ministry Department. This is about a long term commitment to help educational programs for the future of Vietnamese countryside children, who have little access to education.
c) Help set up a simple library system and instructions on how to set up the books in each portable library. When the libraries come to each school, we have been asked to help train the teachers to use the books and system correctly. The schools want all the children to read 1 book per week and to make a book report for each book. What did they learn about the book and why? What did they think? We will award to the child who read the most, writes the most reports and to those who express themselves well. We have been asked to make a "books log" to hand out to the teachers and students in each school where we have our portable library set up.
d) Setting up libraries with Dong Phuong College
Projects vary depending on the number of volunteers, which projects were finished (or not) with the prior group, what priorities have changed, weather conditions, which supplies are available, and often the interest and fitness level of the volunteers. For these reasons, specific projects are often not fixed until the week prior to your arrival and can even change upon arrival.
Globe Aware volunteer vacations to Vietnam - SIGNUP NOW!
Food and Lodging
Volunteers will be lodged in a simple hotel just outside of Hoi An. Running, hot water and flushing toilets are available as is limited electricity. Volunteers will be served local Vietnamese specialties - simply incomparable cuisine of fresh herbs, noodles, rice, meats and vegetables. The French influence has left behind a proud tradition of fine crusty breads, strong coffee, and a love of inventive cooking processes.
Simply walking in this World Heritage Site is a sheer joy, but volunteers can use free time to discover the charming bridges in colonial old town Hoi An, China Beach, Champa ruins at My Son, Hue, Marble Mountain, among many other highlights. Click here for a sample itinerary.
Arranging Your Airfare
The airport is only a few miles from accommodations so you can leave at any time. The program ends at 11am the following Saturday and it takes approximately 1 hour to get you back to Danang. The airport is one of the return drop off stops our driver will make. You would not want to arrange a flight that departs any earlier than 2:30pm on the return. Flight tips coming soon!
Safety and Security
Compared to its neighbors in south east Asia, Vietnam has considerably less petty theft once you leave the major urban cities (where drive-by thieves on motorbikes have been known to pickpocket purses). Violent crime is very rare. Outbreaks of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) in Vietnam have resulted in a small number of human fatalities. As a precaution, you should avoid live animal markets, poultry farms and other places where you may come into close contact with domestic, caged or wild birds. You will not be engaged in any such activity as part of a Globe Aware program. The likelihood of being affected by Avian Influenza is much less than that of being in a car accident in the US.