The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.
— Mahatma Gandhi
To some degree, this journey is a soul searching quest even though I hate to label it as such. I don’t have a high expectation in finding any answers or having a profound encounter, but I do hope to make this journey more meaningful and change lives a little bit at a time. Inspired by Gandhi’s quote, I hope to find some solace in alleviating the burden of others. It is a bit of a selfish mission rather than a selfless act of kindness, but someone else can benefit from my actions nonetheless. With that said, I had discovered this volunteer matching website called MovingWorlds. I think it is a wonderful idea to be able to leverage your professional skills to assist a grassroot organization in achieving their goals.
I have been volunteering with Better Life Vietnam for almost one month onsite. I cannot believe I only have one more week working with the team offline. Better Life Vietnam is a nonprofit organization that aims to improve the learning conditions for students in rural Vietnam. My involvement with this organization is the reason why I chose to come to Vietnam after New Zealand. My main responsibilities revolves around marketing for their subsidiary, Tours For Books. If I have not already pester for you to like the Facebook page, please do so now [x] :). Tours For Books is a social enterprise established to help raise money to fund for Better Life Vietnam’s projects through offering travel services, voluntourism, study tours, etc. I mainly focus on online marketing and strategize for their business development.
Working for a startup social enterprise is a lot different from operating in a Fortune 500, no doubt. Everyone here is volunteering their time because they want to contribute to a greater cause. There is a lot of self learning about the culture, the tourism industry, and nonprofit marketing. I was lucky enough to be here for when the team conducted field trips to visit their beneficiaries. We visited one of the schools where we built classroom libraries for and interviewed potential students to receive scholarship funding. It was a nice experience to get a glimpse of the rural Vietnam village life and local schools. Incidentally, I also witness the slaughtering of a dog in a local eatery while we had lunch in the village too – that was an added bonus.
My experience in Vietnam has really taught me the importance of education. Growing up in a developed nation in a lower middle class family, education comes in the form of entitlement. Sometimes you don’t realize the impact school has on our character building and mannerism. I always believed that one does not need to attend the best schools as long as the student is eager to learn and similarly, an unenthusiastic pupil at a prestigious school would not make their educational experience more valuable. However, after spending time with the locals, the professional and educated people here, I still see a difference in mannerism and demeanor – and I don’t mean it in a cultural context. Similar to my previous post about being a foreigner struggling to explain why I don’t know Vietnamese, it takes proper education and exposure to understand my upbringing.
Seeing Vietnam now makes me think of China a few decades back. Despite the success in the prosperous economy, the Chinese mannerism is not evolving as fast as their economy. Proper mannerism and a change in mindset from the ultimate survival of the fitness mode takes generations to transform. Speaking with many young Vietnamese locals, we share similar sentiments in hoping that the country can prosper and the people’s mannerism can improve as well. I believe putting the focus on good education today can provide long lasting impacts for the country. I am glad that my little efforts today can be a tiny factor in how Vietnam can further develop and grow towards a positive direction.