Gráinne McHugo
A day in the life of a SERVE volunteer in Vietnam
The students at Quoc Oai, Vietnam.

Every day I spend here in Vietnam as a SERVE volunteer is busy, exciting and full of new experiences. I’ve learned so much about the local people, the culture of Vietnam, and how different, yet similar our lives are.

Aldrin completing his favourite jigsaw puzzle
Aldrin completing his favourite jigsaw puzzle

SERVE volunteer's routine

Our day starts at 8.00 am as we get ready for the short bus journey to the school. The class begins at 10.15 am. There are four classes with two volunteers teaching in each and three in one. We are teaching English to around 25 eleven-year-olds.

We are halfway through our second and last week teaching in the school. It was such a nerve-wracking yet rewarding experience. At first, I was nervous about teaching as I didn’t have any experience. I am generally quite a shy person, but the students have been so kind and welcoming, and to have my friend and fellow volunteer Kate, a trainee teacher, with me in the class has been so helpful and enjoyable. She guided me and made me feel so relaxed that I built the confidence to teach. It became an enjoyable and rewarding experience. The children are so eager and willing to listen and learn and are very engaged during class.

After class, we go home to have lunch and, at 2.30 pm, we start our workshops for the local children. We do sport, drama, music and art. I host the sports workshop with Carol. It is a nice way to get to know the local people, and for the kids to improve their English speaking and understanding. The children enjoy the workshops and get a chance to improve their English in a non-formal class setting. They get to play with their friends and play games in English. It is an opportunity for the children in the community that may not enjoy or want to go to school to learn some English that may ignite an interest in learning the language for them. I think that would be the ultimate goal in these workshops.

In the evening, we prepare for English classes and the workshops by creating PowerPoints, designing posters, and practising games. We gather feedback on what worked and what didn’t during the day and tweak our plans accordingly. The work put into planning each day is admirable. It’s amazing to see the improvements students make, to know that what we are doing here is benefitting students and hopefully encouraging them to take an interest in learning English.

The experience so far has been a series of learning new things, understanding how people in Vietnam live, living in a new culture and doing our best to help the students in the community. It has been an eye-opening experience, and I cannot wait for the next two weeks to see and do more new things. I have enjoyed every moment and am very grateful for the opportunity to do the work we did here in Quoc Oai, Vietnam.