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 shophouses, 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 that 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 that 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 building chicken coops and donating chickens to provide a sustainable protein source to those in need, building a little free library, teaching English pronunciation and colloquialisms, the building and refurbishment of playgrounds and better homes to replace substandard housing, refurbishment of buildings for use as schools, work with kindergarten and primary schools, as well as 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. Most volunteers will have the opportunity to teach Basic English and play games with the children, and assist with our new Little Library Project. This program is most appropriate for those over 18, unless traveling with a parent or guardian, and those who feel reasonably confident about their overall fitness level. The work can be demanding and the climate is hot. We are grateful to anyone who can bring books in Vietnamese and or English, 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.
Little Free library is a neighborhood book exchange where everyone is invited to leave or take a book to borrow. The project inspires readers and strengthens communities.
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 lovely villa, just outside of Hoi An in a beautiful pastoral setting. Running, hot water and flushing toilets are available as 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. Breakfasts and most dinners are taken at the villa, while lunches are usually catered near the work site.
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 11 am 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 2:30 pm on the return.
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.