Thursday, October 16, 2014

Meet Grasshopper

The Global Volunteer Network's volunteer program based in Vietnam provides projects working with children and those with disabilities.  Recently GVN's staff member visited the program and tells of the wonderful work being done there.

Walking in their Shoes

One step after another. One volunteer after another. While being in the shoes of our volunteers, I’ve seen that just as the little guy at the center taking one step after another will benefit his development in the long run, having one volunteer after another over a period of time will impact the children at the center in the long run.

You’re in rural Vietnam in a district 50km north of the capital city of Hanoi. You firstly arrive in Vietnam and the city is so lively. Full of noise, and full of people going about their daily lives. Te further we ventured from the city, the quieter everything became. We journeyed past rice fields and from initially making our way through a city jam packed with people, arriving at the center. The center is divided into six rooms, with the children arranged by size and type of condition. I start making my way to rooms 3 and 4. These children are bigger than those in 1 and 2 and they sit in their chairs most of the time.

The director explains how it is important for volunteers to work with the children in rooms 1 and 2, 3 and 4, so that they are able to become fully mobile and in a better physical and mental condition. When they become bigger, they will be able to move on their own as they won’t be able to be carried by volunteers. He assigns the volunteers to specific rooms and could perceive where they would best fit. This allows volunteers to be a lot more effective at the center.
I’ve seen for myself the vital impact our volunteers have on the children at the center.

Going for a Walk

This is Grasshopper, and he loves going for walks.
Watching him put one little foot in front of the other and holding onto my hand carefully so he doesn’t stumble, it’s allowed me to reflect on the work that volunteers are doing. One step at a time. One volunteer after another.

Grasshopper loves walking to room 3 and 4 to visit the other kids. Sometimes he’d ask to be carried but after a while he’ll be put back down to walk on his own. Each daily walk he takes, whether with me or another volunteer, will give him important nutrients such as Vitamin D on a hot day, mental stimulation from moving out of the areas he’s used to staying in, and it provides him with strength for his tiny limbs. Over a long period of time, I’m confident that he will be able to walk on his own. That he will have enough strength to be fully mobile. Without the help of volunteers focusing their time and energy on him, he would not be able to walk at all.

Volunteer Impact

I saw volunteers take initiative, and purchase interactive resources for the kids. While I was there, one lovely couple purchased a poster with the English alphabet. It was battery operated and made a sound each time they pushed a letter. These two incredible volunteers recognized they need for educational resources. Many of the children sit in wheelchairs.Some children had limbs that were bent and unable to move. One helper explained how she would massage each day and that over time they hope she will be able to move that limb again.

Ripple Effect

There is one girl I met while I was there. She volunteered with GVN last year, and when I met her in Ba Vi, she had returned to volunteer again, although this time bringing her entire family with her! She wants to return again and bring her friend along with her! This is the Ripple Effect It is the value of a volunteer which extends far beyond their 2 week time in-country. Because of one volunteer sharing with her community back home about Ba Vi, this enabled three more individuals to join in 2014 and potentially more in the years to come.

It is my hope and dream that more people will travel to Vietnam and not allow only the beautiful tourist attractions to give them an idea that they’ve seen all that Vietnam has to offer, but that they will decide to do a volunteer placement and spend time with the people. Everyone has something to contribute regardless of their age, country they’re from, or life experience. I love hearing stories of our volunteers sharing how the Ba Vi community touched their lives and seeing their friends and families return with the volunteers and share in this.
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