Volunteer Abroad - Vietnam, Volunteer Abroad Programs

What I Do Here in Vietnam

by Daniel Jun, Greenheart Travel Scholarship Winner Volunteering in Vietnam

It has already been four weeks since I arrived to Vietnam. I have already established my go- to shops, restaurants, and jogging spots. My schedule is set and my bedtime is 10:30 pm on weekdays, which my roommate and I follow to the dot. I wake up at 7:00 am, eat cereal and toast for breakfast, and then head off to work either to CSDS or the autistic center.

On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I volunteer at the Center for Sustainable Development Studies (CSDS), the Vietnamese NGO that is affiliated with Greenheart Travel. In addition to working with foreign volunteers and teachers, CSDS also works on several projects to bring about sustainable development changes. Some of the current projects are: developing eco-tourism in a rural community to provide a source of income for the local people; building a new school for children living in the mountains and providing vocational training to people with disabilities. Currently, it is proposal season and the CSDS team is working on proposals for grant money to support ongoing and new projects. From 9am – 4pm, I spend most of my time reading and editing the proposals written in English. This isn’t nearly as boring as it sounds. The environment is really lax and the team, a group of 7, is fun to work with. I also spend time working on a video for the CSDS website, and will visit some of the project sites in the rural, mountainous regions of Vietnam – really looking forward to that.

The CSDS team in a meeting. From the left and going clockwise: Thuy, Que, Nhu, Phuong, Huan, and Mai (a German volunteer).

The CSDS team in a meeting. From the left and going clockwise: Thuy, Que, Nhu, Phuong, Huan, and Mai (a German volunteer).

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, I work at a center for autistic children called the Lucky Cat. Most of the kids are around 2-3 years of age and have some form of autism. At the center, I spend most of my time playing with the children.

The Lucky Cat center.

The Lucky Cat center.

This includes activities such as coloring and building fences for animals.

Playtime with the kids – building fences. This is Ashling, who’s a volunteer from the UK.

Playtime with the kids – building fences. This is Ashling, who’s a volunteer from the UK.


From 10:00 – 10:30 am, we have exercise which consists of stretches and walking around the room.


The child in the middle (gray shirt) is one of the more severely autistic children and cannot participate in the exercise. He enjoys being in the middle of the circle to watch.


Next is lunchtime and the teachers, including myself, are paired up with the younger children to feed. My kid’s name is Khan and he’s one of my favorites and he has the biggest head to body ratio that I have ever seen. He’s always very resilient, never cries, and is always talking or singing to himself.

Khan is in the striped shirt.

Khan is in the striped shirt.

My other favorite kid also named Khan (in the white and blue sweater).

My other favorite kid also named Khan (in the white and blue sweater).

But, he’s always incredibly strong for a 2 year old (I swear, he’s nearly as strong as me) and sometimes I have to wrestle the spoon away from him when he’s playing with his food and not eating. Usually, I get him to finish half his meal then have to have another teacher tag in to finish the job.

Lunch time at the center.

Lunch time at the center.


After lunch, there is always a 2 hr nap break. This is not only at my center, but for all the schools in Vietnam (till middle school, I think). All the children and teachers go to sleep on mats, but I usually just read or browse the net.


From 3-4 pm, I have individual lessons with the one English speaking child, Miguel, who is from Angola. Because of the language barrier, I can only do individual lessons with Miguel and not the other children.


A teacher doing individual lessons. It’s always 1-on-1 since the children get easily distracted.

These lessons are pretty simple and involve the child matching pictures and identifying body parts. Miguel is pretty good at naming parts of the body, but has trouble understanding their function. For example, when asked, “what do we smell with,” he doesn’t respond with “the nose.” But, he’s a great kid and adds some variety to my routine at the center, which at times can get boring (especially since no one speaks English).

Little Miguel.

Little Miguel.



About Greenheart Travel

CCI Greenheart Travel is personally invested in providing cultural immersion programs that change lives, advance careers and create leaders. We achieve this by partnering with organizations and governments overseas that empower their local communities through experiential learning and practical development. We provide others with the same positive travel experiences in which we ourselves engage. Through travel and cultural exchange, we help individuals reach their full potential, leading to a more tolerant, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.



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